In order to understand any system of government, we need to understand the extent to which government aligns itself with the common good. For example, Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786, was an example of a famously benevolent and progressive despot who transformed his country from a relative backwater into an intellectual and military superpower. An interesting question is what mechanisms, if any, protected the Prussians against selfish / incompetent Kings? The answer is brutal, in 18th Century Europe incompetent regimes tended to be annihilated by their neighbours, because in the long run the common good, the flourishing of society, brings economic success and military power. For example, the Ottoman Empire eventually disappeared because its failure to embrace Prussia’s progressive values left it weaker than its European neighbours.
Today Political Scientists talk about the concept of “government legitimacy”. Defining legitimacy is actually quite difficult, but some of the ideas we tend to associate with it include benevolence, competence and popular support.
Continue reading »