Discussion questions, *On the Social Contract,* Book III

question1- Book III 5th paragraph: “the government gets from the Sovereign the orders it gives the people, and, for the State to be properly balanced, there must, when everything is reckoned in, be equality between the product or power of the government taken in itself, and the product or power of the citizens, who are on the one hand sovereign and on the other subject.”

question 2-8th paragraph part III: “the government, then, to be good, should be proportionately stronger as the people is more numerous”
question 1- If the government is a body set up to secure mutual correspondence to maintain liberty in the civil and political arena and if by general will I agree to be a part of a state, does that mean that I have somehow agreed to laws that hinder our freedom and rights such as laws that are meant to restrict some from obtaining public services or means to discriminate against certain groups of people (like the Roma in Europe)? Does that mean that the general will somehow wants this even though these people are part of our society and are entering our society willingly? What if there are laws that attack the sovereignty of the citizens but are accepted by some citizens but not those who are attacked? Is that acceptable because it is the general will?

question 2- do you agree that a larger population should be governed by a stronger government? Why would some argue for a weaker government? (such as progressives and conservatives on economic/social issues?) does this go against Rousseau’s idea of a strong government alongside a large population?
Book III, Ch. 2Rousseau brings about the idea that in a large state, which needs to have a strong government with a high capacity level, there should be few rulers. In effect, the corporate will of the government will be more reflective of the particular wills, which will create a state that is more active and engaging of the population. There must be a few individuals that are dedicated to the interests of the state and will not endanger the state's interests. While Rousseau advocates for smaller states in general, the question arises of whether a large state should really have only have a few rulers that dictate the wills. What happens if they do not have the interests of the state in mind and then, in turn, lower their capacity to rule over the large state? Should there be a larger ratio of government to back up the wills of the people?
"According to the natural order, on the contrary, these various wills become more active in proportion as they are more concentrated. Thus the general will is always the weakest, the corporate will is first of all, so that in the government each member is first himself, then a magistrate, and then a citizen- a gradation directly opposite to the on required by the social order." (Book III, Chapter 2, Morgan Anthology page 906)Rousseau states that by human nature, the will of the individual will inevitably be the strongest and most influential of those in the government. Think back to Plato's "Republic" and how he suggested training the philosopher kings. Do you think that there is a way to train these magistrates so that the general will would be the dominant rule of the others?
Chapter 4. "Nothing is more dangerous than the influence of private interests on public affairs" In this chapter, Rousseau acknowledges that a true democracy has never existed however he did lay some ground work for what one would look like. Remarkably his structure looked a lot like the ideal communist set up. Do you think communism could actually be the foundation for pure democracy? And since Rousseau acknowledges that human beings almost always put their own private interests above the public one how would one go about ensuring private interests don't overwhelm the legislature? Any ideas for checks and balances when it is the entire population one must keep in check?
Chapter 8Rousseau talks about how the kinds of climates determine the type of government that can thrive. What would he say in a place like the United States where we have vastly different climates throughout the country? Should we be split up into different governments for this or is there a way for the two places to survive in harmony. Also does he believe that climate should be that important in determining the lines that should be drawn between different governments? If so why shouldn’t people be able to decide what government they wish to people to no matter the type of climate they live in?
Chapter 10 page 918 Rousseau gives his definition of a tyrant and explains how one leads to the dissolution of government. Does Rousseau believe that the people have a right to overthrow a tyrant in order to prevent their government from being dissolved?
Chapter 13 of Book III

"I answer further that it is always an evil to unite several towns in a single city, and that anyone wanting to bring about this union should not expect to avoid its natural disadvantages."
In this passage, Rousseau, a fan of small states for the best governing, says that cities should not be grouped together or else there will be clashes, mixed opinions, and different people to govern.

Would Rousseau agree that a prime example of this problem would be all of the boundaries drawn by colonial powers in Africa? By mixing the different people together, many clashes occur, especially ethnic tension. What would Rousseau do to fix the problems with African civil conflict if he was alive today?
Discussion questions

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