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Monday, July 30, 2012

Mr. Huff, I Wish to Complain about Some Stuff

1) Your move to WordPress has closed comments to all but "team members."

2) Your blog seems to lack a permanent link to your classics project! (I thought I might find your e-mail address there.)

So I wind up posting my reply to your review the only place I can think of that you will see it -- here:

"Is the distinction between written and unwritten constitutions really the right one? I think it would be better to talk of fixed versus flexible constitutions."

I think I brought that up in my survey of Wheare.

"The prominence of written constitutions in the modern world may owe something to rationalism, but there is something else going on. When setting up a new government, one does not have the luxury of falling back on time-honored traditions."

But that is the *same thing*, not something else, going on: as Oakeshott put it, rationalism provides "crib notes" for political neophytes. Didn't I get that in the book somewhere? Certainly in the bits on Machiavelli I touched upon it.

3 comments:

  1. Sorry about that. I just changed the name servers last night, so the site is currently in "limbo" between the old (Blogger) site and the new (Wordpress) site. Right now, some people (like me) are seeing the new site, while others (like you) are seeing the old. (That's why you weren't able to comment: I turned off comments on the Blogger end, as I didn't want someone to take the effort of posting a comment only to have it vanish over night. Comments are definitely turned on at the Wordpress site—as the SPAM bots have already figured out!)

    As for substantive matters: I didn't mean to suggest that you hadn't covered the differences in amendment procedures. As you point out, constitutions that are hard to amend can be seen as more rationalist than those that are easy to amend. But what I'm suggesting is that it's a mistake to think that all written constitutions are necessarily rationalist, while unwritten constitutions are not. That depends on what the constitution sets out to do. Does it attempt to law down, in great detail, the principles of government; or does it simply set up some basic institutions, while allowing for amendment through reasonable means?

    In the Machiavelli section, you write "the republicans of the Italian Renaissance could not rely on a native tradition of republicanism as the Romans had done—thus, they sought answers to their difficulties in more abstract political theories." But I don't think it's fair to say that every attempt to establish a new government is rationalist. Suppose a longstanding dictatorial government is toppled by a foreign power. What do you do? Go back to traditions that hardly anyone remembers?

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  2. thanks for sharing.

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