Polemics & Exchanges

On Free Thought

Thanks for Stephen B. Presser’s “The Unbearable Illegitimacy of American Law” (Reviews, March), an incisive analysis of America’s legal amnesia.

Judge Posner’s assessment that pragmatic “commercial values” have discouraged “reflection and abstract thought” invites a more radical probe.  The thought required for wise, long-term administration of ordered freedoms (achieved by the Founding Fathers, who were, according to Forrest McDonald, the best educated for their task of any legislators before or since) has long since abated in America.  However, as Edmund Burke saw, “to form a free government—that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work—requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind” (as taught so well by Irving Babbitt).

While John Stuart Mill’s liberalism (along with clever Mr. Dooleys’) sped the decline, we cannot for long ignore the impact of the suffragettes and the 19th Amendment.  Discounting weak males and other liberal lapses, men are more cut out for “deep reflection and abstract thought” than women are.  To assume that Condi, Margaret, Hillary, Barbara, Elizabeth, and Liddy are contributing deep thought and...

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