- «(...) To enjoy republican freedom people have to be their own man or woman and that requires that they do not have a master or dominus who holds sway over them in any aspect of their lives.
Republican freedom is more demanding, then, than freedom in the contemporary sense of non-interference. For you may be lucky enough or wary enough to avoid interference by someone and yet live in the shadow of their power, whether they be an employer or spouse or local bully. According to the republican way of thinking you are unfree in such a situation, even before any actual interference occurs. Freedom requires the sort of immunity to interference -- the social and political status -- that would enable you to look every other in the eye. No one is free who has to keep a weather eye open for the whims of the more powerful, and if necessary adopt a servile attitude towards them.
(...)Republicanism in its Roman and neo-Roman guise has been distinguished, not just by the importance it accords to freedom as non-dependency, but also by the sorts of social and political institutions that it has generally preferred. Republicans have always argued that the state is required for promoting the freedom as non-dependency of its citizens, though in older days the citizens were restricted, as in every other tradition of thought, to mainstream, propertied males. Thus they have always held that the state is necessary to protect people from external and internal enemies, and to ensure against the abuse of private wealth or influence: this, for example, by ensuring a fair distribution of land or by legislating against certain forms of excessive wealth.
But if republicans have always defended the efficacy of the state in relation to such ends -- ends deriving, ultimately, from the goal of promoting people's freedom -- they have equally been insistent that the state is a two-edged sword. Unless it is restricted institutionally in various ways, it may itself prove a worse danger to people's freedom as non-domination than any danger it purports to guard against. If the state gives unfettered power to a single person, for example, as under an absolute monarchy or dictatorship, then that person will be able to interfere at will in people's lives and will dominate each and every one of them. Or if the state allows a particular faction or class to control what is done it its name, then the state will have that same dominating power in relation to those outside the class. If on the other hand, the state can be forced to track the avowed or readily avowable interests that citizens hold in common -- the common good, in the received phrase -- it will not represent an arbitrary power and will not dominate them.
The republican argument on this front has always been that in principle the state can be structured and constrained that it is forced to further only what is by all accounts in the common interest. The constraints generally favoured seek to divide up sovereignty between many bodies and offices, so that no one has absolute power -- this is the ideal of the mixed constitution -- and then to put in place pressures designed to discipline them into focusing on the common good.
The most constant points of emphasis, familiar ideas due to the influence of the tradition, are these:
the importance of having a constitution, written or unwritten, within which government has to operate;
the desirability of those in government being selected -- usually elected -- in such a way that different parts of the populace have their rival interests represented;
the ideal of limiting the tenure of those in executive office, say by requiring their selection to be regularly renewed, as under periodic elections;
the need for government to rule by law, not in a case-by-case fashion, and to ensure that its laws apply to everyone, legislators included, and are general, clear, well-understood, and so on;
the indispensability of dividing up power, so that each authority is subject to checks and balances, and in particular the indispensability of separating out judicial power from executive and legislative power;
the requirement that whatever decisions are made by government are backed up by reasons deriving from purportedly common interests, so that the relevance and strength of those reasons can be challenged in the legislature, the courts, or other forums;
the inevitable reliance of this whole system on the existence of an active, concerned citizenry who invigilate the exercise of government power, challenge its abuses and seek office where necessary. (...)» (Republicanism)
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