Our Enemy, the State

Ludwig von Mises Institute
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Publisher
Ludwig von Mises Institute
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Published on
Dec 31, 1937
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Pages
231
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ISBN
9781610163729
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Language
English
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This path-breaking study seriously shakes the credibility of the prevalent interpretations of American government and politics. It exposes the real American constitutional morality, one embodied in a code adhered to by those in political life.

Frank Coleman makes a persuasive case that the real roots of the American political system are in Hobbes, and not, as is usually thought, in Locke. He shows that a Hobbesian interpretation fits the transactional, bargaining, or conflict-management nature of American politics pointed out by all the empirical political scientists, although this viewpoint is incompatible with the leading philosophical interpretations of American constitutionalism.

In so far as the American system and its rationale are Hobbesian, they are thereby incapable of resolving social conflicts and of pursuing any common good. The leading theories, particularly the reformist theories, are unable to absorb the teachings of empirical political science – and to such an extent that one can speak of a pattern of political schizophrenia prevailing in the political science profession.

Coleman is no naive iconoclast: he has a thorough grasp and appreciation of the traditions of political theory from Aristotle to Oakeshott: he dissects his material meticulously, with coherence and integrity. His synthesis of empirical and philosophical studies of political life sharpens our perceptions and forces a re-evaluation of certain ideas and well-entrenched notions. Hobbes and America has serious implications for understanding both American politics and, more generally, western political experience and thought.

The United States of America was established with lofty moral goals and noble purpose; it was believed that a government based on these ethical principles was the proper way to realize liberty and freedom. As the country continues to grow, from the days of the colonies to the influential nation that it is today, the governmental structure has grown and developed along with it into a unique type of government that profoundly affects the lives of the American people.

Power in the People presents a detailed analysis of not only the origins of democracy, development and operation of government, and evolution of the country, but also a penetrating look into the character and purpose of the republic. Morley focuses on the founding of American freedom in the conviction that the individual is fully capable of self-government, and therefore power must be dispersed as much as possible among the individual citizens who generate public order from the internal order of their own souls. The power in the people is precisely that of self-government, which minimizes the need for state power, and the self-government is necessarily under the authority of God.

The dream of building a commonwealth more gracious than any that had gone before was ever in the minds of the founding fathers and reflected in their act of placing great power in the hands of the citizens. Michael Henry's new introduction to this classic book places the work into the context of contemporary society, most poignantly noting that America, by Morley's standards, has not been vigilant enough in preserving its historic greatness or freedom.

Freedom and Political Order explores the traditional meaning of freedom in the American experience and its relation to other characteristically American values and institutions. Such an exploration necessarily touches upon relevant historical experience, but it extends beyond a history of freedom toward wider fields of inquiry, including and especially, moral and political philosophy. Political philosophers throughout the ages have been concerned with a question of perennial significance to human experience: what are the rules that ought to govern human relations in society or, less formally, how should human beings treat one another? Such a question is unavoidable for human beings. Its necessity derives from the nature of things, from the fact that human existence is essentially social or political existence. The rare Robinson Crusoe aside, ‘No man is an island’, and from birth to death every person encounters other human beings with whom he must interact. Every society has thus established rules regarding the ethical treatment of human beings, rules embodied in the various moral, legal, and political orders developed within human history. The formal discipline of political philosophy aims to explore and identify the proper substance of such rules. The philosophy of freedom elaborated herein is the traditional American response to the perennial question of politics so conceived.

A comprehensive exploration of American political philosophy is by nature a work of scholarship. The book carefully examines the meaning of freedom and other natural rights; their relation to the Rule of Law; the nature and purpose of government as embodied in the American social contract; the relation between the liberal and democratic elements of American liberal democracy; and various assumptions underlying the Framers’ constitutional design. The study, however, is not intended exclusively for professional scholars but also for the general public and students of American government and society. Thomas Jefferson once pointedly warned that “a nation that expects to be ignorant and free . . . expects what never was and never will be.” The work thus aims not only to bring to light the fundamental values and institutions of traditional American society but, in so doing, assist in their preservation.
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