Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 18, 2006

What Would the Founders Do?

I noticed some time ago that Alexander Marriott had reviewed this book, so when I saw it at the bookstore I decided to pick up a copy for my own interest. Brookhiser does a fair job of covering his subject matter, which is a list of questions modern Americans would ask the Founders, if that were possible, of course. The book is not great, but it is interesting in a vague sort of way.

The title, however, is somewhat misleading; Brookhiser doesn't attempt to project what the Founders would do about modern situations in modern context (an impossibility that would only make him look foolish). Instead, he draws parallels between modern situations and theoretically similar ones that occured during the Founders' time. A more accurate title, then, would be: "What Did the Founders Do?" As a side note, Brookhiser deserves significant credit for being able to think in terms of essentials: his identification of the principles at work behind different questions (and thus what historical situations corresponded to them) is uniformly accurate.

Marriott accurately notes, however, that even this skillful reduction to essential problems doesn't help us much: the Founders were far from philosophically uniform and many of them were inconsistent, meaning that the answer often becomes a matter of: which founder? Not to mention that it's not always clear why they did what they did, so you never do know whether to emulate their example.

Rating: 3.0

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