Letter to the Citizen Volume 3

Alan Cai

July 29, 2022

To the Citizen,

Throughout humanity's foreseeable future, good governance will be subject to much discourse in every nation or civilization. But the plight of the status quo may never be solved. René Descartes observed, “Good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess.” The most effective civilizations are governed by reason, or in Descartes’s words, good sense. Capable governments find slicing between right and wrong a task accomplished with great ease.

Unfortunately, the ability to reason is a trait often starkly contrasted with human nature itself. Jonathan Swift in his work, Gulliver’s Travels, outlines a species of intelligent horse-like beings who conduct themselves and their government entirely upon moral reasoning and are strangers to passions, falsehoods, corruption, and self-interests. As George Sherburn states in his introduction to the novel, these creatures, called Houyhnhnms, are not something humans will ever develop into, but rather a manifestation of the purest and least unprincipled qualities we all possess.

No human system will ever reach the capacity to emulate this Houyhnhnm society, as evolution has left all sentient beings with certain unavoidable characteristics necessary for competitiveness to thrive. This is the rationale behind the centuries worth of monarchs throughout history, who gained their power on the basis of relieving civilians from the burden of wielding it, but ultimately lacking the moral standing of peacefully relinquishing it.

Democracy is indisputably the best modern wisdom can provide. The intelligence of many almost certainly triumphs over the knowledge of one. Nevertheless, the masses suffer the same predicaments as that of a single ruler. The benefit of such systems, however, will ensure that the force of the government will align with the will of the people, as opposed to the opinion of a single person or the path of logic and reason. The former would suffice to govern humanity as it is today, but for development into the future, perhaps only classics of the past can guide us through our journey.


Alan Cai