I think reading Hobbes, Locke, and de Tocqueville ought to be the table stakes for anyone writing or opining on American politics. Probably the Federalist Papers as well. How much time is spent on any of those 4 in our public schools – or even freshmen coursework at college?
h/t Kevin D. Williamson in Our Hobbesian Left
The selection of possible political choices before us is not limited to Leviathan vs. anarchy, or even the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes vs. that of Ayn Rand. The American Revolution was in some ways a repudiation of the Hobbesian model, insisting, as it did, that the citizen (as opposed to the subject) enjoys rights that are not the state’s to dispose of, that the sovereign can in fact injure the citizen, and that the citizen may seek redress for those injuries, up to and including revolution.
But our so-called liberals are committed Hobbesians. Argue for a reduction in taxes, or a more restrictive interpretation of delegated powers, or allowing the states to take the lead on health care and education, and they’re sure that the next step is a Hobbesian hootenanny in which all of our rump roasts are crawling with bacteria, somebody snatches Piggy’s glasses, and, worst of all, there’s no NPR to ask what it all means. Like Hobbes, they believe that you hold your property at the sufferance of the state, and that you should pipe down and be grateful for whatever you are allowed to keep. But the American creed is precisely the opposite: The state exists at our sufferance, not the other way around, and while few of us actually hold the beliefs that Senator Reid attributes to us and long to abolish the state as a general principle, more than a few of us are interested in making some deep changes to this state. We may not want to shut it down entirely, but we aren’t sure we want it to load another few trillion dollars in debt onto us. We aren’t throwing bombs, but we aren’t going to give it everything it demands, either. Not 40 percent of the last dollar, not a dime to subsidize abortions, not control over our children’s educations or our own consciences. Hobbes wrote about subjects. We’re citizens.
And here’s more on the topic from Charles C. Cooke
Such ham-fisted attempts to understand why the American system of government yields conflict and not comity almost make one long for the catch-all distaste of a Chris Hayes or a Dylan Matthews, both of whom have noticed that the Constitution is intrinsically built to divide power, and that the discord it inevitably yields is not an aberrant development of recent years but the obvious product of its design. To understand the American system is to grasp that our current impasse is by no means exceptional, and, in consequence, that there is little point in wasting time looking around for bogeymen or ghosts when the culprit is there in plain sight. If you want to blame someone for our problems, it should be James Madison, not John Calhoun…
There have been 17 shutdowns before this one, and a host of debt-ceiling fights to boot. Some of these happened during periods of divided government; others happened during periods of unified government. All told, they are a bipartisan game, although it seems that Democrats prefer to shut down things more than Republicans do. Fifteen of America’s previous funding gaps occurred when Democrats controlled the House, and five of them came to pass while Democrats ran every single branch of government…