Regional Fellows “At Sea”

[content_protector password=”RFatSea”]We are pleased to bring one of National Review Institute’s most popular programs to NR’s post-election cruise. Join us for an “at-sea” version of Regional Fellows, allowing you to participate in readings and discussions that foster a rigorous examination of conservative principles and how they apply to the issues of the day.

Below are the topics of discussion and links to readings to help you prepare for the discussion. We will also be providing you with a printed and bound copy of the readings when you board the ship. The readings are not required but they will give you a background for the group discussion.

The Founders’ Constitution

Date: Monday, November 14th, 7:30am Location: Hudson Room
Guest Discussion Leader: John Yoo, Emanuel Heller professor of Law at University of California, Berkley and a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

The United States is that rare country whose nationhood is coextensive with her constitutional arrangements. The “philosophy” of the American Constitution is laid out with remarkable learning, penetration, and insight in the Federalist Papers (1787-1788) written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. Any thoughtful American conservatism will aim to “conserve” the constitutional heritage bequeathed by our constitutional Founders.

Recommended Reading:

The Federalist Papers #’s 10, 51, 84

Charles Kesler’s 25 page Introduction to the Signet Classic edition of The Federalist Papers

Brookhiser, Richard. Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, pp. 185-191.

Brookhiser, Richard. James Madison, pp. 98-107.

Brookhiser, Richard. Alexander Hamilton, American, pp. 93-97.

Discussion Questions

  1. How is government itself a reflection of human nature? Why does liberal constitutionalism presuppose the non-angelic character of human beings?
  1. What is the Federalist’s solution to the problem of (majority) faction?
  1. What are some of the republican remedies for the “diseases most incident to republican government” described in Federalist #10 and #51?
  1. How did Madison prepare himself for his role as constitution-maker? What lessons did Madison the statesman learn that shaped his later judgments about such matters as a national bank and an adequate national defense?
  1. Why were the Founders skeptical of political parties? What is the connection between free government and a competitive party system?
  1. How is the Founding an on-going responsibility of future Americans and not just of the Founding generation?

Burke and Mediating Structures Between the State and The Individual

Date: Thursday, November 17th, 7:30am Location: Hudson Room
Guest Discussion Leader: Brian Anderson, editor of City Journal

The great eighteenth century Anglo-Irish statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke was in important respects the father of modern conservatism. A champion of the American cause and a panegyrist to English liberty, he saw the great evils at work in the French revolution and in modern ideology, more generally. An evocative writer and rhetorician, he defended reform, not revolution, and what can be called a “politics of prudence.” He was the enemy par excellence of abstraction in politics, of an appeal to abstract ideas that ignores circumstances, the wisdom of the ages, and settled tradition.

Recommended Reading:

Levin, Yuval. The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left (Basic Books, 2013). pp. 177-204, 223-231.

Selection from “Reflections on the Revolution in France” by Edmund Burke found in: Muller, Jerry Z., Conservatism: An Anthology of Political Thought From David Hume to the Present (Princeton University Press, 1997). pp. 83-122. 

1977 pamphlet by Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, “To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy”

De Tocqueville, Alexis. “On the Use that Americans Make of Association in Civil Life.” Democracy in America Vol II.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways is Thomas Paine the prototype of the modern intellectual who supports revolution not to relieve “specific grievances” but to found political communities on “proper foundations.” What precisely are those foundations according to Paine? How would Burke respond?
  1. Why did Paine believe that Revolution must be “total and uncompromising”? Did he learn anything from his own imprisonment in revolutionary France?
  1. In what ways was Burke both a counterrevolutionary and a reformer? Why did he fear Enlightenment rationalism as a new despotic “state religion”?
  1. What might Burke say about the American Revolution in contrast to the French one?
  1. According to Burke, How did militant atheism inform and motivate the French Revolution? Why is such inveterate hostility to the Christian religion incompatible with a free and decent society?
  1. How do Burke and Paine continue to inform the thinking and habits of the contemporary Right and Left?

William F. Buckley Jr. and American Conservatism

Date: Friday, November 18th, 7:30am Location: Hudson Room
Guest Discussion Leader: Jay Nordlingersenior editor of National Review and a book fellow of the National Review Institute.

For sixty years, William F. Buckley Jr. was the voice of a conservatism that managed to be both sober and combative, committed to permanent verities and dismissive of a corrupt liberal orthodoxy. He brought style and intellectual penetration to conservatism as it emerged as a coherent movement after World War II. National Review, founded by Buckley and a cohort of friends in 1955, was—and remains—the flagship journal of a thoughtful American conservatism. This first session is dedicated to the thought and journalism of WFB and his role in shaping modern American conservatism.

Recommended Reading:

Edwards, Lee. William F. Buckley, Jr.: The Maker of a Movement (Intercollegiate Studies Institute Books, 2010), pp. 9-16, 189-191.

 Discussion Questions

  1. What role does the conservative journalist, exemplified by Buckley, play in educating the public and in shaping a conservative politics informed by principle and prudence?
  1. How does Buckley compare to the typical (conservative) pundit today? Have we seen a decline in the character of the “commentating class”?
  1. Is “standing athwart history” a viable standard for conservative thought and action? How did Buckley’s “voice” change over the 50 years since that opening NR editorial?