A Republic As A Political System

Question 1

A Republic could be defined as a political system that has some form of mixed constitution that is not fully democratic and not controlled by a monarchy. The powers of sovereignty are dependent on the people. One of the main ideas of Republicanism was that of “political participation”. However, there are two different types of Republicanism which must be identified. Firstly,' Developmental Republicanism' and secondly, ‘Protective Republicanism'.

‘Developmental Republicanism' could be described as “Personal fulfillment through political participation”. Developmental Republicanism derives from theories of the Greek ‘polis' which is the argument that a fulfilled and good life is only possible in and through the polis it was only through the ‘polis' (city state) that people could fulfill themselves properly and live as honorable citizens. In developmental Republicanism, political participation was seen as a necessary aspect of the “good life”. People's fulfillment depended on their involvement in political matters, and their involvement would mean their development as citizens for decision making. The principle was that people must have political and economic equality in order for everyone to be able to have freedom and development in the process of self determination for common good.

The other form of Republicanism, “Protective Republicanism” is the most recognized. Unlike Developmental Republicanism, which originates from Ancient Greece and its philosophers, Protective Republicanism originates from Republican Rome. Protective Republicanism could be summed up as “Protecting liberty and interest from domination. In other words, the underlying theme of protective republicanism is that political participation is fundamental in protecting civilians' personal liberty for example all civilians must get involved in political decision making if they are to be protected. If people didn't rule themselves they for example participate then they would be dominated by others, such as a monarch.

One of the features of Republicanism, is that there is a mixed constitution. This could mean that power is divided between the “people”, the aristocracy and the monarch. Although nowadays a Republic is seen as one in which there is no monarch, many Republican theorists have argued that a Republic doesn't necessarily have to be free of a monarch just that he monarch should not have complete control and power over the people.

Liberal democracy is the dominant form of democracy. It refers to the ideology of political liberalism. Liberal democracies feature individual rights from government power. These were first proposed by theorists such as Hobbs and Locke. Liberalism is the belief in the importance of individual freedom. Modern Liberalism was founded from the period of Enlightment, Locke is often associated with Liberalism, he wrote ‘No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.' The American War of Independence established the first nation to introduce a constitution based on the concept of liberal government, especially the idea that governments rule by the consent of the governed. Meaning principle people must have political and economic equality in order for everyone to be able to have freedom and development. The main reason we get from Liberalism is freedom from ruling like the monarchy and the replacement of aristocracy by social equality. Locke developed an idea of natural rights which later helped mould the modern version of Human Rights.

Question 2

The entire population is marked by profound inequalities. Gender discrimination is one of the main topics when discussing profound inequalities within the UK. Through the ‘Representation of the people act  1918' this allowed women over the age of 30 to vote as long as they were land owners , married to a land owner or held a university degree. This was done because it was believed women over that age would vote more responsibly and more than often vote the way their husbands told them to. This was identified as a major inequality of the genders because men were still granted more rights than women. However through such acts as the ‘Representation of people Act 1928' and ‘Equality act 2006' the inequality was seemingly undermined. This is because it is the ‘duty of the public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between men and women...' (Equality Act, 2006). However, some can say that this inequality is needed in society because ‘severe violations of political equality and hence of the democratic process' (Dahl, 1985 in Held, 2006). This is stating that this inequality that women suffer both economically and socially aid the democratic process.  It can therefore be suggested that inequalities need to be in society in order for the law to function effectively. This can be seen through the forever changing acts regarding race, sexuality and gender. The most recent in equality to be examined was the ‘Civil Partnership Act 2004' where same sex couples were granted the legal right to enter into a civil partnership. However, this act allowed same sex couples to enter a similar state of marriage as heterosexual couples it did not carry the same legal responsibilities that heterosexual couples had.  So even when the equality is seen to be given at a societal level but  in legality there are still some major profound inequalities being demonstrated. This allows individuals to express their right to freedom of speech but that can even be silenced if the individual was placed under the ‘Terrorism Act 2006' and placed in a 28 day to 90 day detention period. This can be done if the individuals” actions and threats designed to influence a government” would be classified as an act of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2006, 2006).  Therefore, an individual placed wrongly under the ‘Terrorism Act 2006' could argue that they were encountering some profound inequality based upon their socio-economic background, movements, expression and race in some cases. Furthermore, profound inequalities within society can be seen to be happening no matter what because the legal course of the government is determined by how the law is manipulated. As a society we have this perceived perception of what things should be. The idea that individuals have rights that no government can violate can be argued. John Stuart Mill was a clear advocate of democracy. Liberal democratic was important for him, because it was an important aspect of the free development of individuality.

Question 3

A Bill of Rights is a statement of fundamental rights and privileges. The government is interested in having a Bill of Rights because it's an opportunity to ensure that responsibilities of citizens are emphasized. A Bill of Rights could give people a clear idea of what we can expect from public authorities and from each other. Also that a Bill of Rights could provide explicit recognition that human rights come with responsibilities and must be exercised in a way that respects the human rights of others. There are claims that there is a selfish approach to rights without any regard or thought to anyone else.

‘The Governance of Britain', suggested that a “Bill of Rights and Duties could give people a clear idea of what we can expect from public authorities, and from each other, and a framework for giving practical effect to our common values”. The intention was to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law followed by a British Bill of Rights. As the UK government had been bound to comply with the ECHR since 1953, this was seen as the quickest and simplest way of introducing a substantial package of human rights into UK law. The philosophical foundation of human rights is that everyone is entitled to fundamental rights simply because they are human. Bills of rights are not just legal and constitutional documents, they play other roles in which they represent what a country stands for and the principles we as a country share. There has been some evidence to suggest that the public do not see the HRA as the British bill of rights, and this is hardly surprising with the way the HRA was introduced, and the way it is being treated by the government and media.

Cameron wrote in the Sunday Times in 2006, “It is time to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights that will enable ministers to act within the law to protect our society. But would having a British bill or rights be appropriate for the economic and social rights that individuals have. One philosopher Rousseau explored how human beings were contented in their original ‘state of nature', a period before the development of civil governments. During this time humans were fundamentally equal, living free lives, but they came to realize that their survival and development of their existence, could only be achieved by the establishment of a system of co-operation upheld by law making and enforcing laws. Rousseau saw individuals as ideally involved in the direct creation of the laws by which their lives are regulated. The main principle of protective republicanism is political participation, which is an essential condition of personal liberty, if citizens do not rule themselves they will be dominated by others. So is this suggesting that by having a Bill of Rights in the UK we would be being dominated by others. You need to get the balance of power between ‘the people', aristocracy and the monarchy which is linked to the mixed government, with the provision for all leading political forces to play an active role in public life.

For Marx, the transition period between capitalist and communist society ‘in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat' (Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875). The Critique of the Gotha Programme is a critique of the draft programme of the United Worker's party of Germany. In this document, Marx addresses the dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition from capitalism to communism. The proletariat would assume state power aiming to eliminate the old relations of production. It would replace these relations with a class dictatorship which would both place the productive forces under proletarian control and pave the way for the abolition of class distinctions culminating in a classless society. The Communist Manifesto (1848) stated that the result would be ‘an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all'. So this is protecting individual rights which the Bill of Rights would be aiming to do should we have one, and isn't that what the Human rights act is doing currently.

Locke and Hobbes are two philosophers who were very influential during the Enlightenment. There work had a massive impact upon political philosophy in particular liberalism. Their writings influenced other philosophers such as Rousseau as well as the American revolutionaries. Unlike Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Locke agreed with Hobbes that human nature allowed men to be selfish. In a natural state all people were equal and independent. Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Constitution of the United States and its Declaration of Independence. So wouldn't this also be the case in a Bill or Rights if we were to adopt one.

There are people in society who's rights aren't as protected as others, having a Bill of Rights would help to provide necessary protection to all citizens. It would provide a new movement in which Human rights already in place are protected. There is controversy in whether the Bill of Rights would include social and economic rights, and I think there is a big demand for rights to housing, health and education in particular. Including these rights within the Bill could prove to be difficult, especially to do with the courts and to the extent to which they can and can't make decisions which are normally resolute by politicians. The right to a fair trial is the view many people take that should be included within the Bill of Rights.

Some people would disagree with the inclusion of Economic and Social rights within the Bill of Rights because it gives the courts too much power and would therefore become undemocratic. Also courts aren't that well equipped to deal with such decisions that would need deciding over these matters.

In my view I believe there is a strong case for a Bill of Rights for the UK, starting off with including rights to health, education, housing and adequate standard of living, but reviewing the Bill and deciding whether to add other social and economical rights which are not at the moment included. This way the courts do not have as much power, therefore making it more democratic.