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The Responsibility of Informed Participation,
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This review is from: Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in 21st-Century America (Hardcover)
In his new book, Restoration of the Republic: The Jeffersonian Ideal in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2002) former U.S. Senator Gary Hart examines Thomas Jefferson's vision of free society. The result is the most timely and relevant treatment of that vision ever published. For Jefferson, free society is about more than just citizen rights. It is about the responsibilities that accompany those rights - the responsibility of informed participation.
As America debates the troubling aftermath of 9/11, Hart succeeds in identifying what has been called "the revolutionary tradition and its lost treasure" - the town meeting system of self-government - and the failure to incorporate this system into our constitutional framework. This failure was a direct result of Shays Rebellion in 1786, an event which caused fears of anarchy and violence. In response to those fears, the United States adopted an elaborate check and balance scheme based on representation.
Hart's book focuses on this tragic oversight in our political development and re-establishes Jefferson as the primary exponent for a public space where the voice of the whole people can be, as Jefferson said, "fairly, fully, and peacefully expressed, discussed, and decided by the common reason of society." Jefferson believed that violence could be avoided by creating, along with public education, a place for a redress of grievances. A place, he thought, where citizens could be "participator[s] in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day."
Jefferson's vision of republican government has profound implications for the 21st century. Hart deserves high praise for identifying and bringing focus to the central legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
Sydney N. Stokes, Jr.