Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bush and Tocqueville

Yes, I’m channelling Ken Masugi, who calls our attention to this NYT article, about GWB’s references to Tocqueville. Here’s a nice bit from Robert P. George:

"Tocqueville latched right on to the idea that you can have a limited government that really works as long as you’ve got healthy institutions of civil society which perform character-shaping functions," said Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at the university, and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

"This is the idea behind the faith-based initiative," Mr. George said. "Bush wants to be an exponent of limited government but at the same time a compassionate conservative, because he’s interested in escaping the dilemma that links limited government with radical individualism. So Bush says that government just can’t retreat from the social sphere altogether; government must cooperate with the institutions of civil society in a kind of partnership that brings compassion to people in need."

Bumiller can’t resist giving a Bush critic the last word, quoting Bernard-Henri Levy in such a way as to indicate that both she and the stylish nouvelle philosophe don’t understand or don’t want to understand the transparent Texan.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Can the NY Times discuss the president’s reading habits without their smug comments and insults? The poor guy is accused of being dumb and unread, and then when he reads modern works or classics, he’s insulted and accused of reading with an agenda.

Exactly why I’m not a libertarian. While civil institutions are a must in checking the power of government, what is often overlooked is the need those institutions have for the power of law (e.g., marriage law, religious law, contract law). The stupid libertarian idea that civil society will function without the bolstering power of law is foolhardy. It takes both government and civil society, in proper balance, to have the good society. That is the essence of conservativism -- balance between the state and the people.

I personally think that a better title might be come from a triangulation: Toqueville, Bush and Clausewitz.

There is no way to post simply on such a topic.

"he’s interested in escaping the dilemma that links limited government with radical individualism." Well, first off I would argue that Bush is a very clever man, but if we want to look at the facts alone we might not agree that he has any plans to limit government, unless this includes spending us into a hole that will necessitate future program reductions.

As for Toqueville or any good sociologist, there is a connection that no one denies between the character of a people and the forms of government that are possible to it. Such arguments are entailed in prominent discussions concerning the Iraqi experiment with democracy. It is a small wonder that no one has connected exactly how Bush’s view that government "just can’t retreat from the social sphere altogether; government must cooperate with the institutions of civil society in a kind of partnership that brings compassion to people in need." relates to his view concerning the ease of establishing such a thing in Iraq.

Basically you have to toss the limited government jargon out the window, or if you are clever you can repeat it and simply neglect its practice. Of course don’t expect the liberal media to argue that Bush is not dedicated to limited government, they will buy any jargon they think will energize a base, no matter how ridiculous it actually is. Bush is a man of grand ideas and grand actions, A big government deficit spending conservative, who happens to believe that his is the correct path to take given all sorts of inumerable factors and complexities.

Basically it isn’t always clear in war...What we have is a sort of war fog... What is true is that Iraq is a continuation of Bush’s basic politics by other means. The main text is not The Peloponesian War or Clausewitz’s work, but the many things inherent in taking seriously a work such as "The Pentagon’s New Map" by Barnett. Inherent in this work is a certain view of human nature, a causual structure and a suggested plan of sorts for elevating terrorist producing states to liberal democracies.

I appologize for the terrible post, I haven’t digested this completly. But if instead of pretending Bush was stupid, as the media likes to do, we pretended he was a genuis then I believe that we should read all of his actions as a sort of new counterterror politics, to include his views on religion and the individual among other things. In this regard I believe that the pentagon’s new map could serve as a launch for such understanding.

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