Free «The Perfect State» Essay Sample

It is fairly easy to determine what is wrong with various governments and the way they function. In some cases, corruption is the weakness; in others, the social programs are at fault. Examples are abundant. In the absence of all the working non-examples, what would the perfect state be like? Let us try to envision this state, if only on paper.

An ideal government will reign only over an ideal society, so the society itself will have to be the focus of all governance. This begins in the home of each and every citizen in the land. A child is born, and his first moments of awareness-and all of those to come-are of love and stability. He has enough food to eat, a safe shelter, and feels welcome within his family. As he grows and begins to speak and understand language, he learns firsthand of morality. To be specific, he learns to treat others as he would like to be treated and to defer his own wants and needs for the overall good of his family. 

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He recognizes that all people have essentially the same basic wants and needs, which are to have enough food to eat, comfortable shelter, a feeling of safety, and the opportunity to work in a dignified job. The messages he receives at home and in society, both spoken and unspoken, are consistent with his moral training. This is reminiscent of Rawls' Theory of Justice, as summarized by Celeste Friend (2004): "Since everyone adopts the same method for choosing the basic principles for society, everyone will occupy the same standpoint: that of the disembodied, rational, universal human."

With this basis in morality, he can benefit from the education provided to him in his formative years. At maturity, we have a forthright, honest, and educated man, woman, or person-a person who expects to have basic rights, but understands that he also has a responsibility to contribute to the best of his ability to his family and society, and ultimately to deity. This is a single working widget of the ideal society. This person prefers honesty and dignity over riches or status, and feels that her word is her bond as she continues in life. Falsehood or dishonesty, especially for gain, is abomination to this person. The basis for this is from Socrates. According to Friend (2004), "justice is worth having for its own sake, and the just man is the happy man."

The ideal government will only exist as a function of the ideal society, as already described. Those who are selected to represent the people will be of the highest moral character, and will be bound to pursue their functions with the good of the whole society in mind. They will be considered first among equals, and accountable to the people they serve. In an interpretation Hobbes, Friend states  "that political authority and obligation are based on the individual self-interests of members of society who are understood to be equal to one another, with no single individual invested with any essential authority to rule over the rest." (Friend, 2004) They will operate transparently and consider their actions carefully before proceeding, but act decisively. They will be willing to admit to errors in judgment, and will address those errors as they arise.

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Although faith in God would be desirable, it would not be a requirement as long as the representative has strong moral values based on the welfare and content of the population. Compensation will be commensurate with the average population, and there will be lifetime limits of ten years of service. The reason for this span of time is two-fold. First, it will take up to ten years to plan and implement effective action. Next, an extended time may lead to complacence or corruption. This service can be terminated for any individual if the majority of people represented request it. According to Friend (2004), Rousseau argued that "no one has a natural right to govern others, and therefore the only justified authority is the authority that is generated out of agreements or covenants."

The smallest functional unit of government will be the neighborhood. Each one will have one representative, who will spend most of his time there administering to his people according to their needs, solving minor disputes, and addressing whatever problems may occur.  He will plan, organize, and implement his initiatives with the cooperation of the people he represents. He will report to a collective representative who is in charge of a district of twenty neighborhoods. The district representative will work to achieve consensus on the issues and problems that arise, and will in turn be a part of the collective assembly. This assembly will not make laws; instead, they will provide suggestions for change by consensus based on the information they have collected, and present examples of working models that address the perceived problems of the moment in a public information format. By keeping the political power at the most basic level, the population will have a greater sense of control and responsibility for their immediate environment. As a result, the people will have absolute faith in their governance and the collective assembly will have absolute faith in the people.  To paraphrase Rousseau again (Friend, 2004), "the sovereign is committed to the good of the individuals who constitute it, and the individual is likewise committed to the good of the whole."

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Government as such will only be used to administer public services, such as transportation, communication, and sanitation. All other functions will be administered through cooperative neighborhood efforts, including crime and punishment. A crime will be defined as an intentional or negligent action that causes physical harm to another person. Any other antisocial or immoral behavior will be met with censure and disapproval by the residents within their neighborhoods, but will not be punished criminally. Since everyone is mindful of their own upbringing and the expectations of the society, there will be very little crime as defined. It will be the prerogative of the neighborhood to assign punishments and restrictions for crime, including merciful death, restraint, or exile. In support of this position Kevin Murtagh (2005) states "for Kant, the justification for punishment is derived from the principle of retaliation, which is grounded in the principle of equality." People may freely move from one neighborhood to another, as long as they can conform to the mores of that neighborhood. There will be no police; the people themselves will be the police, and will function as a single unit, providing peer pressure and an expectation of upright moral behavior. This would require an altruistic approach, as defined by Ayelet Shavit (2010): "A motivation of assisting another regardless of one's direct or indirect self-benefit is necessary for it to be altruistic in the ordinary sense-for what we might call 'moral altruism.'"

Education will be provided at home initially. To quote James Delaney (2005), Rousseau believed that education "is better understood as a way of ensuring that the pupil's character be developed in such a way as to have a healthy sense of self-worth and morality." Through collaborative efforts in the neighborhood, citizens will have access to higher forms of education and formal professional training. All citizens will be encouraged to aspire to the highest attainable degree of education, but will not be compelled to do so. Access will be free.

Because of the superior moral upbringing of the average citizen, the people will not accept coercion or tyranny from their own government or from outside governments. They would rather die first. When threatened from within or without, they will unite as one common mass, and cooperate to eliminate the existing threat with the least amount of force possible, and return to peaceful coexistence as soon as the threat is dispersed. According to Alexander Moseley (2009), John Locke proposed that "individuals possess the right of retaliation and defence against aggressors, who, by initiating force, thereby introduce a state of war, an unjustifiable condition of violence and inequality that leads to enslavement."

In conclusion, the perfect state will have a well-educated population that nevertheless values morality above other considerations. Political power rests more heavily on individuals than on any representative entity, and the practical problems of daily living are addressed by neighborhoods. Governance in general will be responsive, swift, and resilient, while the guiding principles will always be the essential moral values of the society.

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