Values and Public Policy

By Henry J. Aaron; Thomas E. Mann et al. | Go to book overview

6
Public Spirit in Political Systems

Jane Mansbridge

Were the much-maligned Sophists of ancient philosophy really the first modern political economists? Because little of the Sophists' own work remains, we must deduce primarily from Plato and other detractors that these philosophers saw the state only as an instrument for increasing the material wellbeing of its members. Aristotle described the Sophists as arguing that it is "the end [goal, telos] of the state to provide an alliance for mutual defence against all injury, or to ease exchange and promote economic intercourse." This kind of purely instrumental political association, he charged, "sinks into a mere alliance," and "law becomes a mere covenant," instead of being, "as it should be, a rule of life such as will make the members of a polis good and just." 1 At least some of the Sophists seem to have linked this view of the state as an alliance for defense and economic advancement with a view of human nature as purely or primarily self-interested. They may also have believed that political values could be reduced to self-interest: Thrasymachus argued, in Plato's formulation of his words, that justice was no more than the interest of the stronger. 2

I would like to thank the Russell Sage Foundation and the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research for making available the time to write this chapter, and William Galston for helpful comments.

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Values and Public Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • Note 15
  • 2: How Changes in the Economy Are Reshaping American Values 16
  • Overview 17
  • Conclusion 50
  • Notes 51
  • 3: Culture, Incentives, and the Underclass 54
  • Notes 75
  • 4: The Family Condition of America Cultural Change and Public Policy 81
  • Notes 106
  • 5: Multiculturalism and Public Policy 113
  • Notes 144
  • 6: Public Spirit in Political Systems 146
  • Notes 165
  • 7: Gang Behavior, Law Enforcement, and Community Values 173
  • Appendix 196
  • Appendix 205
  • Index 211
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