Is America a Fair and Just Society?
Mary Vavruska, the author of this well-written essay, answered the above question as part of a Social Studies project. A Freshman at Brooklyn Tech High School, one of New York City’s Specialized High Schools, she is also an active member of the Conservative Club, Photography Club, and the satirical newspaper, The Radish. In this erudite essay, a must read by all patriotic Americans, Mary articulates the fundamental foundations of America’s political philosophy from John Locke, the ‘Father of Classical Liberalism’ and traces our system of government derived by our Founding Fathers from the best of the governing systems of both ancient Greece and Rome. She concludes with the thinking of Ayn Rand who said that the United States of America is “…the only moral country in the history of the world.”
From the very beginning, America has been a fair and just society in terms of its political philosophy. When creating America’s philosophy, our Founders incorporated works of many different people. One key philosopher used in the American groundwork, was John Locke. Locke was a well- known and world- renowned English philosopher, considered the ‘Father of Classical Liberalism.’ Many of the Founding Fathers studied and followed the teachings of his work. Thomas Jefferson considered him the greatest thinker on liberty; Benjamin Franklin included his writings in his self- education; John Adams believed that his writings should be taught to every boy and girl; and James Madison used many of his fundamental principles throughout his life. Thus, based on the use of Locke’s teachings into their daily life, the Founding Fathers incorporated his views on laws, rights, and liberty into the Declaration of Independence, the document serving as the basis of our country’s philosophy. Locke’s philosophy discusses a person’s natural rights. This includes that a person has the right to preserve himself, pursue his own good, and do as he wishes, within a safe reason. He also includes that every person has the right to life, liberty, and property, which Jefferson later poetically changed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This philosophy is fair and just because it guarantees a person their ‘God- given rights.’ First, their life will never be taken away, unless it is endangering another person’s natural rights. This freedom is one that we barely consider, but it may in fact be the most important right we could ever be given. Second, a person is guaranteed liberty. This freedom ranges from the freedom of speech to the freedom of religion, and many things outside and in between. These freedoms are all guaranteed, allowing a person to live the way they want to live, doing as they please, again, as long as it does not harm someone else or take away their freedom, which in fact is another form of harm. Third, and lastly, a person, according to Jefferson, is given the right to the pursuit of happiness. This means that a person is given access to use or create opportunities, to allow them to make the best life for themselves possible. However, the success of their life is based solely on their work. If a person works hard, they will receive the amount to suffice that labor, but if they do not put in effort, they will not achieve anything. Finally, the fruits of their labor, are entitled to them and their will, solely, and no one else, including the government. All of these rights, create a society in which every person is seen as independent and given opportunities, but must work to succeed, therefore it is fair and just, because a person’s ‘fate’ is based on their own actions.
In terms of its rules and laws, America is fair. The rules and laws of the country are put in place to protect the people and give them the opportunities to live the best life possible. A good example of this is seen in the Bill of Rights. This document consists of the ten laws, known as amendments, our country was founded on. The first, and most commonly known of these is the First Amendment. It states,” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” These few statements, laid out the foundation for our country today, in terms of the freedoms and liberties it grants. In terms of freedom of speech, a person is permitted to speak their mind, whether it is spoken or through writing or media, as long as it does not potentially or directly endanger someone’s life. For example, you can not threaten to assassinate the president, however it is perfectly fine to express a ‘safe’ opinion, whether it is that you think that, ‘the president is harming the country,’ or, ‘he is the best leader we have ever had.’ The latter two are both completely legal, even if it is disapprobatory towards the government. Another freedom this Amendment grants, is the freedom to practice or establish any religion you would like to believe in, or none at all. This freedom also distinguished America from many other countries of the time, where the religion of the rulers became the religion of the people. The final freedom guaranteed is the freedom to protest peacefully. These protests can be of a minor, local matter to a major government decision, and are permitted as long as they cause no harm, similar to freedom of speech. This freedom benefits the government along with the people, because it serves as a ‘check’ to the government. If the government does something wrong or could have handled a matter better, and enough people are dissatisfied, they can take action, and have the decision corrected or undone. This leads into the next reason why America is a fair and just society, its system of checks and balances and type of government, matters relating to the ways it handles issues and the countries’ foundation.
Our government is considered a Democratic- Republic. It is based off the governments of both Rome and Greece, but with some differences. Greece had a direct democracy, in which any eligible citizen, could and was obligated to assemble and directly vote on laws for the society, meaning thousands of people gathering to do so. On the other hand, Rome had a Republic, in which leaders were chosen to represent the people. These leaders were mainly patricians- members of the upper class- and were chosen by other government members, not the people. In addition in many cases, these leaders only looked out for the interests of upper class Roman citizens, not the whole people. As one can see although these were both very successful, early forms of government, they were both flawed. Therefore, when the Founding Fathers created the American Government, they combined the two government types in a way to get the best aspects. This created a successful system, never before seen by the world, a Democratic- Republic. In this system the people vote to choose the person they feel best to represent them and the rest of the people of the country in law making decisions. This highlights the best and most important aspects of both governments, but makes it more practical and better for all. Within the government there also three branches- executive, judicial, and legislative. Each serves a different role, important in its own way, and help to divide the power of the government into three different parts. The division of power was very important to the Founding Fathers. As a colony of Great Britain, people were subject to a monarch’s cruel and unjust rule. The king or queen tended to abuse their ultimate power and at their whim, took away the rights of the people that we today take for granted. If someone did not like the King, expressing your opinion could lead to punishment. If the King wanted to take away a person’s house or even their own life, he could without any reason. This type of rule created a limited life for the people, with little or no freedom, few opportunities to pursue the best life for themselves, and even the risk of losing their own lives. These things should never be denied of someone, especially based on a single leader’s rule and fancy. Therefore, during the laying of our country’s political foundation, it was made sure that no decision would be made without the consent of one or more of the other branches. This ensures that no radical decision will be made, to harm the people, or allow a branch enough power as to take over the government. This is fair and just because it is preventing the people, from the terrible an unjust lifestyle of a monarch or any other leader with absolute power, therefore making both their actions and the government just.
Many philosophers and other great thinkers also see America as a fair and just society. One example is Ayn Rand, a European writer, who came to America on her own free will, mainly due to its guaranteed freedoms, especially the freedom of speech. Rand once said, “I can say- not as patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political, and esthetic roots- that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest, and in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.” This statement shows Rand’s positive opinions towards America as a whole, most likely because it parallels much of her own philosophy. Rand created a philosophy called objectivism, that encourages people to be ‘selfish.’ However this philosophy does not mean selfish in the negative way it is commonly used. Rand meant in a way in which you do things to make the best life for yourself, but do not harm others along the way. She encourages people to ”follow reason, not whims or faith; work hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness; earn genuine self- esteem; pursue your own happiness as your highest moral aim; prosper by treating others as individuals and trading value for value; and that acting thoughtlessly and victimizing others is not in your best- interest.” These points can be summarized with the words: reality, reason, self- interest, and capitalism- a system of free trade that America has. This way of thinking is similar to Locke’s and also completely fair and just. Rand wants people to work hard in order to prosper, but to earn their rewards not at the expense of others. This will not only benefit the individual, but the country and people as a whole, whether it be through helping the economy or the creation of opportunities. Rand felt that this situation applied to that of America, a reason for her great love of the country, therefore proving, that America is a fair and just society.
In conclusion, the United States if America has been and currently is a fair and just society. The principles the country was founded on were fair and just, and we continue using them, continuing the fair and justness. Our country incorporated Lockean philosophy into its own political philosophy, has fair laws and rules such as the First Amendment, and is fair and just in the way it deals with issues and type of government, thus making it a just society. Even great thinkers such as Ayn Rand affirm these positive aspects of our society. Even if our society is flawed, just as any other, overall America is fair and just, creating the best life for any and every person there.