The Federalist Papers and Us


In Rekindling Constitutional Ambition, his recent post for Law and Liberty, Yuval Levin offered some particularly helpful insights for thinking through our constitutional problems. As Levin points out, friends of the Constitution are currently in a period of uncertainty about what goals they should be aiming for, even apart from the usual confusion over how to achieve their goals. Some friends of the Constitution argue that the election of Donald Trump to the presidency would allow for a revival (such as the writers at the Journal of American Greatness blog), while others (such as the signers of the Originalists against Trump statement) argue that it would undermine obedience to the Constitution as that document was originally intended.

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What Do We Hold in Common?

Grunge ripped paper USA flag pattern

In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender vacations in Paris with his fiancée and her parents. One night Pender takes a walk to escape the insufferable egotists who surround him and stumbles upon an antique Peugeot. It takes him to the 1920s, the golden age for which he has always yearned. He falls in love with Picasso’s lover Adriana, who herself has always longed for the 1890s’ Belle Époque. After a horse and carriage pass them by and whisk them to that period, and after the Impressionists they meet yearn for the Renaissance, Pender realizes that no age is as golden as we imagine and concludes that it is better to live in the reality of the present.

Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic is an extended essay on the same theme.

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A Decentralizing Remedy for the Diseases of a Fractured Republic: A Conversation with Yuval Levin

fractured republic

This edition of Liberty Law Talk welcomes back Yuval Levin to discuss his latest book, The Fractured Republic. Levin notes that our decentralizing republic, as observed in the decades long trends in social, economic, religious, and cultural diffusion, provides both opportunities and difficulties. America's ongoing deconsolidation from a nearly unprecedented period of national cohesion after World War II has led to numerous benefits for individual freedom and economic prosperity. However, if we are more free than ever, we may also be more alone than ever and bereft of the contexts for a responsible freedom and citizenship. And this has sparked a…

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Perhaps Both a Conservative Mind and Heart

How it works

With Donald Trump carrying the Republican brand in the primary season so far, thereby defining conservative/libertarian thought in the popular mind, there certainly is trademark confusion about what is conservatism these days. In this context, it should come as no surprise that Arthur C. Brooks’s The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America has met with mixed reviews. Social conservatives find little in it about their core issues: their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, more libertarian types have called it too accommodating to the welfare state. Even yours truly gave a somewhat mixed review…

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The Fundamental Left-Right Divide

In her first formal appearance as head of the United States Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen obliquely suggested the Fed might not raise its mighty “federal funds” rate to tighten the economy until months after its Quantitative Easing bond purchasing ended completely, coyly portending cheap money indefinitely. The market shuddered but soon calmed at the soothing voice of its controller.

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Dependency, Properly Understood

Yuval Levin provided commentary last week on Utah Senator Mike Lee’s recent speech “What Conservatives are For,” where Lee provocatively argued that the problem with much of the Republican Party’s rhetoric is its insistence that Obamacare, among other welfare state policies, strikes at our individualism and independence. Of course, the most dramatic example of this was Romney’s famous takers’ speech and the crude materialistic anthropology it relied upon. Lee’s speech matters, I think, for the reason that he is viewed as part of a rising group of national political figures like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, among others, who seem willing to rethink standard rhetoric of liberty, limited government, free markets, rule of law and actually pour it into new wine-skins.

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Tributes to James Q. Wilson

Numerous fond, appreciative tributes to the late James Q. Wilson over the past days include fine reflections by Michael Barone (link no longer available), Heather Higgins, Yuval Levin (linking to Wilson’s collected articles for The Public Interest and National Affairs (link no longer available)), Harvey Mansfield, John Podhoretz (linking to Wilson’s fifty-plus pieces for Commentary), Steven Teles, and George Will.  R. Shep Melnick’s splendid review of the great man’s later essays, published awhile ago in the Claremont Review of Books, appears here.