It’s an error for conservatives to see the American Founding’s emphasis on natural rights as necessarily fostering extreme individualism in contemporary America. Eighteenth-century Americans would have viewed the notion that rights could be exercised contrary to natural law as ridiculous.
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The political theory of the American founding is not quite the “cure for what ails us,” but, as Thomas G. West’s books demonstrate, it can serve as a kind of preventive medicine against the psychological sickness of radical individualism.
Leslie Rubin’s brilliant study argues that the fault, dear America, lies not in our stars but in ourselves—our repudiation in the past century of the moderate liberal philosophy of Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike, which was steeped in Aristotelian wisdom about favoring the decent republican virtues of a middle class.
The pardon power is the most significant and strongest power of the president, and the Constitution places almost no limits on it. In using it, the president can unilaterally nullify the legitimate authority of the legislative and judicial branches.
If there is one truth that the entire philosophic tradition—including America’s Founders—may be said to embrace, in spite of all its disagreements, it is this: reason teaches that it is unreasonable to expect people to act by reason alone.
Our nation was founded on biblical principles as a haven for devoutly religious dissidents. We forget our Judeo-Christian origins and the founders’ commitment to freedom of religion at our peril.
It is often alleged that the American founders lacked a unified and coherent political theory. To the contrary, a recent book by Thomas West shows that the founders broadly agreed on a philosophy of natural rights, calling for both the protection of liberty and the promotion of virtue.
The plan of our nation’s capital and the architecture of its core buildings and monuments must carry on the classical vision the Founders intended as the physical manifestation of America’s form of government and political ideals.
Judicial supremacy is inimical to the separation of powers, to republicanism, and even to constitutionalism and the rule of law. The upcoming confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor should force citizens to reconsider the place of the Court in our political life. The first in a two-part series.
The Constitution itself directs us to use metaphysical and moral truths that lie beyond it in its interpretation. Indeed, a contemporary judge can be faithful to the Founders only by relying on these truths.
For decades, both First Things and National Review have struggled to make as much peace as possible between two uncongenial streams of conservative thinking and praxis. That their editors have now planted their feet decisively in one of those streams marks an important moment in the history of American conservatism.
The 1619 Project’s goal is not just reframing American history on ideological grounds, but reframing the philosophy of history itself. This in turn harms our ability to learn from history and understand our identity as Americans.
Although they often have the flavor of thought experiments, the arguments of integralists are nonetheless worth taking very seriously. Their reflections include spot-on diagnoses of many pathologies affecting our political community.
“Virtue politics” is modeled on the phrase “virtue ethics,” an approach to moral philosophy inspired by Aristotle and elaborated by the British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. “Virtue politics” describes the central concerns of Renaissance political philosophy. Like the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance humanists had a richer understanding of what the state has to do in order to encourage virtue.
Reading recommendations from The Witherspoon Institute staff.
Conservative critics of “liberalism” are right to identify major flaws in liberal theory. But a deeper appreciation of those flaws should prevent us from blaming the American political tradition for them. Liberal theory is so erroneous that neither the Founders nor any other Americans could ever really put it into practice.
We must resist the sense that gratitude has no place in this era of frequently justified outrage. In fact, gratitude may be exactly what can help us distinguish justified from unjustified outrage. And, in any case, gratitude is the proper disposition toward all the good we have been given that we have done so little to earn.
Debates over judicial review and constitutional interpretation only stand to benefit from deeper reflection on the type of political community the Constitution established. The Political Constitution invites us to take the word republic, and its vision of self-government, seriously.
Mark Hall’s new book adduces solid evidence to dispel many contemporary myths concerning religion and the American founding. Let us finally be done with false claims that the founders were deists, or that they were hostile to religion and wanted to exclude it from public life.
America’s relations with China should proceed from the recognition that the Chinese government is lawless. China flouts the rule of law, not occasionally or incidentally but characteristically, because the government understands itself as the source of law and unconstrained by it. The problem of China reminds us of the deeper laws that all nations must respect and that determine whether or not our positive laws are legally just.
The restoration of Western civilization from its present travails requires getting the story right. Gregg’s Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization may be the most important recent work in this area, offering an important corrective to the other stories on offer.
The supporters of physician-assisted suicide are indefatigable in their quest to legalize the practice in the United States, and they are co-opting the conception of freedom, as understood by the prevailing political thought during the American founding, to support their cause.
A new book argues that fundraising is not an independent activity external to the purpose of a non-profit, but an integral part of the existence and mission of the organization. Rather than becoming a class of experts, fundraisers should be well-formed persons and citizens, who can learn the craft of fundraising and practice it in a manner that supports rather than undermines the free and relational nature of civil society.
The 1619 Project points us to the need for the 3395 Project—the project of constructing a new and stronger American identity that incorporates both the experiences, perspectives, and distinctive contributions of the descendants of enslaved Africans (1619) and also the aspirations and ideals enunciated by European Americans in the Declaration of Independence (1776).