Random Thought About Demographics

Kentucky and Modesto — powerful symbols of the nation we have become.

It’s interesting to note that the country the Framers were trying to govern was very rural, very thinly populated, and very difficult to spread news through efficiently.  In those senses, our 300,000,000-strong nation, evenly-split between rural and urban (and with a much greater than historical population density defining “rural” to boot), wired with telephones, television, and the internet, is a very different nation than the one that existed in 1790.  In other senses, though, we are still much the same in our desire for individual freedoms and insistence that “we the people” are sovereign rather than our leaders.

But the question is not how the Framers would govern a nation such as ours.  The Framers made their choices, choices that made sense to them at their time, with the facts of life that they confronted.  The question is how will we govern ourselves now.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

One Comment

  1. The question is whether principles are permanent or dependent on time and place.

    Shhh. You didn’t get this from me. 😉

    Leo Strauss used the term historicism and reportedly called it the single greatest threat to intellectual freedom. According to Strauss, historicism “rejects political philosophy” and is rooted in the belief that “all human thought, including scientific thought, rests on premises which cannot be validated by human reason and which came from historical epoch to historical epoch.”

    In his books, Natural Right and History and On Tyranny, Strauss offers a complete critique of historicism as it emerges in the works of Hegel, Marx, and Heidegger. Many believe that Strauss also found historicism in Edmund Burke, Tocqueville, Augustine, and John Stuart Mill. Although it is largely disputed whether Strauss himself was a historicist, he often indicated that historicism grew out of Christianity and was a threat to civic participation, a belief in human agency, religious pluralism, and, most controversially, an accurate understanding of the classical philosophers and religious prophets themselves. Throughout his work, he warns that historicism, and the understanding of Progress that results from it, can lead to tyranny, totalitarianism, and democratic extremism. In On Tyranny, in his exchange with Alexandre Kojeve, he seems to blame historicism for Nazism and Communism. In a collection of his works by Kenneth Hart entitled Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, he argues that both Islam, traditional Judaism, and ancient Greece, share mechanisms that make these traditions more resistant to historicism, and therefore to tyranny. His work relies largely on Nietzsche’s critique of progress and historicism in western intellectual history.

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