April 5, 2017

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By Robert W. Hoffert

Publication by way of Hoffert, Robert W.

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Additional info for A Politics of Tensions: The Articles of Confederation and American Political Ideas

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Democracy in the individualistic view must create a politics that speaks to and for the individual. The people rule when individuals are free and when the government that they have authorized provides an orderly protection for that freedom. Within a democracy, the greatest threat to the rule of free individuals comes most directly from the majority's will. When majorities rule, their constituent members perceive themselves as acting in harmony with their freedom as individuals. But majority decisions are always based on a collective principle - the authority of numbers - not on individual preference, not on reason, not on truth, not on justice, and not on the will of gods in heaven or in nature.

These phases of design and expression also reveal a theoretical pattern of assumptions, ideals, and analyses consistent with the dominant political theory of the prerevolutionary era and the implicit political theory of the Declaration and the Articles. The discussion of Chapter 5, therefore, gives a picture of the Articles of Confederation's political theory as it is reflected in the Articles' writing and ratifying processes, and in the period of its formal authority. "Unwitting Common Sense," Chapter 6, offers an unconventional experiment to clarify further a sense of the theoretical orientation of the Articles of Confederation.

American political life has never been a rich source for distinctly nondemocratic perspectives. Alexis de Tocqueville understood this well. He was much more curious about things distinctly democratic than about things distinctly American. Page 4 However, his perceptive judgment led him to a method of examination through which distinctly American things became the most reliable grounds for the exploration of distinctly democratic things. Although it is extraordinarily important to know and affirm the democratic character of American political life, it is no less important to recognize the elementary nature of this knowledge.

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