In Search of the New American Man

The evident purpose of Taming the Prince is to provide a respectable philosophical pedigree for the usurpations and abuses of power by American Presidents since FDR. (Professor Mansfield dedicates the book to his father, "constant advocate of a strong presidency from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.") Where conservatives such as Corwin, Kendall, Burnham, and Samuel Francis have seen danger in the growth of extraconstitutional presidential power. Mansfield finds "ambivalence." We need "some general understanding favoring strong executive power to resist legislative usurpation and its partner, overbearing bureaucracy." Mansfield seeks to provide that understanding by illogically obscuring the distinction between execution of the laws and tyranny: "since some taint of tyranny necessarily accompanies law, law can only be executed tyrannically."

Having conflated law enforcement and lawlessness, Mansfield claims that political philosophy provides two ways to "tame and use" the necessary tyranny of executive power. The first method of reducing "the necessary risk of tyranny" inseparable from executive power is Aristotle's. In the ideal regime, the executive would be transformed from "the destroyer of law unto a king, the guardian of law." In practice, it is only possible to achieve the second-best option—the rule of law, achieved by the dispersal...

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