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Both Joseph Tussman and John Mueller have very similar views on human nature. However, both have very contrasting views on how human nature affects citizenship. While Tussman argues to reshape human nature to produce the ideal citizen, Mueller looks to work with flaws. I believe that human nature cannot effectively be reshaped to produce the ideal citizen.
Joseph Tussman in his work, the The Office of the Ctizen, addresses human nature and its influence on the understanding and shaping of democratic citizen. Tussman argues that through two major elements of society—the marketplace and the assembly—we can observe human nature and draw from this what the ideal citizen should be. Instead of displaying the natural greed and selfishness that is exposed through competition, Tussman believes people should have the qualities of rationality and cooperation shown in deliberation (Tussman, 66-67). Thus Tussman’s ideal citizen calls for the reshaping of human nature.
Tussman’s ideal citizen is capable of changing their nature and adopting characteristics expressed in the assembly: rationality, cooperation, and participation. These citizens, through public education, can be trained and disciplined into the ideal citizen. Education will enable all people to fulfill their obligations to society. These obligations include actively voting, putting personal interest aside to keep the common good as a priority, make responsible decisions concerning government, and come to agreement with one another through deliberation (Tussman, 69). Tussman argues that reshaping human nature is necessary because citizens are capable of becoming active, educated citizens who will put their own interests aside and will work towards achieving the common good.
John Mueller in, Democracy and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery: Elections, Equality, and the Minimal Human Being, discusses his take on human nature and how it shapes the citizen’s role in democracy. Mueller believes that humans are naturally selfish and aren’t often good, but does not think that human nature needs shaping. He believes humans are quite capable of being good citizens without reshaping their natural ways and making them participate more (Mueller, 990). Mueller believes democracy works well with the average citizen.
Mueller argues that human nature does not negatively affect citizenship; it works well, and naturally, with it. Mueller’s ideal citizen does not call for revamping people into intellectuals through education. He believes people don’t need to be educated because through their own rational and logical thinking, they will do something (Mueller, 986). Being self-interested is how this change will occur. Mueller believes that to get something done, coupled with self-interest, petitioning is the most effective way to elicit a response from the government and create change. Voting becomes unnecessary and insignificant in the wake of self-interest. Petitioning is the citizens’ only obligation, and will occur when people feel they need to because it is in their own best interest (Mueller, 991). Mueller believes that being active only when it matters to oneself is all that is needed for a successful democracy.
In my opinion, humans are naturally selfish, self-oriented, and often poorly educated; these qualities don’t hinder democracy. People don’t need to put self-interest aside and work towards the common good because people will become active when they believe their voice matters. While society should strive for education and voting participation so these voices are informed when used, it can still function without; there will always be people who care, want to learn, and will constantly participate. Like Andrew Perrin said, “…democracy is best understood as the back-and-forth interactions among citizens and institutions of government…” (Perrin, 12). Democracy calls for some activity of the citizens, but does not demand anything that goes against human nature.
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