April 16, 2009

A thought on the American form of democracy

In the American form of democracy, we the people are given an opportunity to balance our own private interests with the public interests, the common good. Tension always exists between these two. It seems to me when either private interests or public interests move to the extreme, we are in a precarious state. We must always seek a healthy balance of our private interests with what is best for the community.


  1. Steven, maybe we should avoid the dichotomy because it works to divide and stifle collective action. I would suggest that we think in terms of enlightened self interest, where we understand that what is good for our neighbors is good for us. This approach, shown to be successful (for the most part) during the Civic Republican Era (see de Tocqueville) sews us together and helps us avoid the fragmentation self interest brings.

  2. It is evident that the relationship between individual freedom/self-interest and the common good of all is more complex than it might seem to be. For me, my own understanding would be elevated through a process of identifying/pondering concrete examples of enlightened self interest that were applied within school/educational settings. What are the best of worst illustrations of enlightened self interest?