A Comparative Essay

1433 words - 6 pages

After reading America’s Constitutional Soul, by Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., and The True and Only Heaven, by Christopher Lasch, I came to the realization that while they have varying ideas on many topics, they have similar conservative views regarding citizenship and civil rights.

Specifically, Mansfield discusses his belief that people are best served through a

representative government and does not believe that all citizens should be allowed to rule directly (Mansfield 141). In this regard, Mansfield contends that people, in general, tend to be irrational and rely too much on feelings as opposed to reasoned conclusions (Mansfield 29-30). Therefore, if a true

form of ...view middle of the document...

This document requires that actions be formal. According to Mansfield, the United States Constitution is documented proof that citizens want self-government and that they have the ability, through formal processes set up by institutions, to rise above self-interest (Mansfield 151).

Similarly, Christopher Lasch seems to have the same doubts about citizens’ ability to

effectively decide on matters of importance. Through his discussions of Walter Lippman’s writings, “Public Opinion” and “The Phantom Public”, Lash appears to agree that the use of “self-governing” is not an effective form of Democracy (Lasch 364). Lasch goes on to further set forth that the old ideas of citizenship are out-dated and that, in fact, citizens can no longer be viewed as “omnicompetent” or as “jack of all trades” (Lasch 364).

Lasch and Mansfield both seem to doubt the abilities of the average citizens and do not believe that we should entrust them with decisions which affect the society. Lasch even goes so far as to say that the government needs to be, “carried on by officials who were expected to ‘conceive a common interest’ - guided by public opinion or expert knowledge” (Lasch 365). Lasch believed that because our society is set up as it is (i.e., vast division of labor and distribution of wealth and power), it can not reasonably be expected to be governed by majority vote of the entire population (all with varying views and self-interested expectations). In this respect, Mansfield and Lasch seem to agree that the powers of citizens, as a whole, should be limited in terms of their ability to actively

participate government.

Another area which Mansfield and Lasch seem to have similar opinions is that regarding civil rights. Mansfield goes into great detail regarding how our government, through its formalized Constitution, protects the distinction between a person’s rights and their abilities to exercise those rights. In doing this, the Constitution is needed to limit the scope of the exercising of our rights

(Mansfield 32). The underlying topic involved in the obtainment of rights and their exercise is “equality”. Mansfield believes that it is necessary for our democratic nation to always be striving towards equality. However, according to Mansfield, it should be realized by all representatives that equality is not a formalized guarantee (Mansfield 11-12).

In discussing civil rights, Mansfield does not go into great deal about civil rights by specifically referring to specific topics and events. Instead, he breaks this term down into two different ideas and discusses them in a definitive manner. Specifically, he sets forth that there are “natural” and civil rights. Natural rights are those rights that a civil society is founded on (i.e., life,

liberty and the pursuit of happiness). Civil rights, on the other hand, are the more specific and limited rights that are established in a civilized...

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