When our country’s government was first created in the late 18th century, our founding fathers wove together the ideas of the classical republican and natural rights. In general, citizens today are more interested in pursuing their own self interests, as presented in the natural rights, than working for the common good, as the classical republican preaches one should. However, the government is more set on having citizens pursue the common good.
The average American citizen worries mostly about increasing their wealth and status, just as Locke predicted in his Natural Rights. Locke states that everyone has the right to possessions (which include material and un-material, such as liberty, freedom, and equality). The American citizen has taken this to heart, constantly stepping on the backs of others to increase their possessions. One past example of this was the passing of I-695, in which the cost of car tabs was lowered. The common individual never considered that this would cause transportation to decrease, causing hardships for the elderly. They only deliberated that they would have to pay less. On the flip side, the idea of self-interest can also have an upside to it. In concerns of the wealthy, if they give money to organizations that help the needy, they will get tax cuts. This helps both the wealthy and the poor reach their goal of expanding possessions, however it is done in the interest of the wealthy. When big companies, like Boeing, expand to increase their net worth, this causes jobs for citizens, thus making it a win-win situation for both parties. The increase in wealth also ups the stocks of the greedy Americans who buy into the companies, furthering the increase of possessions.
While the American citizen is trying to increase their belongings, the national government is working to try and save the civic virtue. The government is trying to work for the good of the country. They promote national unity at a young age, requiring citizens to salute the flag daily at public schools. The government censors television and creates laws, such as gun control, to help protect their citizens from harm. When the Clinton scandal became headline news, Congress impeached the President on underlying terms that his manner was unbecoming as a president. This attempt to protect the “virtues” of America strongly contradicts the American’s views, since while under Clinton their economy has risen, thus increasing their wealth. The ideas of the government, and that of its people, seem to be headed in two different directions. However, if we look more closely at the government’s position, it seems to be that their actions to protect their people is just in self interest. Since the government is made up of human beings, Locke’s Natural Law of people trying to constantly gain possessions still holds for them. The people of the government make the laws so that they will look good, thus increasing their status.
Outwardly our country is run by two very different themes, that of working for self-interest or for the interest of the common good. However, when we dive into the situation it is easy to see that everything is really done for the good of one’s self, not for the good of others.