Historical Analysis
Common Sense and Democracy

As stated, the CDRSB view is that consistent international electoral standards based on common sense are possible. Rupture of the tenuous relation between common sense, science and political philosophy during the 19th century has served to obscure this possibility, but it can nevertheless be revealed by analysis and review of this relation within its historical context. The union of ordinary understanding and modern science properly begins with the work of Francis Bacon. He broke decisively with the 'dialectical' methods of scholastic argumentation on the grounds that little or no material results could be gained from them of practical benefit to mankind. He surmised it possible to reach a truthful understanding of the world for practical purposes provided care is taken to separate matters of faith and subjective prejudice from those of reason, and that such understanding be verified on the basis of trial and error through practical experimentation. Bacon deduced the mechanical trades of craft industry and armaments manufacture could provide the chief example from which principles of scientific method could be derived. While his approach therefore has been associated exclusively with induction, a more representative understanding of his work is gained by taking this consideration into account as his point of departure.

Bacon's induction is best presupposed by this broad train of deductive reasoning, itself presupposed in turn by longstanding achievements within the English empirical tradition, dating from Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon, and William of Ockham. The relation between truth, certainty and scepticism for Bacon in this regard was held fast by the parameters of practical activity in the service of mankind, and though he does not explicitly articulate the notion of self evident truth, it is clear that such presumptions are implicit to the notion of scientific method he is advocating. Just as the union of mental and manual labour and the existence of clear, simple and indisputable points of departure are self evidently necessary to the mechanic in addressing the practical tasks of his trade, so also were they implicit to Bacon's methodology. It is largely this synthesis of insights which Locke further develops in his theory of knowledge and political analysis. Philosophically the self evident truths of common sense begin in that regard with Locke's activist refusal to allow scepticism undue influence, while remaining alert to the errors of dogma. Reid's great merit was to defeat Hume's revival of the subjective idealist case against activism by clarifying the commonsensical foundation of self evident truth, albeit, somewhat unfairly, including Locke himself in his corresponding critique of sensationalism. This was the philosophical foundation upon which American radicalism addressed the tasks of revolutionary democracy in the struggle against British monarchy.

John Adams maintained French radicalism did not understand common sense. This failing affected profoundly the course of revolutionary strategy: American radicalism sought to empower common sense by granting the people freedom, and by so doing, ultimately facilitating their enlightenment; French radicalism sought to perfect the nation, and guide the general will towards an enlightened understanding of freedom. These distinct approaches sprang from different historical, political and philosophical traditions. Descartes deduced self evident truth within the rationalist tradition, without deference to empirical practice, and without cleanly separating faith and reason. Condillac pursued with mathematical zeal the sensationalist elements in Locke's analysis, and in so doing failed to properly grasp the standpoint of common sense. French rationalism did not enjoin political philosophy and scientific method to the experience of craft industry. In conformity with Bacon's esteem for the mechanical trades Locke saw philosophy as the 'humble underlabourer' to science; French rationalism did not fully emulate this approach both because it had not fully dealt with the heritage of medieval scholasticism, and because the people did not possess the skills of self government and industry which the English had acquired.

By 1815 an irony of world historic proportions had emerged from this circumstance: while American democratic success rested on Bacon's break with the dialectical methods of medieval scholasticism, the defeat of French democracy found expression in an attempt to resolve the problems of social progress by reinstating the dialectical method in De Stutt de Tracy's school of ideology. This reopened the radical door to attempts at rejecting Locke's victory over idealism. By such means European enlightenment professorialism could conveniently overlook Kant's failure to properly account for Reid's demolition of the Humean scepticism which had woken him from dogmatic slumber. German idealist attempts to reunite what Bacon had laboured throughout his life to separate - faith and reason - thereafter revived, reaching their apotheosis in Hegel's wholly speculative disdain for common sense.

English philosophical realism from this point took second place, certainly in Germany, to the study of what G.D.H.Cole termed the 'mumbo jumbo' of dialectics. Positivism, social determinism, Marxism and interpretivism emerged from this confusion of method to dominate social science for over a century, despite countervailing tendencies, such as Thomas Hodgskin's advocacy of English philosophical realism through the very appropriately titled founding newspaper of the British working class movement: The Mechanic. These are relevant, antecedent factors which help explain how the stable attributes of common sense, and with this, the sovereignty of subjective reason, were submerged by determinism and relativism in social theory and gave rise to the present impasse of postmodern nihilism in which it has remained for several decades, while common sense realism, the guiding philosophical method of American revolutionary radicalism, has only recently been reappraised as worthy of serious analysis.

This is the background against which this method, with the benefit of hindsight, can be used evaluate the relation between democracy, common sense and social progress. Its enduring merit can be demonstrated by the coherence of understanding which can be derived from its application to the facts of history in regard to the transition from government based primarily on force and superstition to government based on consent.

On this understanding it may be asserted that despite the prevailing wisdoms of social relativism and determinism, the basic principles of government by consent remain, as they always have, evident to all persons able to reason clearly and, as Bacon advised, independently of religious doctrine - that is to say, those able to use their common sense, understood especially in its modern connotation, which developed more widely among the British following the English revolutions. These are: first, that all persons have an equal right to life, and with this the right to self defence; second, that all persons have an equal right to express their opinion and make collective decisions; third, collective decisions if and when necessary should be taken by majority vote held without fear of coercion, that is, by secret ballot; fourth, that where for practical purposes it is necessary to grant powers to certain persons to act on behalf of the community such delegates should be chosen by lot, excepting where special skills are indispensably necessary, in which case they can be chosen by majority vote; fifth, that accordingly the tasks of democratic decision making should be tackled intelligently and by as many persons as possible and should be publicly funded to this purpose; sixth, that redistribution of inherited wealth, including by taxation, serves the general democratic interest and is the most socially just way to fund government spending.

These principles are universal in application and can be grasped by anybody honestly willing to use their common sense. Paine saw his country as the world, and his religion as the vocation to do good because these principles express the common, ancient and ultimately irrepressible standpoint of the human race. They derive from the evolutionary predispositions of human intellect and instinct being so strongly in favour of social relations based on consent that they have more usually overcome the advocates of rule by force even in prehistorical time, when science, logic and the debate of ideas were at their most primitive levels of development. They have accordingly been realised to one extent or other in most forms of government which rest on some form of consent.

Inheritance tax may be the oldest form of tax - certainly it was collected by Roman emperors and feudal kings alike. Redistribution of inherited wealth is recognised as necessary justice in the Bible for the Jewish people, the first nation in recorded history to have developed a democratic form of government, and was practised in ancient Greece by the use of sortition. Random selection of delegates to vote by secret ballot in the court of last appeal - a jury - was the first step taken by Solon to establish democracy. From Athenian democracy to Magna Carta, trial by jury has long been established as the final, and ultimately only lawful means by which a government can be held accountable to the people, given that juries themselves can decide whether or not a law should be enforced.

Athenian democracy was presupposed by both the right, and obligation, to bear arms. This right is among the oldest in English law, and dates from 837 when Anglo-Saxon communal law, itself an embryonic form of democracy, was enforced throughout much of Britain. Locke regarded the right to self defence as the first law of nature. The right to bear arms has been established in the Swiss republic since 1291, and was also upheld in the Italian medieval city state republics. Machiavelli and James Harrington regarded an armed citizenry as necessary for a democratic state. These are the reasons why the oldest modern republic continues to uphold for all its citizens the English protestant right to bear arms formally granted 'for all time' in 1689. In a country in which over 80% of the land is still owned by the aristocracy the central demands of revolutionary Chartism - 'a vote, a gun, and an acre of land' - mirror these basic and necessary principles of government by consent.

The Chartist demand for a secret ballot was taken to and enacted in Australia first, and thereafter was established in the UK, the USA and the world. Athenian democracy paid all citizens to attend assembly meetings the equivalent of half a day's wage each month. This resulted in a predominance of the urban lower classes within the political process to such an extent that Aristotle and Plato alike defined democracy as 'rule by the poor.' Aristotle explicitly recognised that most democratic states paid their citizens to participate in the political process.

Alternately the correlation of these tenets with government by consent is also confirmed by way of their absence in social orders based predominantly on rule by force. Rome, for example, in clear contrast to Athens, forbade the right to bear arms for the plebeian population; King Charles II tried to restrict the right to bear arms to the rich; Jews were denied the right to bear arms throughout the medieval period and this prohibition was among the first steps taken by the Nazi regime. In 411BC when aristocrats temporarily overthrew Athenian democracy and established an oligarchy, one of their first acts was to pass a law that no one should receive pay for political activity. In the 4th Century BC Demosthenes declared that failure to pay citizens to attend the Assembly would signify the end of democracy.

Aristocracy has always sought to concentrate power and wealth to the few through inheritance. These longstanding prohibitions aimed against democratic progress by tyranny demonstrate why a state fully incorporating the basic tenets of government by consent - a democracy - does not at present exist in fully developed form. Put at its simplest, the struggle against tyranny which has existed throughout all human history has not come to an 'end,' because freedom has not yet been established in accordance with the self evident truths of common sense. Aside from difficulties particular to time and place this can be explained by taking account of the following principal factors which affect or impede democratic progress on a general basis.

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