Pillar: Politics & Law

Politics & Law

The third pillar of a decent society is a just system of politics and law. Such a government does not bind all persons, families, institutions of civil society, and actors in the marketplace to itself as subservient features of an all-pervading authority. Instead, it honors and protects the inherent equal dignity of all persons, safeguards the family as the primary school of virtue, and seeks justice through the rule of law.

Learn more about Politics & Law: get your free eBook today!

Post

Progress Revisited

Bradley C. S. Watson’s new book Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea points scholars in new and productive directions regarding the political thought of the Progressive Era. Watson writes with vigor and verve, making the book of great appeal to anyone trying to take the true measure of the legacy of Progressive political thought in American history.

Post

Conservative Liberalism, Liberal Despotism: Part 2

Liberal doctrines necessarily require disenfranchising and punishing those who hold rival beliefs. Liberal ideology is jealous, and will have no other gods before it. American conservatives should reject this revolutionary liberalism and the attempts to make it the central principle of our national heritage. We need not deny that liberal ideas influenced the Founding, but we ought to follow our forefathers in tempering them.

Post

Conservative Liberalism, Liberal Despotism: Part 1

An oddity about our current debates over liberalism and America is that both sides view the American Founding, and thus America, as fundamentally influenced by classical liberal ideology. They only disagree over whether classical liberalism is good or bad. But the historical record shows that liberal ideology was one influence among many, not that it was the definitive one.

Post

Subjects Matter: It Is Past Time to Rescue the Study of History from Its Present Decline

It would be a mistake to believe that the current decline in historical literacy is due to the loss of some homogeneous version of the American story that used to hold the nation together. The problem is rather that younger generations are no longer being exposed to the historical themes that would most attract their interest.

Post

The Long Autumn of Our Content

Ross Douthat’s depiction of our society in his new book, The Decadent Society, should unsettle defenders of the status quo; his assessment of its potential resilience should give pause to those who are eagerly awaiting its fall and planning for what comes next. Decadence may be worse, and yet more permanent, than we think.

Post

“Peaceable and Just . . . Notwithstanding Their Spiritual Whoredoms”: Roger Williams, Civility, and the Freedom of Conscience

As civility becomes a contested value, we would do well to look to the example of Roger Williams, whose understanding of civility was grounded on the natural law. It depended on common human virtues and fostered the freedom of conscience and freedom of expression for members of a pluralistic society.

Post

Understanding the Right to Privacy in the Age of Big Data

The Christian moral tradition provides a solid foundation for the right to privacy by linking it to the act of communication and sharing information, a fundamentally relational activity oriented toward both the personal and common good. The failures of Capital One, Ring, and others illustrate that it cannot be left up to individual institutions to protect their clients’ privacy. We must therefore develop stronger legal institutions that embody the principles of both privacy and transparency.

Post

The Supreme Court Is Poised to Deliver a Victory to School Choice Advocates

The US Supreme Court seems likely to rule in a way school-choice advocates will welcome. The Court will likely overrule the Montana court and hold a ban on scholarships for students at religiously affiliated schools unconstitutional—an important ruling, to be sure. But a sweeping opinion seems unlikely. Rather, Espinoza is shaping up to be one of those closely divided, narrow decisions that have become familiar in the Court’s Religion Clause jurisprudence.

Post

Moral Standards and Legal Enforcement: The Debate on Free Speech, Continued

There are moral standards applicable to all forms of human behavior, including speech, but neither the existence of such standards nor even our acknowledgement of them entails that government should enforce them. Whether the government should enforce a given standard depends on the likely effects of such enforcement, and the sad history of censorship shows that empowering the government to suppress “immoral” or “offensive” speech is highly susceptible of abuse and results in serious violations of the rights we all have to engage in good speech and hear the good speech of others. Giving this power to government is wrong for the same reason that giving alcohol and automobiles to teenage boys is wrong.

Post

Classical Liberalism against Relativism

Robert Miller’s defense of free speech risks removing the moral ground that could explain the rightness or goodness of the freedom we seek to preserve. In place of a moral defense in principle, we would simply have a set of utilitarian guesses: that if we pretend we have no standards of judgment, things will work out better for us in the long run.

Post

Loose Talk on Free Speech

If you really must attack other conservatives, take the time to figure out what they actually said and why, and interpret them charitably, the way you would wish to be interpreted. You owe this even to your enemies, but other conservatives are not your enemies but your friends. After that, have some definite arguments.

Post

On Virtue Politics

“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.

Post

A Decade of Debates

The team at Public Discourse doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but we do think we’re asking the right questions, and getting the right thinkers to propose some of the answers. That’s one thing that we hope will always be our hallmark: thoughtful, reasoned discourse, which is rigorous yet still accessible to the educated layman.

Subscribe to Public Discourse!