Tag Archive for ‘republic’
As any schoolboy used to know, the Greeks not only invented or brought to perfection most of the great arts of civilization—epic, tragedy, and comedy; classical architecture, sculpture, painting—but left behind monuments that have rarely been equalled and never surpassed. The history of philosophy, as Alfred North Whitehead once famously remarked, is a series of footnotes to Plato and Aristotle.
The people are the farmers. At the time of the War of Independence, 95 percent of Americans were engaged in farming. And as many as two thirds of the farming families owned their own land. The prospect of owning a farm was what had made the colonies attractive in the first place. The wealth they sought in America was not cash but crops. But this way of life had been threatened by a distant central government that was cash-strapped and weary from financing its own imperial adventures.
I cannot see the least possibility of recreating either an elite republican class (if, by “elite,” one means an untitled aristocracy) or the American Republic itself. The notion of a republic is a product of classical political thinking, which is now virtually dead in the Western world, and never appeared elsewhere. Not only has the classical political tradition become virtually extinct, the ability to think in classical terms seems to have been lost as well.
Alexander Hamilton said debt is a blessing: It oils the wheels of business and enhances national power. Jefferson said debt is a curse: It binds future generations without their consent, striking at the very heart of the Republic—the consent of the governed.
I entirely agree with the spirit of this roundtable but not with the language of restoring “the Republic.” The United States is not now and has never been a republic. It is a federation of states, each of which, in Article IV of the Constitution, is guaranteed a republican form of government. But a federation of republics is not itself a republic any more than the federation of nations in the United Nations, or in the European Union, is a nation. A federation is a service agency of the political units that compose it.