The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom

The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom

by Thomas G. West


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This book provides a complete overview of the American Founders' political theory, covering natural rights, natural law, state of nature, social compact, consent, and the policy implications of these ideas. The book is intended as a response to the current scholarly consensus, which holds that the Founders' political thought is best understood as an amalgam of liberalism, republicanism, and perhaps other traditions. West argues that, on the contrary, the foundational documents overwhelmingly point to natural rights as the lens through which all politics is understood. The book explores in depth how the Founders' supposedly republican policies on citizen character formation do not contradict but instead complement their liberal policies on property and economics. Additionally, the book shows how the Founders' embraced other traditions in their politics, such as common law and Protestantism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781316506035
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 04/03/2017
Pages: 428
Sales rank: 422,454
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Thomas G. West holds the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tibbets Potter Endowed Professorship at Hillsdale College, Michigan. His research areas include American political thought, natural law and natural right, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, and Leo Strauss.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. The Political Theory of the Founding: An Overview: 1. Equality, natural rights, and the laws of nature; 2. The case against the natural rights founding; 3. Equality and natural rights misunderstood; 4. The founder's arguments for equality, natural rights, and natural law; 5. The state of nature; 6. The social compact and consent of the governed; 7. Natural rights and public policy; Part II. The Moral Conditions of Freedom: 8. Why government should support morality; 9. How government supports morality; 10. Sex and marriage in political theory and policy; 11. Cultivating public support for liberty and virtue; 12. What virtues should government promote?; 13. The founder's virtues: questions and clarifications; Part III. Property and Economics: 14. The founder's understanding of property rights; 15. Private ownership; 16. Free markets; 17. Sound money; 18. The Hamilton–Jefferson quarrel; Conclusion. Justice, nobility, and the politics of natural rights; Index.

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