X.3: Problems with Capitalism

Socialism and communism have always led to economic failure, but there are problems with capitalism as well. For example, competition makes capitalism work. But at the same time every capitalist seeks to eliminate his competition. In other words, if a company grows without bounds, it will eventually destroy its competitors. And there are other problems … Read more

IX.4: Could America Have Avoided the Civil War?

Two of the most horrific episodes in U.S. history were the abuse of Africans through slavery, and the widespread death and destruction of America’s Civil War. We have no record of how many slaves died chained in ships lost at sea or at the hands of cruel masters. But there’s no doubt many were victims … Read more

IX.3: American and European Republican Traditions

The word “republic” refers to a society that operates for the good of the public. Philip Petit describes the origins of the American and European republican traditions. He says America’s republic is based on what he calls the “Italian-Atlantic” republican tradition. Based on the writings of Aristotle and Polybius, Machiavelli developed the “Italian” part of … Read more

VIII.4: Thomas Jefferson Fought Against Judicial Review

Thomas Jefferson was not involved in writing the U.S. Constitution, as he was America’s ambassador to France at the time. But later he worked against the Federalists, who wrote the Constitution. Judicial review was not a part of the Constitution. But it was supported by Alexander Hamilton (See my earlier post) in the Federalist Papers. … Read more

VIII.3: Anti-Federalist Objections to Judicial Review

The Federalists were the people who wrote the US Constitution. And the Anti-Federalists were those who fought against it. There were Anti-Federalists in the Constitutional Convention. And there were more in the state conventions for ratifying the US Constitution. Both groups were united against the Federalists’ expansion of power in the courts. In particular, there … Read more

VII.4: The Separation of Powers

One of America’s founding principles was that liberty cannot survive unless power is divided into multiple hands. The doctrine of separation of powers has a long history. The ancients (Greek and Roman) divided power according to a plan called mixed government. That is, they mixed or divided power between a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a … Read more

VII.1: The Origin of the Ideas behind the US Constitution

In early history, people referred to England as Angle-land because of a tribe that settled there called the Angles. Then, in the fifth century, another tribe called the Saxons began to leave what is now the state of Saxony in Germany. They traveled by sea to what is now England. (Jefferson 1774) Later, the Angles … Read more

VI.4: The Virginia Resolution

James Madison had more influence than any other person in creating the form of the U.S. Constitution. Madison wrote the Virginia Resolution a decade after the Constitution. But both came from his understanding of tyranny. That is, to prevent it, a government must divide power between separate groups of people. If the nation is to … Read more

VI.3: National versus State Sovereignty

The American Civil War was not just about slavery, though that was the hot-button issue. The bigger issue in that war was national versus state sovereignty or power. That included a state’s right to allow slavery. And while it’s true that most southerners believed slavery was necessary for their economy, many wanted it slowly abolished. … Read more

VI.2: States’ Rights and National Supremacy

The northern and southern states fought the Civil War over states’ rights. States’ rights and national supremacy involve the sovereignty of individual states within their own boundaries. The opposite point of view is that only the national government is truly sovereign, so it can override state decisions. The most volatile issue at the time of … Read more