17. Constitutional Government: Locke’s Second Treatise (13-19)
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17. Constitutional Government: Locke’s Second Treatise (13-19)

October 23, 2019


Professor Steven Smith:
I want to look at two sets of issues.
I want to in, a way, conclude my
interpretation, my reading of the Second
Treatise, by focusing on the role of
executive power in Locke’s theory of government,
Locke’s theory of the constitutional state,
particularly focusing on the role of the executive,
vis-a-vis the legislative branch of government,
and then I want to turn a little more speculatively to
thinking about Locke and the American regime and the current
state of political philosophy, modern contemporary American
political philosophy. But let me start first by going
back and sticking with the Second Treatise by
talking a little bit about the role of legislative and
executive power. The last time,
I think, I was concluding by arguing that Locke doesn’t
endorse necessarily one particular form of government
from any other. He is an advocate of what we
have come to call limited government, of constitutional
government. There is that important passage
where he ridicules the Hobbesian sovereign as a lion and tells us
we did not enter into the social compact to be devoured by lions.
He says, the form of government must be limited although he’s
relatively open or at least non-committal,
agnostic you might say, as to what particular form that
government may take. One feature of this form of
government that he thinks is very important,
is that it must in some sense embody a separation of powers,
powers must be made to check one another, what he calls in
the book the subordination of powers.
This is Locke’s doctrine and you will see it there.
We often associate it with Montesquieu or sometimes with
the federalist authors but, in fact, Locke himself is a
strong advocate of what he calls the subordination or separation
of powers, not exactly the same as we’ll
see between our understanding of executive legislative and
judicial, but nevertheless a separation
nonetheless. However, in the first instance,
Locke emphasizes and in fact he continually affirms nevertheless
the primacy of legislative authority.
In England, in the England at his time and even today,
that means a doctrine of what is called parliamentary
supremacy but he says that the first and fundamental positive
law of all constitutions is in establishing that of the
legislative power. The first act,
after the completion of the social contract,
he says, is establishing the legislative power.
It is the lawmaking authority of government that is supreme,
he wishes to emphasize. This seems to push Locke,
you might, say more in the small ‘d’ democratic
direction. It is not so much executive
power, the power of a prince, but rather the legislature,
the parliament that is supreme. There is nothing more
important, in Locke’s theory of constitutional government,
than the existence of what he continually refers to as settled
or known laws, settled laws that serve against
arbitrary rule. In many ways,
the purpose of government for Locke is much less to offset the
dangers of returning to an anarchic state of nature as it
was for Hobbes than to prevent the possibility of the emergence
of tyrannical or despotic power, tyrannical or despotic
sovereign, and of course, Locke’s writing is very much
bound up with the big and major constitutional crisis of his
time leading to the overthrow and expulsion of a king,
James II. Yet in many ways,
even though Locke is the great advocate of legislative
supremacy, he obviously cannot and does
not wish to dispense altogether with the role of executive
power. He often treats the executive,
whether that be in the form of a prince, a monarch or perhaps
even a body in a cabinet of chief officers as it were.
He treats them often simply as if they were an agent of the
legislative or of the legislature.
The purpose of the executive, he sometimes seems to write,
is merely that of carrying out the will of the legislature.
In Locke’s language, “the executive power is
ministerial and subordinate to the legislature,” section 153,
I believe. The executive,
again, on some aspects of Locke’s writing seems to be
little more than a cipher in comparison to the doctrine of
legislative supremacy. And yet, Locke here is not
altogether consistent, one has to say,
because he understands in every community there is a need for a
distinctive branch of government dealing with matters of war and
peace. Locke calls this the federative
power. Every community,
he says, like Hobbes, is to every other community
what every individual is to every other individual in the
state of nature and a distinctive federative or
war-making power within the government is necessary for
dealing with matters of international conflict,
conflict between states. And in a remarkable passage,
Locke notes that this power, he says, cannot be bound by
antecedent standing positive laws but it must be left to,
quote, “the prudence and wisdom of those whose hands it is in to
be managed for the public good.” In other words,
Locke seems to suggest that this particular kind,
this branch of government, this federative branch which
falls to some degree under the executive, must have a certain
latitude even apart from the law that relies,
he says, on the prudence and wisdom of those whose hands it
is in to manage it for the public good.
In other words, matters of war and peace cannot
be left to the legislature or to standing laws,
as he calls them, alone but requires the
intervention of strong leaders, what he calls in an absolutely
stunning passage god-like princes,
section–if you don’t believe me, section 166.
Locke’s reference here to god-like princes seems to recall
Machiavelli in many ways, Machiavelli’s talk of armed
prophets. It is necessary,
in extreme situations, for such princes to call on
their prerogative power. It is impossible,
Locke writes, to foresee and so by laws to
provide for all the accidents and necessities that may concern
the public and that during, in other words,
contingencies or emergency situations the executive must be
empowered with this prerogative power to act for the good of the
community. For this reason it seems,
the executive is not simply a tool or an agent of the
legislature but he says, again, must have the power to
act according to discretion, that is to say,
according to his own discretion for the public good without the
prescription of law, those are Locke’s own words.
How to balance his argument for constitutional government and
legislative supremacy with this doctrine of prerogative power
and what seems to be a kind of power of what he calls in no
uncertain term the god-like princes and their need to
exercise this power? Locke’s prerogative is,
in many ways, the result of simply the
inability of law to foresee all possible circumstances,
all possible contingencies. That’s an argument that goes as
far back as Aristotle, we’ve seen.
Our inability to make rules that can apply to all possible
events, makes it necessary to leave some discretionary power
in the hands of the executive to act for the public safety.
One of the examples that Locke gives of the use of this power
is in fact a domestic, not an international issue,
which is to say, in the case of a fire in a city
it is sometimes necessary, he says, in his day for the
fire department to tear down the house of an innocent person to
prevent the fire from spreading to other houses.
This is acting for the public good of the community,
even while in some ways it’s clearly a violation of rights of
property and so on. He understands this as a piece
of prerogative power acting for the public good.
In fact, the example is not so far fetched.
Think today for example about arguments we have today.
Even in Connecticut, there’s a big argument going on
about the right of what’s called “eminent domain,”
the right of the government to absorb or to take over private
properties whenever, usually for things like schools
or airports but also for general improvement when it is thought
it will enhance the public good. There’s a big debate going on
right now out in New London and in Brooklyn also with the
argument about the creation of some civic center,
some sports arena that will require the demolition of
certain neighborhood houses. And there’s a big debate about
this eminent domain. What is that,
but in a way Locke’s example of prerogative power,
acting, doing something that is somehow said to be for the
public good but that represents some kind of extra
constitutional power? But the question for Locke,
as for any constitutional lawyer, is what are the limits
of this prerogative power? What check, if any,
is there on this power to prevent their abuse?
Well, Locke doesn’t exactly say. Yes.
Right. He doesn’t exactly say.
He raises this question to be sure, of fundamental importance
for constitutional government. Does executive authority,
he asked us, extend to all things even or
especially in times of war? Think about the debates that
are going on now about detainees at Guantanamo or the issues of
domestic spying when it comes to issues of the war on terror.
Are these examples of prerogative power,
that is to say, the executive acting outside
the limits or the bounds of constitutional authority for the
sake of protecting the public good or are these examples of
kind of political absolutism? Is the invocation of this
power, in some ways, going down the slippery slope
to despotism and absolutism? I will leave it to you or your
sections to try to discuss these matters but Locke himself
praises those who he calls the wisest and best princes of
England as being those who have exercised the largest
prerogative on behalf of the public good.
This is beginning to sound more and more in respects like
Machiavelli than the advocate of, again, limited government.
This power comes into play, he says, especially during
times of national crisis or emergency when it is necessary
to act for the public safety in some ways.
And again, this seems to have special resonance for us today
as we face issues like states of emergency and states of
exception. There are in fact political
theorists, one name comes to mind, a twentieth-century German
legal philosopher by the name of Carl Schmitt who argued that the
state of emergency or the exceptional situation is the
essence of politics and that the person or body who has the power
to declare the exception is none other than the sovereign.
So from Schmitt’s point of view you might say this idea of
prerogative is a kind of extra constitutional power that the
statesman must of necessity utilize when ordinary
constitutional operations, like the rule of law,
prove to be inadequate. But consider another example if
you like, that prerogative power, about prerogative powers
that maybe granted by the Constitution.
Consider Lincoln’s famous suspension of habeas
corpus during the Civil War. Lincoln, interestingly,
did not take this extraordinary step by appealing to an
extra-constitutional power that obtains in times of crisis.
Rather, Lincoln argued quite forcefully that this sort of
prerogative power is already deeply embedded within the
structure of constitutional government.
He cites the Constitution when it came
to the suspension of habeas corpus.
The Constitution writes, “The privilege of the writ of
habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases
of rebellion or invasion the public safety requires it.”
In other words, the Constitution itself
seems to allow for this extraordinary kind of action at
least in cases of rebellion or invasion when it says the public
safety requires it. The Constitution seems
to embody within itself, our constitution that is,
this Lockean power of prerogative that comes into
effect or can be legitimately exercised in times of rebellion
or invasion. Are we living in that kind of
age now, not rebellion perhaps but invasion?
Well, think about that again. Are these arguments applicable
to our situation today, in some sense,
when it comes to debates about the extent of executive power to
embark on these extraordinary measures?
And yet at the same time, Locke is aware clearly of the
potential abuse of this kind of prerogative.
He asks, who will judge, who can judge whether the
discretion of the executive is being used for the public safety
or the public good or whether it is simply a kind of usurpation
of power? In these moments of high
constitutional crisis between conflicting powers of
government, in such cases, Locke says there shall be no
judge on earth. He says the people have no
other remedy in this but to appeal to Heaven.
This is in section 168. How much is contained in that
term “appeal to Heaven?” What does Locke mean in terms
of high constitutional crisis when he says there is no judge
on earth, the people must appeal to Heaven?
Does that mean they should fall down on their knees and begin to
pray, what they should do? Unlikely.
By an appeal to Heaven, Locke means the people’s right
to dissolve their government. He raises this question at the
very end of the book. When a conflict between the
people or their representatives and the executive becomes so
great that the very conditions of social trust have been
dissolved, who will be judge?
And he answers emphatically: the people will be judge.
Locke affirms here a right of revolution.
An appeal to Heaven, or what he calls an appeal to
Heaven really refers to an appeal to arms,
to rebellion, and the need to create a new
social covenant. Locke, you can see,
is attempting to hold together a belief in the sanctity of law
and the necessity for prerogative that may sometimes
have to circumvent the rules of law.
Are these two doctrines incompatible?
I think in many respects or at least in some respects they are.
Can the prerogative power of the executive be in a way
constitutionalized so that it does not threaten the liberty of
its own citizens? Locke alerts us to this
timeless as well as this very timely problem.
One of the best sources for thinking about many of these
constitutional issues today, regarding privacy rights and
other kinds of citizen rights, can be found in,
I would say the last five chapters or so of Locke’s
Second Treatise. I can’t think of a better
source. So in the end Locke’s appeal to
Heaven or Locke says the people have an appeal to Heaven,
that is to say an appeal to arms, an appeal to revolution,
suggests that at the end of the day Locke was a revolutionary
but I would say also a sort of cautious and moderate one,
if this is not a complete contradiction in terms.
I won’t go through chapter 19, the famous chapter on
revolution in full, to talk about the conditions
under which he believed the people can rightfully appeal to
Heaven, as it were, but Locke’s
doctrine of consent and legislative supremacy,
this should make him in many ways a hero to Democrats,
to radical Democrats. His beliefs about limited
government, the rights of property should make him a hero
to in some ways constitutional conservatives and even
libertarians. In the end, I think Locke was
neither or both. Like all of the great thinkers
in some ways, he defines–he defies,
excuse me, simple classification but there
is no doubt that Locke gave the modern constitutional state its
definitive form of expression. And the problems of our state,
the problems, the legal, the constitutional
and political problems that we experience are very much
problems rooted in the philosophy of John Locke and are
unthinkable without the influence of Locke.
So that takes me to a theme that I want to talk about for a
little while, which is Locke’s America,
John Locke’s America. No one who reads Locke,
even superficially, and I would not accuse anyone
here of being a superficial reader,
after all, but no one can fail to be impressed by the harmony,
in many ways, between Locke’s writings and
those of the American Republic that he helped to found.
His conception of natural law, rights, government by consent,
the right to revolution and all are all part of the cornerstone
of our founding documents. To some degree,
as I’ve just been suggesting, a judgment on America is very
much a judgment on the philosophy of Locke and vice
versa. In many ways,
if anyone is, I think Locke has the title to
be considered America’s philosopher-king.
So how should we think of Locke after more or less three
centuries of consistent Lockean rule?
How should we think of Locke? For many years and for many
people, even today, the affinity,
the affiliation between Locke and America has been regarded in
a largely although not wholly, largely positive light.
For many historians and political theorists,
our stability, our system of limited
government, our market economy has been the
result of a sort of broad consensus over Lockean
principles, over Lockean first principles.
But for many other readers of American history,
this relationship has been seen as more problematic.
In the 1950s, a book written by a famous
political theorist and historian, named Louis Hartz,
a book called The Liberal Tradition in America,
complained of America’s, what he called “irrational
Lockeanism.” That was Hartz’s line,
that was Hartz’s quote, “irrational Lockeanism,” by
which he meant a kind of closed commitment to Lockean principles
and ideals that shut off all other political alternatives and
possibilities. Hartz was someone very much
interested in the question, as many political theorists
have been since, why has there been no socialism
in America, why did America not evolve or develop along European
lines with social democratic parties and socialist parties
like the English Labor Party and other kinds of labor movements.
And Hartz’s argument was that we were sort of arrested in this
Lockean phase of development, what he called our irrational
Lockeanism that closed off in many ways other principles.
And for still other thinkers, more or less on the left,
Locke legitimized what was called an ethic of what was
called “possessive individualism,”
particularly Locke’s focus on property and the rights of
private property that focuses entirely on market relations or
puts the market values ahead of all other things.
And for still others, in many ways more recently,
thinkers of a more sort of communitarian direction or bent,
Locke’s emphasis upon rights and the protection,
that government should protect natural or certain unalienable
rights, suggests a purely or overly
legalistic conception of politics that has no language
for talking about the common good,
the public good or other sort of collective goods or benefit.
So my point is that Locke’s influence has not been
altogether accepted by everyone. There has been much ground for
criticism of this peculiar affinity between Lockeanism and
America. But today, I would say that
Locke’s theory of liberalism or Locke’s theory of limited
government, constitutional government,
is confronted by another alternative that,
in many ways, has deep roots in the very
tradition which Locke himself—the very liberal
tradition in many ways of which Locke himself is the founder.
And I am referring, in particular,
to a book that many of you will read at some point in your Yale
experience, a book, widely read and widely
acclaimed book by a recently deceased political philosopher
by the name of John Rawls who wrote a book in 1973 called A
Theory of Justice. In many ways,
Rawls’ book was an attempt to update the liberal theory of the
state. He invokes the idea of a state
of nature, an original condition, as he calls it,
a theory of rights although he does so in many ways through the
techniques of contemporary philosophy and game theory and
Rawls’ book is probably the single most important
contribution to Anglo-American political philosophy in the last
generation. It is a book that situates
itself within the liberal tradition beginning with Locke,
developed by people like Immanuel Kant and John Stuart
Mill in which Rawls himself hoped to,
in many ways, bring to completion in his
book. A theory of justice,
as he calls it, stands or falls on its theory
of rights from which all else is derived.
And what I want to do for a few minutes is to contrast Rawls’
general theory, so powerful and influential
today, from that of John Locke’s, the original founder of
the liberal theory of the state, and see how they have diverged.
Consider the following propositions,
if you will. Here is John Locke,
section 27 of the Second Treatise.
“Every man has property in his own person.
This nobody has any right to but himself and where there is
property,” he writes, “there can be justice and
injustice.” Here is John Rawls,
one of the opening pages of his Theory of Justice.
“Each person,” Rawls writes, “possesses an inviolability
founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole
cannot override. For this reason,” he continues,
“justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made
right by a greater good shared to others.”
Okay. So far, so good, in other words.
Both of them present their theories of justice as justified
in terms of the liberal principles of equality,
freedom and the sanctity of the individual and individual
rights. Both regard the purpose of
government, in many ways, as securing the conditions of
justice as deriving from the consent,
or the informed consent, of the governed but both it
seems to me go on to differ profoundly about the source of
rights and therefore the role that government has in securing
the conditions of justice. Let me explain a little bit
more what I mean. For Locke, going back to
chapter 5 of the Second Treatise,
rights derived from a theory of self-ownership.
According to his view, you will remember,
everybody has a property in his or her own person.
That is to say, no one has a claim on our
bodies other than ourselves. It is on the rock of
self-ownership, the fact that we have property
in ourselves, it is on the rock of
self-ownership that Locke builds his edifice of natural rights,
justice, and limited government. To put it in a slightly
different way perhaps, a person has an identity,
what we might call today a moral personality or an identity
by the fact that we alone are responsible for making
ourselves. He uses this metaphor of the
work of the body and the labor of our hands but we are
literally the products of our own making.
We create ourselves through our activity and our most
characteristic activity is our work.
Locke’s fundamental doctrine is that the world is the product of
our own free creativity, not nature but the self,
the individual is the source of all value for Locke.
It is this self, the I, the me,
the ego that is the unique source of rights and the task of
government is to secure the conditions of our property in
the broadest sense of the term, namely, everything that is
proper to us. Now, using that as a sort of
shorthand, contrast this to Rawls’ idea.
Rawls adds to his idea of justice something that he calls
the “difference principle,” the DP as it’s sometimes referred to
in the literature on Rawls. What is the difference
principle? This principle maintains that
our natural endowments, our talents,
our abilities, our family backgrounds,
our history, our unique histories,
our place, so to speak, in the social hierarchy,
all of these things are from a moral point of view something
completely arbitrary. None of these are ours in any
strong sense of the term. They do not belong to us but
are the result of a more or less kind of random or arbitrary
genetic lottery or social lottery of which I or you happen
to be the unique beneficiaries. The result of this,
in other words, is that no longer can I be
regarded as the sole proprietor of my assets or the unique
recipient of the advantages or disadvantages I may accrue from
them. Fortune, luck,
Machiavellian fortuna, in that way, is utterly
arbitrary and therefore, Rawls concludes,
I should not be regarded as the possessor but merely the
recipient of what talents, capacities and abilities that I
may, again, purely arbitrarily happen to possess.
So what does that mean in terms of social policy or theory of
government? The result of Rawls’ difference
principle and its fundamental difference with that of John
Locke could not be more striking from this point of view.
The Lockean theory of justice, broadly speaking,
supports a meritocracy sometimes referred to as
“equality of opportunity,” that is, what a person does
with his or her natural assets belongs exclusively to them,
the right to rise or fall belongs exclusively to them.
No one has the moral right to interfere with the products of
our labor, the products of–which may also include not
just in a primitive sense what we do with our hands and bodies
but what we do with our intelligence and our natural
endowments. For Rawls, again,
on the other hand, our endowments are never really
our own to begin with. They are part of a common or
collective possession to be shared by society as a whole,
the capacities of hard work, ambition, intelligence and just
good luck that, for example,
got you to a place like Yale, on Rawls’ account,
do not really belong to you or at least the fruits of those
ambitions and intelligence and good luck do not belong to you.
Again they are somewhat arbitrary as a result of
upbringing and genetics. They’re not yours or mine,
in any strong sense of the term, but rather,
a collective possession that can be or should be the fruits
of which distributed to society as a whole.
Consider the following passage from Rawls.
“The difference principle,” he writes, “represents in effect an
agreement to regard the distribution of natural talents
as a common asset and to share in the benefits of this
distribution whatever it turns out to be.”
Your intelligence or your drive or your endowments are,
again, what he calls a collective asset.
Think about that. And it is this conception of
common assets that underwrites Rawls’ theory of distributive
justice and the welfare state, just as Locke’s theory of
self-ownership justifies his conception of limited government
in the constitutional state. According to Rawls,
again, justice requires that social arrangements be
structured for the benefits of the least advantaged in the
genetic lottery of society. His thought experiment that he
calls “the original condition” specifies that nobody would know
in advance in this condition what their particular endowment
intellectually, in many other ways, would be.
Therefore, every individual would, in contracting with the
whole, would agree to share equally in the benefits of this,
as it were, genetic lottery. So redistributing our common
assets does not violate, on Rawls’ account,
the sanctity of the individual because again the fruits of our
labor were never really ours to begin with.
Unlike Locke, whose theory of self-ownership
provides a moral justification for the individual,
for the self, for our moral personality,
Rawls’ difference principle maintains that we never again
belong to ourselves at all. We never really have ownership
in ourselves but are always part of a larger social “we,”
a social collective, a collective consciousness
whose common assets can be redistributed for the benefit of
the whole. Locke and Rawls,
the point I’m trying to make is, they represent two radically
different visions of the liberal state,
one broadly libertarian, the other broadly welfarist,
one emphasizing liberty, the other emphasizing equality.
Interestingly, again, this transition,
this evolution represents a change which has gone on within
in many ways the liberal tradition itself.
Unlike some of these other critics, Rawls does not come to
be claiming from a tradition outside of liberalism but to be
developing certain arguments from within the liberal
tradition and yet has moved in a way clearly very different from
its Lockean formulation. Both of these views,
again, they begin from common premises but move in very
different directions. Locke’s theory of
self-ownership regards the political community in largely
negative terms as protecting our antecedent individual selves and
individual rights. Rawls’ theory of common assets
regards the community in a far more positive sense as taking an
active role in reshaping and redistributing the products of
our individual endeavors for the common interests.
The question for you, just like the question for any
of us, is which of these two views is more valid or which of
the two strikes you as more powerful or plausible?
My own view, and I loathe to editorialize,
but my own view is far closer to American theory,
to Locke’s theory, which I think–than Rawls’.
The Declaration of Independence,
the charter of American liberty, states that each
individual is endowed with unalienable rights among which
are life, liberty, the pursuit of
happiness. The very indeterminacy of the
last phrase, the pursuit of happiness, with its emphasis
upon the individual’s right to determine happiness for
themselves, suggests a form of government
that allows for ample diversity for our natural talents and
abilities and although the Declaration certainly
intends that the establishment of justice is one of the first
tasks of government, nowhere does it imply that this
requires the wholesale redistribution of our individual
goods and assets. And second, although Rawls is
clearly attractive, excuse me, Rawls is clearly
attentive to the moral ills of inequality and we will turn to
that problem emphatically on Wednesday when we look at
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on Inequality.
There has never been a more powerful, passionate and
persuasive critic of the ills of inequality than Jean-Jacques
Rousseau but while Rawls is certainly attentive to the moral
ills of inequality, he seems very naive about the
mechanisms, the actual political mechanisms, by which
inequalities will be rectified. Rawls wants government to work
for the benefit of the least advantaged but this will require
the extensive and often arbitrary use of judicial power
to determine who has a right to what,
far in excess of the powers of the court.
The result would be, I think if we follow Rawls’
teachings to their letter, the result would be not a class
of philosopher-kings, but rather a class of chief
justices endowed with the power to rearrange and redistribute
our collective assets for the sake of achieving the maximum
degree of social equality. It is no surprise that the
warmest reception that Rawls’ writing gets today is in the
schools of law, is in the law schools where he
has had an enormous influence on shaping the education of the
current and the next generation of lawyers,
judges and possibly chief justices who may be looking to
again, looking not to the Constitution but to
Rawls’ theory of justice as a litmus or a tool for bringing
about social redistribution. So, I leave you on that
sobering note but a return to Locke such as it is,
even if such a return were possible,
is by no means a panacea to what ails us.
I am not suggesting for a moment that Locke is some kind
of cure all. Some historians,
let me just mention again, Louis Hartz was but the most
famous, treat America as a nation uniquely built upon
Lockean foundations. America, he believed,
remained something of a Lockean remnant–a Lockean,
yeah, remnant, fossil in some ways,
in a world increasingly governed by more radical forms
of modernity. In fact, it has been our sort
of stubborn Lockeanism that has, in many ways,
prevented the kinds of extreme ideological polarization and
conflict that one sees throughout much of the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
But Locke’s effort to build a kind of modern republican
government on the low but solid foundations of self-interest and
self-ownership and the desire for comfortable preservation
could not help but generate its own forms of dissatisfaction.
Can a regime, dedicated to the pursuit of
happiness or to the protection of property ever satisfy the
deepest longings of the human soul?
Can a regime, devoted to the rational
accumulation of property answer those higher order needs or
higher order virtues, like honor, nobility and
sacrifice? Can a regime,
devoted to the avoidance of pain, discomfort and anxiety,
produce anything more than contemporary forms of
Epicureanism and Nihilism? In any case,
I’m suggesting no more than any other land could America
insulate itself from the great heights as well as the great
depths of later forms of modernity.
America, as a former teacher of mine once said,
is the land where the many facets, the many faces of
modernity are working themselves out.
We are but a moment in the kind of comprehensive
self-dissatisfaction that is modernity so that a return to
Lockeanism, in many ways,
is not so much a cure for the pathologies of modernity.
I would suggest that those pathologies are themselves
already rooted in the pathologies of Locke.
I will end on that sober note and encourage you to take
Rousseau’s advice about loving one’s country seriously on
Tuesday.

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