Saturday, September 14, 2013

Robert Kraynak on the Moral Vision of the Founding Fathers

This is a thoughtful lecture by political scientist Robert Kraynak of Colgate University.  This lecture illustrates the difference between the way political scientists and historians approach the past.  For example, I am not so sure the founders, as products of a world that was very different from our own, should serve as such a definitive guide for so many of the modern problems we face today.  I am always a bit skeptical when someone tries to suggest how the founders would react to 21st- century developments that would have been foreign to their 18th- century world.

I like his point that both conservatives and progressives appeal to the founders for support.

Kraynak understands the moral vision of the founding fathers in terms of "republican liberty," "republican self-government," or "ordered liberty." The founders, he argues, believed that the United States was a test or experiment to see if people could govern themselves in an orderly way.  His points about "negative liberty" and "positive liberty" are worth noting.

This is a classic "republican" interpretation of the founding.