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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Real Failure of Liberal Theory

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.

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Catholicism, Modernity, and Ground-Up Politics

Pope Francis’s theology of the people gives us a new ecclesial lens and paradigm through which to understand earthly politics. And the clerical abuse scandal, like the Church’s loss of temporal power, may well do Catholics a service in the long run, freeing us up to a better, more “ground-up” conception of how societies and their economies work.

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Fitting the Punishment to the Crime: The Justice of Contemporary Criminal Sentencing Laws

Were the criminal sentencing reforms that began in the 1970s too harsh? Rachel Barkow’s new book says they were. But most Americans would likely call these changes progress: our worst offenders now get something closer to what they should get than in the days when the experts were more in charge of punishment. Perhaps the real question is whether we should ground our criminal law more on justice as retribution.

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Religious Freedom, the Church, and State Coercion

The Church must exercise its authority over temporal matters in a way consistent with its spiritual mission, of which the exercise of temporal jurisdiction is a betrayal. The human person is drawn by nature to seek out and hold the truth whose fullness is revealed in God’s revelation in Christ, but this vision of human fulfillment implies a human subjectivity whose freedom must be respected as it seeks out the truth which fulfills it.

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The Case against Judicial Supremacy

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.

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Václav Benda’s Politics of Shared Responsibility

Through his life and writings, Czech dissident Václav Benda showed that political activity, in the highest sense, requires one to adhere steadfastly to moral principles and to take care that one’s efforts be effective. Above all one must act with and for one’s community: humbly seeking mutual understanding among community members and, as far as possible, fighting for the common good together.

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Is America More Like a Business or a Family?

How should we understand the common good of a political community? Is membership in a political community purely instrumental, like membership in a business venture? Or is it intrinsically good, worth pursuing in itself? The answer to this philosophical question has far-reaching political implications.

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Piracy, Protests, and the Problem of China

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.

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American Muslims Challenge Transgenderism—and Each Other

In amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in cases about sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, some American Muslims argue from their beliefs while others push LGBT causes. This contrast provides non-Muslims a window into the teachings of Islam, and a ringside seat for intra-Muslim conflicts. At stake is whether truth claims or identity politics will prevail.