Global Sense: Awakening Your Personal Power for Democracy and World Peace (An Update of “Common Sense”)
Judah Freed has opinions about government that seem inline with progressive thought. The government is corrupt. People in government are too removed from the people – both through the need for security and from a reliance on special interest money over common people’s votes – to be appropriately representative. Representative democracy is flawed from its inception, checks and balances are a pipe dream, and direct democracy is the only hope for liberty.
If this had been all he wrote in Global Sense: Awakening Your Personal Power for Democracy and World Peace, then he might have had a decent book, but he tries to link his thoughts to popular Western political philosophy, primarily Thomas Paine. His one-sentence summaries of the philosophies of these great thinkers are oversimplified, at best, and erroneous, at worst. What’s more, his effort to hold himself as the logical extension of Western political thought merely reveals that his theories to be contradictory, a little shallow and, more importantly, extremely different from those of the men he uses to convince us of his legitimacy.
For example, Freed encourages democracy. Though he uses the word to mean different things, in his critiques of representative democracy (citizens vote for representatives who, in turn, vote for laws) over direct democracy (citizens vote directly for laws). His critiques of representative democracy contain many excerpts of “Common Sense,” which I infer as an argument based on a plea to the authority of Thomas Paine. But Paine does not even use the word “democracy” in “Common Sense,” and based on my own readings of Paine’s writing, I am doubtful he differed that dramatically from the other “founding fathers” in near-universal skepticism of Greek-style democracy and the risks of the tyranny of the majority.
He includes the story of his own self-doubt and awakening to self-actualization in his political theorizing. I don’t doubt his sincerity, and I think his ideas warrant consideration, but cloaking his whole message in the authority of Paine diminishes his impact. Yes, citizens today face challenges to civil liberties from unjust laws, as we did before the Revolution. But Freed’s fury at the abuses of government is the only thing he has in common with Paine. He’d be more believable if he had the confidence to let his ideas stand alone, and if his subtitle actually alluded to “Common Sense” rather than “The Crisis.”