The Democratic Socialist's Usable Past

American freedom has two faces, Aziz Rana maintains: political liberty or self-rule for citizens; subordination (at times going so far as extermination or enslavement) for non-citizens. He wants to show that these faces appear on opposite sides of the same coin, and that the coin needs recasting if we want our freedom universalized.

Although Rana, associate professor of law at the Cornell University Law School, has earned his degrees in political science and law, here he writes as a historian. The Two Faces of American Freedom demonstrates once again that what used to be called “the New Left,” which gathered academic authority in the late 1960s, still reads its Marx but in some respects prefers Nietzsche: History is a tool to achieve social and political revolution. Rana’s revolution, of course, is to be pursued under the banner of egalitarianism.

Whereas the old Left either democratized Hegelian idealism (as seen in the American Progressives) or adapted some form of Marxist materialism—in which history is said to unfold in accordance with rationally perceivable laws—the New Left began to call itself “postmodern,” viewing such rationalism with a touch of irony. The 1960s scholars turned to rhetorical tropes like reimagining history or, somewhat more preciously, “re-visioning” it. The radical intellectuals’ role wasn’t any longer that of scientific prognosticator, but instead a kind of orator/sophist, attempting to seize control of imagery and language, in an effort to awaken their fellow citizens or, to put it as they did, to raise their consciousness.

Professor Rana is frank with us: “I see this project as a form of social criticism, in which history is presented”—the use of the passive voice is telling—“in the service of today’s problems as well as tomorrow’s latent possibilities.” He sees his task as “constructing  an alternative image of the nation’s founding and experience, one that can replace the traditional accounts of exceptionalism and constitutional practice.”

The idea is “to show how apparently marginal views of freedom and social membership are themselves foundational aspects of our identity.” And there’s a lot riding on that “show”: If writers who think of themselves as radical critics of the American regime can be presented as “our own,” their writings will be more acceptable to (potentially) a critical mass of opinion, and will gain political leverage. But does “show” mean demonstrate or prove? Or does it mean “perform a makeover on”?

To accomplish his project, Rana needs his own two faces. One denies American “exceptionalism,” which he defines as the belief that American stands “outside the contested histories of Europe, particularly its bitter conflicts over social standing and class”—a belief he associates with St. John de Crèvecoeur, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Louis Hartz. The other face affirms the American “ideal of freedom,” its aim of self-government, up to now sadly and fatally entwined with the European imperial project, of which American colonists were the instruments even as they sought independence from it.

Rana’s denial and his affirmation serve a single purpose: to get his readers to “think of the United States as an experiment in political openness.” The extent to which any polity can be “open” is of course a vexed question, and Rana’s optimism inheres in his Left-historicism, suspicious of the traditionalist historicism of the Right while eschewing the permanent foundations (and limits) of either divine or natural right. If Right-historicism rejects the attempt to liberate ourselves from tradition, from the past, as deplorable and finally impossible, Left-historicism embraces it as exhilarating and indispensable.

“Exceptionalism” is easy to refute. All you need is a simple change of perspective. If I want to say I’m exceptional, I can exhibit my fingerprints; if you want to deny my exceptionalism, reduce me to the physical compounds of which I consist—oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous and other materials currently worth about $160. Rana denies American exceptionalism or non-Europeanness by observing (quite sensibly) that Americans were not only Europeans but Europeans of a particular sort, seen elsewhere: settlers.

His more important claim is that being-a-settler isn’t only a coincidence but—in that neo-Marxist way the New Left adopted—a social, economic, and political circumstance from which certain justifications can be seized. Settlers settle: that is, they occupy land, displacing indigenous peoples and “maintain[ing] this supremacy permanently or for many generations,” while developing “complex ideologies to legitimate such enforced inequality.” The unexamined assumption throughout is that both inequality and rule by force are morally wrong, and it is Rana’s eschewal of philosophic for historical argument—the philosophic approach he rejects is that of John Rawls, which is indeed as “abstract” as he says—that obscures this.

The book has four main sections: the colonial period, the Founding period, post-Civil War populism, and the New Deal state. Under each rubric the author has unearthed a rich trove of information and argumentation; as one should expect from a law professor, he has especially cogent things to say on legal cases. As long as one keeps his rhetorical-political strategy in mind, he may be studied with delight and (if I may be permitted a capitalist metaphor) profit.

The English colonists in America took their bearings from the colonization of Ireland, which justified conquest of infidel and barbaric foreigners. Although the Irish “practiced a form of Catholicism,” they mixed in too many pagan customs and their Catholicism itself was suspect to the “extreme Protestants” who settled there. By “barbaric” or “uncivilized,” English Protestants meant that the Irish didn’t farm, living in no fixed location but moving about in search of grazing land for their livestock.

On the religious side of the critique, the distinguished jurist Edward Coke regarded infidels as “perpetual enemies” of Christians, with a way of life opposed not only to Christianity but to “the law of God and of nature, contained in the Decalogue.” Such persons deserved rule not under English common law but under the absolute rule of the monarch: “The King by himself, and such judges as he shall appoint, shall judge them and their causes according to natural equity.” American Indians were even more purely heathen than the Irish and therefore also deserved absolute rule under royal authority.

By the time of the principal English settlements in North America, however, the doctrines of John Locke had begun to gain ascendency over those of Coke. Rana gives a less than full account of them and, crucially, never really refutes them. Locke argued that God gave the world to men in common not only for self-preservation, as Rana says, but for “the Support and Comfort of their Being.” The right to property derives from this common gift: In order to survive in nature, each person takes what he needs; this act of taking, this labor, makes what we take our property, and no one needs the consent of another in appropriating needed natural objects. Having “mixed his labor” with nature, man adds to nature; the common possession of nature is of no use to real human beings if they as individuals do not undertake this appropriation.

You can eat my lunch, but not on my behalf. The Indian who kills a deer thus owns that deer. By nature, such appropriation is limited to one’s own use; no waste or destruction can be rightful. This goes for the appropriation of land as well. You own it if you mix your labor with it, thereby “inclos[ing] it from the Common.” No one else has just title to that land.

This reasoning Locke set against the absolutist monarchism of his philosophic opponent, Robert Filmer, who claimed that dominion over land inhered in patriarchal rule, not individuals’ labor. Not so, said Locke: Man as such is “the great foundation of property”; it is better to have a large population than a large territory because human labor is more valuable than the land it works; “of the Products of the Earth useful to the Life of Man 9/10 are the effects of Labour.”

“The great art of government,” wrote Locke, is to employ “established laws of liberty to secure protection and encouragement to the honest industry of mankind.” That is to say, natural right can be enhanced by conventional or positive right. So the British Empire—by establishing civil property rights for English settlers, and guarding them by absolute monarchic rule over Indian tribes and nations that had a sense of territory but not of property—advanced human prosperity and liberty. The British settlers objected mostly when the king started to treat them more like Indians.

Rana ignores Locke’s argument, heading straight for Locke’s conclusion: that property rightly belongs to the industrious and rational, not the idle. But, as Rana sees, Locke bases his understanding of the right to conquer nomadic and hunting peoples on the right to property. American Indians “are rich in Land, and poor in all the Comforts of Life,” Locke correctly observes; in their lack of civilization, they unknowingly leave vast tracts of land in a condition of relative waste, thus depriving mankind of the best use of that land. They are rather like the aristocratic idlers of Europe, a point Tocqueville would note more than a century later.

By failing to meet Locke’s argument—precisely because he argues historically not philosophically—Rana deplores English conquest of the Indians without grounding his critique in anything more solid than sentiment. And by missing the argument from natural right, Rana inclines to think of conquest and rule over the Indians in conventional terms—human laws, social class, racial hierarchy, military and political power, and the like. This makes it easier for him to attack such conquest and such rule, but at the expense of real engagement with the rational content of the argument for British empire.

Finally, by claiming that the Indians exerted socially-based rather than individually-based dominion over the land, he can make his stance consistent with his own democratic socialism, but at the expense of avoiding the question of whether socialism actually serves human interests better than a regime that protects private property. There being no economic grounds for arguing that such is the case, and there also being no evidence that patriarchal Indian societies were more democratic than English colonies, Rana needs to argue that socialism has greater democratic potential than a regime entailing private property—a claim that ends up supported in this book merely by our willingness to imagine that such might be so.

Just as Rana fails to be sufficiently abstract or philosophic in one sense, he is all too abstract in another. He tends to dismiss the colonists’ physical insecurity. “Surrounded by French imperialists, Catholic settlers, African slaves, and Indian tribes,” the colonists viewed such outsiders “not simply as foreigners but as enemies.” Their “powerful and expansive vision of republic freedom”—which in fact Rana endorses—combined with “a restricted account of who was entitled to such freedom.” Even as the imperial metropole in London began to develop “more inclusive forms of imperial rule and to expand the rights afforded to Native Americans, Catholics, and, to a lesser extent, slaves,” the colonists, who actually lived alongside these foreigners, treated them more harshly.

But again, were they wrong? Were the French Catholics of Canada and Spanish Catholics in Florida accustomed to republican government? Was the slave owners’ dread of slave rebellion not understandable, even if slavery itself was wrong (precisely on Lockean grounds)? And why were the Indians not dangerous? When the Declaration of Independence says that “the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions,” was it as mistaken as Rana evidently supposes? Or was warfare—including such tactics as enslavement, mutilation, and forced abortions—not characteristic of those Indian nations and tribes the Americans called savage (as distinguished from those they acknowledged to be civilized)?

The lack of philosophic “abstraction” of one face of Rana’s argument, along with the excessive abstractness of its other face, vitiates his accounts of the American Founding, the Populists, and the New Deal state, in turn. In each period, he valorizes thinkers and groups that urged small-scale and democratic communities as against the modern state, while often deploring the moral principles espoused by those persons. Throughout, he tends to ignore the fundamental problem that the modern state has imposed since its inception: How exactly will small communities, whatever their regimes, resist encroachment by that ever-more-intrusive state?

So, for example, during the Founding period he praises the Shaysites and Whiskey Rebels, who advocated Rousseau-like small communities—themselves with very active governments, but closely controlled by popular assemblies—and criticizes the proponents of the 1787 Constitution, calling them “coastal elites” who worked against the interests of the “locally-centered majoritarianism” of frontier settlers. Studiously avoiding discussion of the Washington administration’s policy of aid to the Five Civilized Tribes in the southeast—civilized because they engaged in the settled way of life commended by Locke—Rana focuses rather on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinions in the two landmark cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832).

Marshall and his colleagues attempted to establish semi-sovereign status for the Cherokee and thereby avoid their removal. Removal of civilized Indian tribes or nations was unjust by Lockean and American criteria, unlike the removal of genuinely “savage”—that is, non-agricultural and warlike—tribes. As Rana points out, taken together the two cases outlined a policy more or less identical to the British imperial policy that the Americans had rejected during the colonial period: the status of “domestic dependent nations” for the colonials. Just as the civilized, “Anglo” colonials had exhibited the ability to govern themselves, and therefore rejected being placed on the level of uncivilized peoples, so too did the civilized Cherokee have the right to reject the status of dependency.

In favor of such, Marshall could only argue the right of conquest, but of course this right must be congruent with natural right—the very standard Rana scants. Rana should argue that the Civilized Tribes deserved the Washington policy, but having overlooked that policy in the first place, he can have no recourse to it. He is of course on entirely solid ground in condemning the Jackson policy of “removing” the Civilized Tribes.

Similarly, Rana condemns the early U.S. naturalization laws, which extended citizenship to “white persons” only—a clear violation of the principles of the Declaration of Independence—if  “white” is understood in the purely physical sense of skin color. In fact, as Thomas G. West has observed, Founding-generation lawmakers often used “white” to mean “European.”[1] But “European” is primarily a cultural category, as Rana sees when he accurately describes the Americans’ claim:

If the republican goals of economic independence and freedom as self-rule necessitated territorial expansion, they also required enough people to work the land and to participate in projects of conquest. Again, for an ethnically defined settler society, not all immigrants were uniformly welcome, only those seen as culturally assimilable and thus prospective co-participants in activities of settlement.

“Culturally assimilable” is exactly the point: any political community will have a regime, and any regime will valorize those who adhere to its way of life, condemn and punish those who do not. But “culturally assimilable” does not entail skin color, as those white, often slaveholding, Founders knew very well. They acted in accordance with this knowledge rather more fitfully than one might like, but the standard of natural right was there, and enunciated by themselves.

Rana prefers the purer, local-democracy ideas of such figures as William Manning and Orestes Brownson to the extended-republic federalism of the Founders. In defending the former, he must endorse their claim that majoritarianism defends rights better than do republican checks and balances. Rana writes that for Manning and his allies, “virtue was understood not as the excellence of high statecraft or political leadership but rather as the full awareness by producers of their own interests and of how to achieve those goals”—a perfect expression of Marxist “consciousness” artfully woven into an account of “the new populist ethic.”

He dismisses the argument of Publius in The Federalist— that a continent full of such tiny democracies would be unstable and hence the prey of European empires. He also dismisses Hamilton’s Locke-based point, that “the prosperity of commerce”—and therefore of an extended commercial republic, capable of defending itself against other modern states—“is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of their political cares.” Such ideas, Rana maintains, only opened the door to the “wage slavery” of workers under industrial capitalists later on. Poor white males, he says, failed to ally themselves with women and persons of color, preferring the continuation of the imperialist-settler project dangled in front of them by the elites.

One such lure would be the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Unaccountably, Rana fails to connect the race-dominance claims of Manifest Destiny’s advocates—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Stephen Douglas—to the emergence of theories of racial dominance shared not only by northern Democrats but even more violently by southern Democrats, notably John C. Calhoun. (The book manages not to mention Calhoun at all.) “Race theory” (as it has come to be called) obviously contradicted the Founders’ idea of natural right—that all men are created equal—and underlay Chief Justice Roger Taney’s claim that the black man has no rights the white man need respect.

Rana does discuss Taney’s 1857 Dred Scott decision quite cogently, emphasizing not its importance in the slavery debate but its congruence with frontier settlers’ attempts to undermine the authority wielded by the national government over the territories. The settlers who fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War—and of course there were settlers on both sides—did not, we recall, take up arms on behalf of federalism alone. They fought on behalf of federalism misconceived as a carapace for slave-holding, a clear violation of Lockean-American natural (and not merely “Anglo” or even “white”) rights. Even more urgently, Americans fought that war over the maintenance of the Union itself. It was the only barrier against the devolution of North America into a European-like battlefield of rival nation-states—or, indeed, a pre-settlement North-American-like battlefield of rival nations and tribes.

Rana especially admires the early Populists for their “mobilized politics” in defense of “universalizing republican freedom,” and their resolute anti-imperialism. He doesn’t mean Populism as transformed by William Jennings Bryan and other later politicians but the earlier Populism of, again, William Manning, Thomas Skidmore, and Orestes Brownson. These writers associated themselves with pre-existing organizations of the 1880s like the Knights of Labor and the Farmers’ Alliance, which stood up for labor but resolutely opposed the “white supremacy” language heard in “the discourse of the postwar South.” This “racially unified movement” aimed to “end agricultural peonage and to destroy the Democratic Party forever.”

These original Populists also eschewed the older republican esteem for moral virtue, arguing that interest, “not principle,” must animate any practicable political movement. At the same time, the self-interest of the working majority (they claimed) would approximate the common good to the greatest degree possible. Accordingly, education—undertaken, crucially, within the movement—would be strictly partisan, “ensuring that all individuals, not simply the educated few, understood their own interests and how best to achieve them.”

This abandonment of natural rights as the moral foundation of republicanism eventually led Populists to an ever less defensible position on race, as seen in the career of Georgia Congressman Thomas E. Watson, who started out an advocate of working class interracial alliances but turned into a notorious race-baiter. On the matter of imperialism, Populists opposed the Spanish-American War, claiming that the peoples newly independent of Spain needed no “white tutelage” in republicanism. For Nebraska politician William Neville, the “call for self-determination”—whether of Filipinos abroad or Indians at home—“had no caveats.”

Organizationally, the Populists attempted to build a political party that would overcome the modern state by strengthening non-hierarchical, local political units. “Just as the party was”—in other words, hoped to be—“a government behind the government, organizations such as the Farmers Alliance and the Knights of Labor embodied the government behind the party.” The intention was “a form of popular politics in which laborers were multiply organized, able to assert control at various local, state, and national sites of decision making, and thus made directly responsible for the party and the movement.” Bolshevism without a Central Committee, one might say. These “countless parallel institutions,” writes Rana, were the movement’s attempt to combine “participatory democracy with mass politics.” But without a Central Committee, how could these countless institutions stay united?

In Rana’s estimation, the movement stumbled because the cooperative economics of the Farmers’ Alliance failed “to become self-sustaining and profitable.” Failing to compete economically with capitalism, Populists could only attempt to control and defeat it with statism—by trying to bring about a state powerful enough to bring corporations under popular control. But this obviously militated against localism, communal self-government, leading away from Populism and toward Progressivism and the New Deal. As Rana expresses it, the main predicament of the first 40 years of the 20th century in the United States would be, “What constitutional structures should govern a postsettler society and what account of freedom could justify these structures and ground a new ethical basis for citizenship?”

It might truly be said that constitutional structures, per se, were of little interest to the Progressives. If you believe history is inevitably marching toward some desirable tomorrow-land, then restrictive old things like structures tend to get in the way. Rana quite reasonably points rather to the Progressives’ interest in recasting the public schools (not to be governed by a political party or a set of labor unions but by a new class, a class of professional teachers animated by—no surprise, here—Progressivism) and in combining direct political participation with mass politics (as in the devices of initiative and referendum, the popular recall of public officials, and the popular election of U. S. senators). The labor movement had been broad-based to begin with; Progressives added professionals to the coalition.

How to keep these disparate elements together? The answer was to conceive of a workable, unified majority of consumers of goods and services instead of an uncomfortable agglomeration of producers and service-providers. “Yet this perspective faced a basic challenge,” Rana observes, drily.

And it was this:

The public’s primary activities as consumers appeared to entail little more than a wise rotation of legislator and the consumption of products. . . . One was left to wonder whether the practice of consuming would provide a meaningful ethical and educative grounding in free citizenship.

A hundred years earlier, Tocqueville had wondered the same thing.

In Rana’s account, when the Progressives got stuck on that problem they turned to nationalism to try to solve it. But given the symbiotic relation of nationalism with statism, and the inclination of statism to weaken the fiber of civic virtue, this was a bad choice. Likewise what Rana regards as the humanitarian imperialism of many Progressives, most memorably Theodore Roosevelt, whose advocacy of “the strenuous life” (his answer to creeping bourgeois incivisme) did little to foster the quieter virtues of peacetime self-rule.

Although Woodrow Wilson’s preferred solution, the liberal internationalism of the League of Nations, does not figure much in this book (Rana eventually shows he has his own brand of internationalism to promote), it does offer an excellent discussion of the Supreme Court’s turn-of-the-century Insular Cases, which, writes Rana, “provided the legal framework for how new territorial possessions would be governed” absent the intent to integrate them fully as new states.

He’ll have no truck with the obvious point that Americans did not intend to hold onto places like Cuba and the Philippines and in fact did not hold them for very long. In other words, the great imperial period of the United States occurred between 1776 and 1890 but, pace Rana, this really was, on balance, what Jefferson called it: an empire of liberty. The conquests of 1898 and thereafter were almost without exception non-imperial, indeed anti-imperial, as Americans kicked Spaniards out of their New World empire and later kicked the Germans out of France (twice) in order to establish or restore republican self-government in the conquered lands.

Rana’s Progressive-era hero is Randolph Bourne, who picked up some of the early Populist arguments while adding a sample of Marxist anarcho-syndicalist spices to his shopping cart. Bourne called not for nationalism or liberal internationalism, but for a “Trans-National America” consisting not of individuals enjoying protection of their natural rights but of discrete immigrant communities enjoying legal protection for cultural practices developed “historically” in their native lands. “The first international nation,” Bourne called it. A celebrator of “universality and cultural openness,” Rana’s Bourne does not seem quite to know why his political vision would be good, except that he is sure that it will be “life-enhancing.” In Bourne we see the beginning of the Left’s turn toward a democratized Nietzscheanism or egalitarian vitalism, supplementing its Marxist socialism. “International citizenship” doesn’t sound like an oxymoron in this brave new world, in which individuals would see themselves “as global rather than national partisans.”

Exalted by such vapors, Rana understandably looks down upon the more hard-headed policies of Franklin Roosevelt, with his statist New Deal and peacetime preparations for the coming global war. Rana points to three New Deal milestones that even today are “the parameters [of] our current mode of presidential government,” what he calls “the plebiscitary presidency”: 1) the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation (1936), which raised the executive to a position of advantage over the other branches of government respecting foreign policy; 2) the Court’s acquiescence in New Deal statism in the aftermath of the 1936 re-election landslide, the failed but sobering 1937 Court-packing scheme, and the appointment of New Deal partisans to the Court during FDR’s third term; and 3) the remarkable increase in the size of the White House staff under FDR, which gave institutional heft to these legal-political opportunities.

Rana astutely describes FDR’s famous Commonwealth Club speech of 1932, in which the future President redefined “liberalism” to mean Progressivism with teeth—as not merely Hamiltonian means to Jeffersonian ends, but as the ideology of a national security state in the broadest sense of the word—a state that would provide the fullest possible protection not only against foreign enemies but against unemployment, poverty, disease, and most other ills to which flesh is heir. The liberty envisioned by the new liberalism consisted not of “the social practice of wielding public power”—Jeffersonian political liberty—but “the private endeavor of ‘personal living.’”

Unearthed here is the remarkable 1939 book by Robert Lynd, Knowledge for What?, advocating the rule of social engineers or “expert administrators” over the national economy. In Lynd’s words, “undiscriminating adherence to the forms of democracy operates to cripple the expert performance of essentially democratic functions”—a bit of verbal legerdemain worthy of FDR himself.

Rana accurately distinguishes the New Deal from both Hamiltonian federalism and Jacksonian democracy. FDR’s “idea of a direct representative relationship between president and people,” which was “at the heart of [his] democratic vision of the new social welfare state . . . fundamentally undermined the Federalist theory of democracy, particularly the notion that no existing body or branch of government enjoyed sovereign power.” As for Jackson, his “spoils system” may not have been pretty, but it was the antithesis of “an independent and unelected bureaucracy that could not be controlled by popular power.”

The New Dealers, as Rana appreciates, recast the presidency in the forms of “executive leadership and administrative hierarchy.” And equally regrettably, “The public as an active and continuous participatory presence had been recast as the recipient of security protection from economic and foreign threats.”

As a result, Rana writes in his conclusion, “the project of equality has concentrated increasingly on distributing more meritocratically the country’s few positions of corporate and governmental power,” which has amounted to altering “the composition of socially privileged groups rather than . . .  undermining privilege as such.”

In foreign policy, America treats outsiders “as instruments for the achievement of national ends,” thus combining “some of the most problematic ideological features of the settler past without its emancipatory aspirations.” This is hardly a fair description of an American foreign policy that, however ineptly conceived and executed, has at least aimed at emancipating some of the most oppressed populations on earth.

But even granting Rana’s characterization, his remedy is hardly less problematic. He would revive self-rule in America—a good idea in itself—but he immediately invokes the example of the final and decidedly Marxist version of W. E. B. DuBois, who left for exile in the “newly independent Ghana” of the future Lenin Peace Prize laureate, Kwame Nkrumah, author of the 1965 Leninist tract, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Ghana, in the author’s estimation, was “a symbol of anti-imperial unity,” by which he evidently means Western imperialism of the sort that prepared India for parliamentary democracy, as distinguished from Nkrumah’s preferred Soviet imperialism, which left scars on Central and Eastern Europe visible to this day.

Tapping back into Bourne, Rana calls for synthesizing the “settler ideology” of self-government with a “project of political, legal, and economic inclusion for immigrants.” He contends this would pose a meaningful challenge to “the current structures of [America’s] internal privilege, workplace authority, and even global supervision.” This borderless “experiment in political openness” would deploy anti-nationalist and egalitarian multiculturalism in a manner that would, somehow, form a political entity that could defend itself against external or internal enemies. Under this regime, the principle of communitarian equality would replace the principle of individual equality, while somehow avoiding the descent into tribal warfare seen in North America back when Europeans arrived here, and seen in the Middle East and parts of Africa today.

Although the whole thing strikes this reviewer as implausible—better designed to destroy such liberties as we still enjoy rather than enhance them—this isn’t the first time that absurd enthusiasms have spurred impressive research. The Two Faces of American Freedom, misguided as it is, presents us with a welcome treasure of that.

[1] Thomas G. West, Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class and Justice in the Origins of America (Rowman and Littlefield, 1997), 168-173.