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Republicanism and Human Scale

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The modern problem is most assuredly one of scale. The industrial, transportation and media revolutions have generated a world of enormous scale indeed. There seems to be a consensus on the Civitas thread that scale imposes formidable problems in creating and sustaining community life. Likewise, the modern scale of things presents serious challenges to our most cherished form of government - republicanism.

Professor Donald Livingston of Emory University, in an article titled "David Hume and the Republican Tradition of Human Scale" in the journal Anamnesis, explains the history and philosophy of this tradition.

"Ancient Greek civilization was the work of some one thousand five hundred small, independent republics of which Athens, one of the largest, had a population of around one hundred sixty thousand. Notwithstanding their small size these Greek polities created a brilliant civilization from which we still draw inspiration. The republic of Rousseau’s Social Contract was modeled on Geneva, which contained around twenty-five thousand people. A wide range of scholars from different disciplines who have studied the matter have concluded that every need of high culture, along with a high standard of living, can be achieved in a modern city state of between fifty and two hundred thousand. Throughout history republics have fallen within or even below this range. The Italian republics that created the Renaissance: Florence, Padua, Venice, Bologna, and others were in this range. Venice had a population of around one hundred ninety thousand. Florence and Bologna had around sixty thousand each."

From these numbers I think it's safe to say that my population-quality argument still holds. What American city of similar population is capable of cultural achievements on the level of these older republics? If none, why might that be? These questions are beside the point of Dr. Livingston's discourse, but I think them worth asking and answering.

The main thing to note about these cities is that, due to their human scale, they were both governable as republics and conducive to the virtuous lives of their citizens.

David Hume was a notorious skeptic and was certainly not a friend of the Church. One can detect more than a little Rousseauian naivety in his ideas as presented here. His historical claims, then, should also be scrutinized. Nevertheless Hume's political ideals resonate with the deep Christian humanism of St. Thomas More's "Utopia", and we have to concede that his theory of republican scale is far more consistent with fallen human nature and experience than More's imaginative portrayal of a perfect human society.

"Hume agrees that it is 'more difficult to form a republican government in an extensive country than in a city.' But once established, its extensive size and division into small republics would make it less likely to fall into faction and disorder which has been the weakness of small republics throughout history (E, 527). Sheer size alone would make it difficult for the parts to combine to form a special interest. I will not take space here to explore the essay in detail; rather, my remarks will be limited to the parts salient to Hume’s view on the size and scale of political order.

The extensive republic, which Hume says is the size of Britain or France, is divided into one hundred small republics; each of which is further divided into one hundred parishes. Those satisfying a property qualification for voting meet annually in the parish church and elect one representative to their small republican government. This body of one hundred representatives elect, among themselves, ten magistrates and one senator. The senators, to the number of one hundred, meet in the national capital and exercise the executive and supreme judicial powers of the commonwealth. However, the ten magistrates and one hundred representatives remain in the capitals of their respective republics. The magistrates exercise the executive and judicial powers of the provincial republic while the representatives exercise the legislative powers. The provincial republics can pass laws within their territory, but these can be vetoed by the national senate or by another republic, in which case the matter must be decided by the legislative power of the whole commonwealth. The vote is by republics. Each republic has one vote, and a majority of republics decides the question."

And what of large republics like Great Britain and the United States?

Britain in Hume’s day had around nine million inhabitants; today it has over sixty-five million. In Hume’s Britain there is one representative for every nine hundred persons; in Britain today there is one for every one hundred four thousand, not a human scale ratio of representation to population. Or consider the United States, which styles itself a republic. There are only 435 representatives in the House of Representatives, ruling over some 309 million people. This yields a ratio of around one representative for every seven hundred ten thousand people. A regime with this ratio cannot be considered a republic, not even a large Humean republic. What is true of the out-of-scale ratio of representatives to people in Britain and the United States is true of most large regimes in the world that style themselves republics. But if they are not in any meaningful sense republics, what are they? An answer was suggested by Tocqueville, who viewed the emerging European 'republics' as in reality extensions of absolute monarchy.

I think such regimes are more accurately described as empires, which exhibit all of the power of absolute monarchies (and more) but none of the personal, familial, cultural or national qualities. The good news is that American institutions are still patterned on republican subsidiarity, however obscured by overreach at all levels. It is certainly true that a modern country of 300 million souls will never look much like the city-states of ancient Greece and medieval Europe, no matter the political structure. Bigness is probably here to say. But in the United States we have reason to hope that the republican tradition of human scale, so essential to our political heritage, is still capable of informing our politics.

The entire article is well worth your attention.

Comments (41)

"Bigness is probably here to say."

Almost 100 years ago Booth Tarkington railed against the worship of bigness in his novel The Turmoil (1914). Wonder what he'd think of things today?

Ah, Booth Tarkington. This is way, way off topic, but if you have not read his "Penrod," well, all I can say is that you really really should. It is in the "small town boyish hi-jinks" tradition of Tom Sawyer, but about 100 times as funny. I kid you not. It's the funniest book I ever read, funnier even than Tom Jones. Read it some time when you need a mental shower. A real blast from the past. Tarkington deserves to be way more famous than he is.

One thing I've noticed in discussions of this topic on the right is that technological change over the last two centuries is almost always ignored. Thinkers like Aristotle, Hume, and Maistre are quoted without any consideration of radical changes in technology since their deaths - both material technology and social technology such as the shaping of public opinion. There's this weird implication that if Aristotle was right about cities in classical Greece, then what he says applies to cities in 21st-century America as well.

Cars, televisions, movies, telephones, and computers have changed everything (except human nature, of course). A polis is impossible today. Hume's ideas on republican scale are nice as conservative nostalgia, but are simply inapplicable to our age. If you don't want to engage in Renaissance Faire conservatism or Chronicles-style nostalgia, you have to come to terms with the enormous changes over the last two hundred years. It's not just that "bigness is here to stay." Much of the classical thought on this topic is simply obsolete.

The good news is that American institutions are still patterned on republican subsidiarity, however obscured by overreach at all levels.

Are the patterns actively practiced, or are they only found in the pages of neglected texts? The cheap energy and credit that made Bigness and Sprawl at home, and Empire abroad possible are going away. Perhaps these developments will resurrect the republican tradition.

One thing I've noticed in discussions of this topic on the right is that technological change over the last two centuries is almost always ignored.

Don't look to the contemporary Right, but turn to thinkers like Romano Guardini, George Grant, Christopher Dawson, Wendell Berry and Neil Postman for a humane critique of our technological empire.

Excellent post, Mr. Culbreath.

T. Chan is exactly right. If you admit that human nature does not change then you cannot invoke technological innovation as that which substantially alters our moral and political landscape. Planes may be able to take me across vast expanses in a relatively short time, but my obligations as a man and as a Christian simply do not change. I am still morally bound to my family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen in a way distinct from humanity in the abstract. A polity can only arise from this same moral community, and no amount of technology can change that. What it can do is obscure it enough so that people actually think that one man can represent almost one million people, human social life can be reduced to digital networking, or that we owe starving third world children our livelihoods.

In fact, since we all can see how destructive modernity is to social relationships like polities and families, it is hardly accurate to call such observations nostalgic, rather, they are realistic. It is the world we live in today that is unstable to its core, so I would say that any analysis that disregards Aristotelian or Humean politics or anything similar is either simply wrongheaded or utopian.

"One thing I've noticed in discussions of this topic on the right is that technological change over the last two centuries is almost always ignored."

Really? Then why are those of us who are Chronicles-types, or 'crunchy cons,' or Front-Porchers often criticized for being Luddites? You don't get called that if you ignore discussion of technology.

Kristor: I love Penrod and fully agree with you. One of the funniest books I've ever read. And yes, it's a shame that Tarkington isn't better known.

Donald Livingston, I think, is entirely correct in what he says about larger populations making representative government nearly impossible. I once heard him give a talk on the topic at a John Randolph Club meeting and it was quite good.

When one looks at world population growth and history

http://www.susps.org/images/worldpopgr.gif

it logically follows that if there are to be governments of a human scale these states will have to become smaller, smaller and smaller, especially considering that the world population by 2040 may be 9 billion:

http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/worldpopgraph.html

In the Third World, the problem is quite bad, especially as foreign and humanitarian aid has increased the fertility rate in these countries. The fertility rate in Haiti is 3.17, when most families there are unable to take care of one child. It is very important that we not let the Third World's problem become our problem (via immigration and continued foreign aid.)

Regarding density here at home, the problem becomes worse each decade. New Jersey is now over 1,000 people per square mile. And immigration only exacerbates the problem:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muw22wTePqQ

At the core of polity are relationships. Thus the dysfunction of said polity is due inappropriate relations. Should someone living in Toronto govern the people of Singapore whom he cannot identify with? Of course not, as such would be absurd even in this day of international teleconferencing and air travel. Should a pharmacist govern a professional body of welders? This too, is madness, for there is neither rapport nor knowledge that can bring these people together. Such is no different from the absentee landowner in pre-revolution France, the late Roman Senate, or a thousand other real life examples.

With that in mind, technology is merely the setting, not the story.

It comes to my mind that the problem of our current Republic is derived more from our inordinate fixation upon the highest and most remote levels, apathy for the lowest, a lack of appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses for each graduated level of government, and zero responsibility or accountability for one level to another. I would like to point out, also, that the Federal government is not alone in supposing itself to be without limit and scope in its power; the blame lies no less with the voting public. The lack of granularity of representation is also a dire problem.

Throw in the Third Generation problem, a healthy dose of bread and circuses, an endemic victim culture by just about everyone, and you get our current political scene.

Jeff C.,

I do think that a return to federalism and/or subsidiarity in our legislation and policy thinking is important to restoring republican virtue and good governance.

One interesting somewhat counter-intuitive idea I came across recently is to make Congress bigger to make it more representative:

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/204822/george-will-called-me-idiot/jonah-goldberg

Why are Chronicles-types criticized for being Luddites? I don't know, not having seen such criticism, but I'd guess it's because they're critical of (material) technology. I've seen a lot more grumbling about it than discussion of it on their website. Thomas Fleming complains that cars and telephones have made our lives worse - I agree - and then moves on to the next topic. Scott Richert says that people should turn off their TVs and go to church. On the other hand, there's plenty of good critique of technology - by which I mean communications, transportation, advertising, public opinion surveys, etc. etc.- both on the right and on the left. Personally, I'd rather read the Southern Agrarians than some of the names mentioned in the comments here, but I've read good stuff by Berry and Postman (neither of whom is clearly on the right, correct?).

But pointing to right-wing critiques of technology misses my point. The right typically, all too typically, tries to transplant political ideas from radically different societies, as in this article and its comments. After all, if human nature is invariant, then how could anything else like technology make any essential difference? It's like you've isolated the whole topic of technology in an airtight box, over there, when in fact it casts doubt on your whole argument over here. Maybe Catholic conservatives are especially prone to abstract, ahistorical thinking, I don't know: if it was good enough for Aristotle, it's good enough for us!

If you admit that human nature does not change then you cannot invoke technological innovation as that which substantially alters our moral and political landscape.

Technology may not change our human nature but it sure changes our relationship with humans, nature, and God. An artificial, mechanical and clamorous environment is going to elicit responses and induce behaviors different than those invoked by a natural, organic and quiet ecology.We should ponder the effect of technology on our spiritual, psychological, physical and moral development and always count the hidden cost that comes with greater mastery, comfort, mobility and efficiency.


It comes to my mind that the problem of our current Republic is derived more from our inordinate fixation upon the highest and most remote levels, apathy for the lowest,

Technology enables and entices us to fix our attention on the far away, impersonal and abstract, and divert us from the near, personal and concrete.

With that in mind, technology is merely the setting, not the story.

Does the setting of a functional, climate controlled Bau Haus "worship space" with fluorescent lighting not alter in some way the story previously told by the ornate, drafty and candle-lit Gothic chapel? Can't a message be changed simply by the difference in the medium?

Young people raised on "texting", Facebook and cyber-communing must have different forms of personal relationships than previous generations. There must be some qualitative impact on the larger polis worth exploring.

Then why are those of us who are Chronicles-types, or 'crunchy cons,' or Front-Porchers often criticized for being Luddites? You don't get called that if you ignore discussion of technology.

Patrick Dineen and the folks at FPR have a very compelling site, but a movement devoted to unlimited growth sustained by endless innovations and spurred by insatiable appetites is going to view them more as heretics than fellow rightists.

The fertility rate in Haiti is 3.17, when most families there are unable to take care of one child. It is very important that we not let the Third World's problem become our problem (via immigration and continued foreign aid.

Regarding density here at home, the problem becomes worse each decade. New Jersey is now over 1,000 people per square mile. And immigration only exacerbates the problem ...

I think it's even more important that the problem of human scale not be seen as a fertility rate problem, here or anywhere. The United States remains largely uninhabited and hundreds of rural counties continue to lose population. If a republican political order is our goal, then there does need to be some mechanism whereby republics can accommodate population growth. Subsidiarity, if observed conscientiously, can handle the problem nicely even in very large countries.

The good news is that American institutions are still patterned on republican subsidiarity, however obscured by overreach at all levels.

You know, I used to think that this was true in my state, VA, which is fairly right-ward leaning. However, I was astounded to find some 3 years ago that according to the state's official theory of authority, the counties only have exactly those powers which the state has expressly granted to them. After at least 10 years of the northern VA community begging for more money to be spent on roads and getting nowhere in the Richmond legislature, the northern VA counties decided to form their own transportation group, tax THEMSELVES, and build the roads. The state struck this down, because the state had not granted this authority to the counties. Some so-called conservatives battled this in state court (and won), sad to say, presumably because they didn't want to pay the extra tax, but throwing subsidiarity under the bus in the process.

However, I was astounded to find some 3 years ago that according to the state's official theory of authority, the counties only have exactly those powers which the state has expressly granted to them.

I think this is the standard in the United States -- the states are sovereign, not the counties or municipalities.

I wouldn't conflate Chronicles and Front Porch Republic and Cruncy-Cons.

Chronicles advocates localism and Western Christianity, is sound on issues like immigration and is critical political correctness. Its writers have included an eclectic mix of people: Fleming, Sam Francis, McGrath, Claude Polin, etc. Chronicles is critical of both Israel and Muslims.

Front Porch Republic, from my limited reading of it, seems like an odd mixture of Straussianism, localism, creationism, Global Christianity, and political correctness. Not only has FPR not criticized immigration (from my understanding) but they have actually criticized restrictionists and taken the side of Mexicans. There are a couple good writers at FPR, but many of their writers (like James Matthew Wilson) are painful to read.

Dreher's "crunch conservatism" I've always read as a strange marriage of Russell Kirk and political correctness.

JC: I don't know how you can ignore population growth and population density when discussing "human scale." In a city like Cairo, Egypt, where the population is 82,000 / sq. mile, it's going to make anything on the "human scale" quite difficult:

http://www.numbersusa.com/content/nusablog/carolinee/april-23-2010/real-dangers-overpopulation-witnessed-abroad.html


And I don't know about rural areas clearing out. While rural states haven't seen a population explosion like New Jersey or Southern California, they have at least remained stable, seen modest gains or seen drastic gains:

A few examples:

The population of Nebraska in 1900 was 1,325,510; in 2009, 1,796,619.

The population of Kansas in 1900 was 1,470,495; in 2009, 2,818,747.

The population of Wyoming in 1900 was 92,531; in 2009, 544,270.

The population of Texas in 1900 was 3,048,710; in 2009, 24,782,302.


http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004986.html


I'm sure one can nitpick over individual counties, but when one looks at the macro numbers: There has been a population explosion in the US (although not as severe as in the Third World), and Third World immigration exacerbates it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muw22wTePqQ

One other point: population growth might facilitate the clearing out of rural areas. Some writers have envisioned a future where the population growth becomes so great (9 billion by 2040 and then?) that the government itself clears out rural areas (forces people to move to cities) so that the land can be converted to large-scale corporate farms to feed the exploding population.

"Maybe Catholic conservatives are especially prone to abstract, ahistorical thinking, I don't know: if it was good enough for Aristotle, it's good enough for us!"

I think you're missing the continuity facet. The idea is not that you lift Aristotle from ancient Greece and drop him into contemporary America, but instead you search out the principles through their living continuity throughout history, especially noting how they've been manifested concretely in various societies. This is the exact opposite of "abstract, ahistorical thinking."

"Patrick Deneen and the folks at FPR have a very compelling site, but a movement devoted to unlimited growth sustained by endless innovations and spurred by insatiable appetites is going to view them more as heretics than fellow rightists."

Indeed. Or as crypto-socialists.

"I wouldn't conflate Chronicles and Front Porch Republic and Cruncy-Cons."

I wouldn't either. But there is a considerable amount of overlap between the three 'outlooks.'

FPR is basically a clearinghouse of sorts for decentralists of various stripes -- Old Right, tradcons, decentralist Left, etc. That is why there is a fair amount of variance on certain issues among the different writers. They all tend to agree that government and corporate centralization is a problem, but they often differ on how to address it.

"Dreher's 'crunchy conservatism' I've always read as a strange marriage of Russell Kirk and political correctness."

I don't see the PC in it at all, except by association.

MAR, Thank you for bringing a much needed perspective to this discussion. America desperately needs our own Jean Raspail to dramatize the future that is headed our way on the present trajectory.

However, I was astounded to find some 3 years ago that according to the state's official theory of authority, the counties only have exactly those powers which the state has expressly granted to them.

Tony, I had always wondered about that in the face of the timidity of conservative counties in California. Interesting. And yet this is not a problem that would be difficult to fix. State legislation to that effect might gain traction especially today when counties are hung out to dry with state mandates and no way to pay for them.

I think it's even more important that the problem of human scale not be seen as a fertility rate problem, here or anywhere.

Jeff, I agree, in principle. I do think that the overall growth of population is a concern of good government, and it cannot be completely separated from fertility. It might be the case that the ideal _household_ size is with 4 or 5 kids, while the ideal growth rate of a society is slower than doubling every 30 years. This might imply such things as, perhaps, as households holding additional non-married adults, say single aunts or uncles, and a maid or gardener, or there might be lots of people in monasteries, etc, so that only 2 in 5 adults actually have those 4-5 children. But thinking of fertility as a "problem" is upside down.

If a republican political order is our goal, then there does need to be some mechanism whereby republics can accommodate population growth.

Yes, but if the central unit of city is to remain stable at a relatively "ideal" size given the effects of "human scale", the solution would seem to be to export the growth to develop the frontier into new such cities.

Subsidiarity, if observed conscientiously, can handle the problem nicely even in very large countries.

Only by constantly creating new small basic entities like the cities, or by sending the growth away. It is very difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to postulate that the ideal of human interactions imposes upward limits on size of polities, and then presume unlimited growth. The growth must go somewhere, either inside or outside. If it remains inside, eventually the social unit passes the limits for "human scale". If outside, there has to be somewhere for them to go to that receives them.

This, by the way, is why I suggested a few threads ago that space exploration is a critical human need. The green human haters oppose growth of humanity at all costs, but they have a basic problem in that no human society has ever managed to survive intact (morally, psychologically, economically) with long-term zero growth population arrangements. We just don't know that it can be done, and we certainly don't know how. The strongest evidence we have is that strongly vibrant societies with stable law and order and optimistic outlook and satisfied citizens are ALSO societies where families tend to have several children and the population is growing.

think this is the standard in the United States -- the states are sovereign, not the counties or municipalities.

Well, the states share sovereignty with the federal gov. It's not the sovereignty that I mind, it's the defeat of subsidiarity. It should never have occurred to a state government that it has some basis to forbid a county from taxing itself for a public good merely because the state did not EXPLICITLY lay out that particular taxing right to the county. Or, to put it another way: although the state-level political government decided (at some historical point) how to break up and align the sub-divisions, the state-level government is not source of the authority of government, and it is not wholly the source of the authority of the sub-divisions. Furthermore, for a state like Virginia, a goodly number of smaller entities definitely pre-existed the state as organized polities, and it is more than a bit of vanity for the state to presumptively claim to be the source by which those self-same entities have authority to make rules.

I think that James Madison essentially lucked into postulating in practice what happens to be a principle that was (at best) only implicit in political theory at the time - formal subsidiarity - and thus happily and indeed in a sense blessedly set the stage for the rest of the world to see a needed principle for development of truly properly grounded large nation-states (and larger still entities, if we even actually get to that point). Unfortunately, the principle is still not recognized widely, and is rejected more than it is accepted even among those who have heard of it.

There are only 435 representatives in the House of Representatives, ruling over some 309 million people. This yields a ratio of around one representative for every seven hundred ten thousand people. A regime with this ratio cannot be considered a republic,

Jeff, I am not quite sure that sheer scale of representative district changes whether you have a republic. I think possibly a diminution of representative character exists with larger voting districts because - at least in part - of the winner-take-all nature of our votes. In effect, representation diminishes because I cannot elect someone who really does represent my point of view.

Suppose, as an alternative, that in each state you didn't really have ANY congressional districts, instead you simply seated each candidate who received 300,000 votes outright. Or, better still, suppose that you seated every candidate who got 50,000 votes, but give him representational voice in Congress: a guy who got 50,000 votes has 1/10 the voting power for bills as a guy who got 500,000 votes. You would not have just 2 (super-powerful) parties. That way you could search out between 30 or 40 candidates state-wide for someone who really represents ALL of your top 6 or 7 issues, and most of your other ones, instead of having to compromise (usually) on 1 out every 3 things that are significant issues. Then the guy you vote for really does represent your ideas in the Congress.

In any case, would the situation (too many individuals per representative) be better if we lowered the ratio to, say 1 in 1000, but then had more intervening layers of representatives? If I and 999 of my neighbors can select an Elector, and 100 Electors vote for my state legislator, and the state legislature votes for my senator, does that improve my representation? If we reduce size to a smaller scale, like a city-state, we are still going to need higher levels of federation to coordinate interaction between them. Given those higher levels, I cannot figure out why multiple layers of electoral bodies would constitute better representation than higher ratios of individuals per representative.

I don't honestly think that an "empire" is an accurate description, when each and every sub-unit has effectively the same voice in the federal government as every other. An empire is typified by a situation where the outlying units are at least partly "subject nations" that have far less say in the government than the "old" or original or central home of the empire. This is not what we have in the 50 states.

Well, the states share sovereignty with the federal gov. It's not the sovereignty that I mind, it's the defeat of subsidiarity. It should never have occurred to a state government that it has some basis to forbid a county from taxing itself for a public good merely because the state did not EXPLICITLY lay out that particular taxing right to the county. Or, to put it another way: although the state-level political government decided (at some historical point) how to break up and align the sub-divisions, the state-level government is not source of the authority of government, and it is not wholly the source of the authority of the sub-divisions. Furthermore, for a state like Virginia, a goodly number of smaller entities definitely pre-existed the state as organized polities, and it is more than a bit of vanity for the state to presumptively claim to be the source by which those self-same entities have authority to make rules.

Tony--I would agree with you. Unfortunately by the time the states came into being, what they inherited was not a sensible understanding of polities but political theory as it centered around the modern nation-state. That plus attitudes about mobility and citizenship explain much of the dysfunction we are experiencing today.

Suppose, as an alternative, that in each state you didn't really have ANY congressional districts, instead you simply seated each candidate who received 300,000 votes outright. Or, better still, suppose that you seated every candidate who got 50,000 votes, but give him representational voice in Congress: a guy who got 50,000 votes has 1/10 the voting power for bills as a guy who got 500,000 votes. You would not have just 2 (super-powerful) parties. That way you could search out between 30 or 40 candidates state-wide for someone who really represents ALL of your top 6 or 7 issues, and most of your other ones, instead of having to compromise (usually) on 1 out every 3 things that are significant issues. Then the guy you vote for really does represent your ideas in the Congress.

Tony, your outside-the-box alternative has a lot of appeal. It would be an improvement over our present situation, to be sure. But would it be more republican? I've always thought of republicanism in terms of personal, regional, and class representation rather than issues representation. I don't think republican theory really imagines a primarily issues-driven electorate. A republican citizen is mainly personality driven; a republican statesman is both personality and issues-driven. The problem today is that too many issues are on the table and we plebeians are forced to vote issues, sometimes within but mostly beyond our competence. When every issue is up for grabs, things like the direct initiative and other uber-democratic means begin to look conservative.

Instead I would propose the following: Increase the number of representatives by limiting the populations they serve (as you suggest), but restrict them to culturally distinct regions as much as possible. We should know our representatives; they should be truly one of us. Our state senator, Doug LaMalfa, personally served us breakfast last week at a local fundraiser for a volunteer fire department. He represents a rural, low-density region in which he lives and works as a fifth generation farmer, his children attending the high school from which I graduated, making true representation possible.

Even more importantly - and perhaps most unrealistically - the Big Issues must be taken completely off the table with a revised constitution. Life issues, marriage and family, public ethics and morality (especially in light of modern economic realities), and subsidiarity should be non-negotiables. Republicanism is doomed if every politician has to defend and articulate his views in the public square on something as basic as marriage. The alternative is the political anarchy that besets this country today, and it is only worsening.

Not only has FPR not criticized immigration (from my understanding) but they have actually criticized restrictionists and taken the side of Mexicans. There are a couple good writers at FPR, but many of their writers (like James Matthew Wilson) are painful to read.

Come on, Wilson is pretty good, and only a heart of stone wouldn't laugh at his description (big tent skinheads) for the Wotin & Thor revivialists that gather at race-obsessed sites;

Perhaps that Alternative Right fellow’s sneer at FPR‘s failure to generate a wide readership (we are not, after all, big tent skinheads) has one more piece of evidence in support in this curious fact.
http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2011/01/what-is-wrong-with-contemporary-intellectuals/#

I don't know anything about Wilson other than I don't enjoy his articles, but it doesn't surprise me that people at FPR are now attacking those who are pro-Western. As Philip Jenkins has noted, it has become a theme for some on the religious right. As Christianity is returning to its non-Western roots, so it becomes hostile toward the historic West. In short, much of what I've seen at FPR reminds me of a strange marriage of Christian fundamentalism (whether of the Catholic or Protestant sort) and Cultural Marxism. A couple examples: John Medaille's notion of egalitarian Monarchy or many of the anti-evolution screeds ("evolution is racist!") on the website that defend some strange notion of egalitarian creationism.

I don't agree with everything written here at WWwtW, but, unlike at FPR, I here find the writing to be good and the exchanges to be worthwhile. You have actual debate at this site. At FPR, someone posts a piece (often defending some Cultural Marxist Christian fundamentalist position), and then in the comments' box he receives a few "hail Marys," a couple high fives and takes his victory lap. This is a much better site than FPR.

Regarding Alternative Right, it's news to me that Richard Spencer, Paul Gottfried, Ilana Mercer, Christian Kopff, John Derbyshire, James Kalb, Mark Hackard, and all the others who have written there are "skinheads." Give me a break.

"it doesn't surprise me that people at FPR are now attacking those who are pro-Western"

Examples?

"much of what I've seen at FPR reminds me of a strange marriage of Christian fundamentalism (whether of the Catholic or Protestant sort) and Cultural Marxism."

You've got to be kidding -- there's neither a fundamentalist nor a Marxist among them.

It is wrong, possibly, to view Republicanism as something like gripping strength on a population - if there are too many people, the hold is lost. The scaling of Republicanism is, perhaps, better represented as a fractal. Small-scale Republicanism can exist in the same way as large-scale Republicanism if the output of the one is the input for the other. If we had small community republics that passed their decisions to medium-scale and so forth, it would then mean that the work would be even and the large-scale would have time to really consider things.

The Chicken

"As Christianity is returning to its non-Western roots, so it becomes hostile toward the historic West."

Well, nothing good comes out of Nazareth, or Jerusalem for that matter. Isn't it is more accurate though to say the West left Christianity, rather than the other way around? Yet I get the funny feeling when you say "historic West" you mean the good old days before the cult of dissident Jews introduced their slave mentality to the virile pagan culture and drained it of its life force.

"...it's news to me that Richard Spencer, Paul Gottfried, Ilana Mercer, Christian Kopff, John Derbyshire, James Kalb, Mark Hackard, and all the others who have written there are "skinheads."

I can't vouch for that line-up, other than to admit I'm baffled as to why Kalb and even Kopff hang around there. I guess that's where the big top aspect comes in. Or, maybe they just like the nifty T-shirts:

WOTAN MIT UNS! Wotan, the All-father of the North, oversees mankind in wisdom and in death, in battle and in victory. His loyal messengers, ravens Huginn and Muninn, survey the world and gather information for this wandering god. Whether you are a practicing pagan or simply appreciate European mythology and your roots, you must get this totally kvlt shirt! http://www.alternativeright.com/store/

In European countries, one sees political alliances of Darwinian conservatives, radical traditionalists (such as neopagans) and conservative Christians, as most of their political goals are the same.

"I'm baffled as to why Kalb and even Kopff hang around there."

Kalb and Kopff are good but I like Gottfried too. I think his 'Liberalism Trilogy' should be required reading for conservatives.

"In European countries, one sees political alliances of Darwinian conservatives, radical traditionalists (such as neopagans) and conservative Christians, as most of their political goals are the same."

And you call the Front Porch a "strange marriage"?

"In European countries, one sees political alliances of Darwinian conservatives, radical traditionalists (such as neopagans) and conservative Christians..."

Sounds very retro in a 30's kind of way. Does everyone who signs up get a Carl Schmitt poster?

mall-scale Republicanism can exist in the same way as large-scale Republicanism if the output of the one is the input for the other. If we had small community republics that passed their decisions to medium-scale and so forth, it would then mean that the work would be even and the large-scale would have time to really consider things.

Chicken, I think this is almost completely right. But I have an impression (which I don't think I could prove definitively even if you gave me a long leash) that a kernel of the specialness of our federal system (as originally set forth) is found in that it provided, in the bicameral legislature, for a mechanism to BOTH represent the people directly, AND to represent the intervening, next lower level political entity, the states. Originally, the senate was supposed to be elected by the states, and I think it was supposed to represent to the federal union interests held by the state as a state. See, as I understand it, they founders fundamentally rejected the notion of a federation of states where ONLY the states were represented - it had been tried, and failed (both in ancient Greece, several times, and in the Articles of Confederation). Furthermore, it did not successfully stand for the fact that America had become a real integral unity of some sort, while remaining a plurality of states.

The trick is to manage the federal level so that they only want to take on issues that exceed the capacity of a state to take on by itself. One facet of this would mean for the feds, when it sees some (or even many) states failing on something that is definitely not a federal issue (say, education, though I am not promoting the idea that education is a state issue either), the federal role does not become one of absorbing the state's role, but rather assisting and supporting the state in successfully taking on its own proper role

and fulfilling it at the state level.

If anyone believed in the 10th amendment anymore, that might help.

Amen. You know my proposed amendment to restore functionality to the 10th.

I don't honestly think that an "empire" is an accurate description, when each and every sub-unit has effectively the same voice in the federal government as every other. An empire is typified by a situation where the outlying units are at least partly "subject nations" that have far less say in the government than the "old" or original or central home of the empire. This is not what we have in the 50 states.

Tony, it isn't the equality or dispersion of voting units that make a republic: it's the influence of each unit, the weight of a vote. In gigantic "republics" like ours, the weight of a single vote is approximately nothing.

I don't have any say in my government, never have. Elections seldom go my way, and when they do, they do it without my help. Where's Zippy when you need him? :-)

Jeff, my comment that you quoted about empire does not address republicanism. The two are not polar opposites: to be not republic is not the same as to be an empire.

Although I am willing to entertain the concept that representation in government fails to be representation properly speaking (or, perhaps, with respect to certain essential aspects of representation and republicanism), I never did agree with Zippy's argument. He tried to make a political point with a mathematical argument, and it just does not work. Mathematically, 1/1,000,000 is just as valid a number as 1/1,000. If representation is real on the basis of a fraction of 1/1,000, then mathematics as such cannot constitute the basis for saying that representation is not real at a fraction of 1/1,000,000.

But that's not the critical issue. If there is indeed a political truth here (and I am inclined to think you are right), it can be made with political (that is, social) arguments, which is the right form of argument for this sphere anyway. Having grown up in a vast electoral scheme, I do not intuitively feel the point you are making, but I see glimmers of it all the same. But I don't think the argument has been laid out just yet: What is the critical difference between having a first level rep standing for 1000 people, and the next level rep standing for 500 1st level reps, on the one hand, or a rep standing for 500,000 people directly voting for him on the other hand? In either case, the guy who sits in the higher (federal) level legislature is not someone who has ever heard my name, and my vote has an exceedingly small impact on his election. If a framework of true subsidiarity exists where a parish has a small governing body, a county a larger one, a state a larger one, a nation a really large one, and global one governs the entire world, there is no way in the world the global legislators will have any strong relationship to me personally no matter HOW much we would like it.

Heck, if we want, we could ignore representative notions altogether, and insist on having true democracy: all of the (voting) public vote on all public issues, with no representatives. That's not practical, of course. Well, neither is a low-level representation of government (alone) where each rep stands for only 1000 voters, and there is no higher level of government above that. Once you get above that, a high level rep standing for lower level reps no longer constitutes pristine republicanism, and it can only be called a republic by extension of the principles. The concepts may be extendable, but it is not clear why the definitive way to do this is to create multiple levels of reps, rather than direct voting for the higher level representatives.

I also think that you are being a little simplistic in thinking that voting for a 1st level rep would normally be about character as such, and not about character and issues in an integrated mix. Certainly when I vote for my county supervisor, or other such, I consider character and issues together, allowing one to inform the other in an integrated exchange: I want my rep to have a character that transparently leads to certain results on well-publicized issues, and I want his statements on such issues to harmonize closely with his personal character.

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