Commonwealth

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Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage" dates from the 15th century. Originally a phrase (the common-wealth or the common weal – echoed in the modern synonym "public weal") it comes from the old meaning of "wealth", which is "well-being", and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). The term literally meant "common well-being". In the 17th century, the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "public welfare" or "commonweal" to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state".

In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service. The concept of the common good differs significantly among philosophical doctrines. Early conceptions of the common good were set out by Ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle and Plato. One understanding of the common good rooted in Aristotle's philosophy remains in common usage today, referring to what one contemporary scholar calls the "good proper to, and attainable only by, the community, yet individually shared by its members." The concept of common good developed through the work of political theorists, moral philosophers, and public economists, including Thomas Aquinas, Niccolò Machiavelli, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Madison, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes, John Rawls, and many other thinkers. In contemporary economic theory, a common good is any good which is rivalrous yet non-excludable, while the common good, by contrast, arises in the subfield of welfare economics and refers to the outcome of a social welfare function. Such a social welfare function, in turn, would be rooted in a moral theory of the good. Social choice theory aims to understand processes by which the common good may or may not be realized in societies through the study of collective decision rules. And public choice theory applies microeconomic methodology to the study of political science in order to explain how private interests affect political activities and outcomes.

A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.

Wealth abundance of value

Wealth is the abundance of valuable financial assets or physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the originating old English word weal, which is from an Indo-European word stem. The modern concept of wealth is of significance in all areas of economics, and clearly so for growth economics and development economics, yet the meaning of wealth is context-dependent. An individual possessing a substantial net worth is known as wealthy. Net worth is defined as the current value of one's assets less liabilities.

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The term evolved to become a title to a number of political entities. Three countries – Australia, the Bahamas, and Dominica – have the official title "Commonwealth", as do four U.S. states and two U.S. territories. Since the early 20th century, the term has been used to name some fraternal associations of nations, most notably the Commonwealth of Nations, an organization primarily of former territories of the British Empire, which is often referred to as simply "the Commonwealth".

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Dominica country in the Caribbean

Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the West Indies. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The island is located near Guadeloupe to the northwest and Martinique to the south-southeast. Its area is 750 km2 (290 sq mi), and the highest point is Morne Diablotins, at 1,447 m (4,747 ft) in elevation. The population was 71,293 at the 2011 census. The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Caribbean's few republics.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.

Historical use

Rome

Translations of Roman writers' works to English have on occasion translated " Res publica ", and variants thereof, to "the commonwealth", a term referring to the Roman state as a whole.

Res publica is a Latin phrase, loosely meaning 'public affair'. It is the root of the word 'republic', and the word 'commonwealth' has traditionally been used as a synonym for it; however translations vary widely according to the context. 'Res' is a nominative singular Latin noun for a substantive or concrete thing – as opposed to 'spes', which means something unreal or ethereal – and 'publica' is an attributive adjective meaning 'of and/or pertaining to the state or the public'. Hence a literal translation is, 'the public thing/affair'.

England

The Commonwealth of England was the official name of the political unit (de facto military rule in the name of parliamentary supremacy) that replaced the Kingdom of England (after the English Civil War) from 1649–53 and 1659–60, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son and successor Richard. From 1653 to 1659, although still legally known as a Commonwealth, the republic, united with the former Kingdom of Scotland, operated under different institutions (at times as a de facto monarchy) and is known by historians as the Protectorate. In a British context, it is sometimes referred to as the "Old Commonwealth".[ citation needed ]

Commonwealth of England Historic republic on the British Isles (1649–1660)

The Commonwealth was the period from 1649 to 1660 when England and Wales, later along with Ireland and Scotland, were ruled as a republic following the end of the Second English Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles I. The republic's existence was declared through "An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth", adopted by the Rump Parliament on 19 May 1649. Power in the early Commonwealth was vested primarily in the Parliament and a Council of State. During the period, fighting continued, particularly in Ireland and Scotland, between the parliamentary forces and those opposed to them, as part of what is now referred to as the Third English Civil War.

Kingdom of England historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

English Civil War series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") over, principally, the manner of England's governance. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with the Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

Iceland

The Icelandic Commonwealth or the Icelandic Free State (Icelandic : Þjóðveldið) was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Althing in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262. It was initially established by a public consisting largely of recent immigrants from Norway who had fled the unification of that country under King Harald Fairhair.

Icelandic Commonwealth republic in the North Atlantic Ocean between 930–1262

The Icelandic Commonwealth, Icelandic Free State, or Republic of Iceland was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Alþingi (Althing) in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king with the Old Covenant in 1262. With the probable exception of Papar, Iceland was an uninhabited island until around 870.

Icelandic language North Germanic language mainly spoken in Iceland

Icelandic is a North Germanic language spoken in Iceland. Along with Faroese, Norn, and Western Norwegian it formerly constituted West Nordic; while Danish, Eastern Norwegian and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Modern Norwegian Bokmål is influenced by both groups, leading the Nordic languages to be divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages until the Portuguese settlement in the Azores.

Althing unicameral parliament of Iceland

The Alþingi is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, a claim shared by Tynwald. The Althing was founded in 930 at Þingvellir, situated approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) east of what later became the country's capital, Reykjavík. Even after Iceland's union with Norway in 1262, the Althing still held its sessions at Þingvellir until 1800, when it was discontinued. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, made of hewn Icelandic stone.

Philippines

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country's full achievement of independence, which was achieved in 1946. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was a founding member of the United Nations. [1]

Commonwealth of the Philippines 1935-1946 republic in Southeast Asia

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country's full achievement of independence.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

A government in exile is a political group which claims to be a country or semi-sovereign state's legitimate government, but is unable to exercise legal power and instead resides in another state or foreign country. Governments in exile usually plan to one day return to their native country and regain formal power. A government in exile differs from a rump state in the sense that a rump state controls at least part of its former territory. For example, during World War I, nearly all of Belgium was occupied by Germany, but Belgium and its allies held on to a small slice in the country's west. A government in exile, in contrast, has lost all its territory.

Poland–Lithuania

Republic is still an alternative translation of the traditional name of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Wincenty Kadłubek (Vincent Kadlubo, 1160–1223) used for the first time the original Latin term res publica in the context of Poland in his "Chronicles of the Kings and Princes of Poland". The name was used officially for the confederal country formed by Poland and Lithuania 1569–1795.

It is also often referred as "Nobles' Commonwealth" (1505–1795, i.e., before the union). In the contemporary political doctrine of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, "our state is a Republic (or Commonwealth) under the presidency of the King". The Commonwealth introduced a doctrine of religious tolerance called Warsaw Confederation, had its own parliament Sejm (although elections were restricted to nobility and elected kings, who were bound to certain contracts Pacta conventa from the beginning of the reign).

"A commonwealth of good counsaile" was the title of the 1607 English translation of the work of Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki "De optimo senatore" that presented to English readers many of the ideas present in the political system of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Catalonia

Between 1914 and 1925, Catalonia was an autonomous region of Spain. Its government during that time was given the title mancomunidad (Catalan: mancomunitat), which is translated into English as "commonwealth". The Commonwealth of Catalonia had limited powers and was formed as a federation of the four Catalan provinces. A number of Catalan-language institutions were created during its existence.

Liberia

Between 1838 and 1847, Liberia was officially known as the "Commonwealth of Liberia". It changed its name to the "Republic of Liberia" when it declared independence (and adopted a new constitution) in 1847. [2]

Current use

Australia

"Commonwealth" was first proposed as a term for a federation of the six Australian crown colonies at the 1891 constitutional convention in Sydney. Its adoption was initially controversial, as it was associated by some with the republicanism of Oliver Cromwell (see above), but it was retained in all subsequent drafts of the constitution. [3] The term was finally incorporated into law in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901, which established the federation. Australia operates under a federal system, in which power is divided between the federal (national) government and the state governments (the successors of the six colonies). So, in an Australian context, the term "Commonwealth" (capitalized) refers to the federal government, and "Commonwealth of Australia" is the official name of the country.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas uses the official style Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Dominica

The small Caribbean republic of Dominica has used the official style Commonwealth of Dominica since 1978.

Certain U.S. states and territories

States

Four states of the United States officially designate themselves as "commonwealths". All four were part of Great Britain's possessions along the Atlantic coast of North America prior to the formation of the United States of America in 1776. As such, they share a strong influence of English common law in some of their laws and institutions. The four are:

  • Kentucky is designated a commonwealth by the Kentucky Constitution and is known constitutionally as the "Commonwealth of Kentucky". [4]
  • Massachusetts is a commonwealth, [5] declaring itself as such in its constitution, which states: "[T]he body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good." [6]
  • Pennsylvania uses the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" constitutionally and in its official title. [7]
  • Virginia has been known as the "Commonwealth of Virginia" since before the American Revolutionary War, and is referred to as a commonwealth in its constitution. [8]

Territories

Two organized but unincorporated U.S. territories are called commonwealths. The two are:

International bodies

Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations—formerly the British Commonwealth—is a voluntary association or confederation of 53 independent sovereign states, most of which were once part of the British Empire. The Commonwealth's membership includes both republics and monarchies. The Head of the Commonwealth is Queen Elizabeth II, who also reigns as monarch directly in the 16 member states known as Commonwealth realms.

Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a loose alliance or confederation consisting of 10 of the 15 former Soviet Republics, the exceptions being Turkmenistan (a CIS associate member), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, and Georgia. Georgia left the CIS in August 2008 after a clash with Russia over South Ossetia. Its creation signalled the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its purpose being to "allow a civilised divorce" between the Soviet Republics. The CIS has developed as a forum by which the member-states can co-operate in economics, defence, and foreign policy. [9]

Proposed use

United Kingdom

Labour MP Tony Benn sponsored a Commonwealth of Britain Bill several times between 1991 and 2001, intended to abolish the monarchy and establish a British republic. It never reached second reading.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. United Nations website listing founding members
  2. The Commonwealth of Liberia
  3. Helen Irving. Australian Federation Archived 2015-07-15 at the Wayback Machine – Civics and Citizenship Education. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  4. "Kentucky.gov". Kentucky.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  5. "Mass.Gov". Mass.Gov. 2013-09-26. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  6. "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Malegislature.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  7. "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania | The Keystone State". Pa.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  8. "Home". Virginia.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  9. Constantine, Michalopoulos, and Tarr David. "The economics of customs unions in the Commonwealth of Independent States." Post-Soviet Geography and Economics 38, no. 3 (1997): 125-143.