Monday, January 26, 2009

Patrick Deneen, Say Hello to the New Boss:

The Presidency has continued to grow as the expansion of the modern project has also unfolded apace: the very success of that project especially in the economic, but also political and social realms has demanded ever greater "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch," and has necessarily grown impatient with, and moved beyond reliance upon, the slower and plodding pace of the legislative and deliberative branches. While the school-house version of the Founding often stresses the idea that it sought a balance of powers and divided government, in fact its aim was to replace the clunky and slow-working system under the Articles of Confederation, and in particular to accelerate the consolidation of the various States through legislative and economic integration. The very success of the Constitutional order in achieving that end necessarily required ever greater "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch" on the part of the Executive, to the point now at which we witness a hope and belief that a single individual can attain the salvation of the polity and perhaps heal the world.
Was this the intent of all those involved in drafting the Constitution? Or was the Constitution and the Federal Government only subverted later by certain people holding political and economic power? Does the Constitution contain weaknesses which allow for the concentration of power and the triumph of the Executive over the Legislative branch? Or have Executive excesses (usurpation) occurred because it has been left unchecked by the Congress? (That is to say, the Constitution has not been observed, rather than bearing its 'natural fruit.')

Does Professor Deneen get the causes right, with respect to the philosophies involved (Kantian deontology and utilitarianism)? Or is this another example of intellectual history being taken too far? (An unfortunate tendency of academics working in political science and philosophy.) Can't power plays, once again, be explained mostly by sin? What would a Southern constitutionalist say about the account presented by Deneen?

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