Basic Principles

"... freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, ..."
— John Locke, Second Treatise, Ch. 4 §21.

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Constitutionalism — Sometimes equated with regula iuris, the "Rule of Law", holds that government can and should be legally limited in its powers, and that its authority depends on enforcing those limitations.

Essays and Commentaries

  1. HTML Version Text Version Word version Social Contract and Constitutional Republics, Jon Roland, 1994, with 2007 Supplement.
  2. HTML Version Selected Works on Tyranny — To understand the principles of constitutional republican government, one must understand the principles of its opposite.
  3. Submenu Constitutional History & Commentary Collection — Books, anthologies, and essays.
  4. HTML Version Selected Works of Herbert Spencer (1802-1903) — Early libertarian political philosopher.
  5. HTML Version Selected Works, Harvey Wheeler — Papers on Francis Bacon and constitutional history and law.
  6. HTML Version Remote Link - HTML The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Law, Logic, Omnipotence, and Change, by Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College. Explores logical problems with constitutions, especially involving amendment of them.
Nullum ius sine summo legislatore.
There is no law without a sovereign (supreme lawgiver).
— Ancient legal maxim.

Selections from The Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics

  1. HTML Version Politics, Aristotle (~350 BCE) — Laid out the alternative forms of government.
  2. HTML Version Text Version Discourses on Livy, Niccolo Machiavelli (1517) — Argues for the ideal form of government being a republic based on popular consent, defended by militia.
  3. HTML Version Text Version De Cive (The Citizen), Thomas Hobbes (1641-47) — Laid basis for social contract theory, providing branching point for the theories of constitutionalism and fascism.
  4. HTML Version Text Version Second Treatise on Government, John Locke (1689) — Principal proponent of the social contract theory which forms the basis for modern constitutional republican government.
  5. HTML Version Address before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln (1838) — Presents the idea of a political religion.
  6. HTML Version The Law, Frederick Bastiat (1850) — Classic treatment of one of the main challenges to the survival of democratic government.
  7. Submenu Text Version On Liberty, John Stuart Mill (1860) — Carries social contract theory beyond Locke.
  8. Submenu Text Version Representative Government, John Stuart Mill (1861) — Carries the theory of constitutional republican government beyond the Framers of the U.S. Constitution.
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
— Napoleon Bonaparte

Off-site Links

  1. Remote Link - HTML Polybius and the Founding Fathers: the separation of powers, by Marshall Davies Lloyd — Analysis of how we got the idea of separating legislative, executive, and judicial functions into different branches of government.
  2. Remote Link - HTML City of God, St. Aurelius Augustin of Hippo (354-430 AD) — Analysis of conflict between Christian ideal and secular reality in political affairs, first statement of "just war" in Book 19 Chapter 7.
  3. Remote Link - HTML On the Laws and Customs of England, Henry de Bracton (1268) — First codification of English common Law.
  4. Remote Link - HTML Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) — Develops doctrine of righteous government according to Christian principles, based in part on earlier work of St. Augustine, written 1265-73.
  5. Remote Link - HTML Dialogus, William of Ockham (1280-1349) — This medieval English political philosopher laid the basis for the early theory of law, especially on property and the law of nations, that led to Common Law. In Latin, being translated into English, under construction. Noted for the Principle of Parsimony, also known as Ockham's Razor: "Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatum" — "Do not multiply entities beyond necessity", or in other words, "When in doubt, do without." In the theory of knowledge, it means that among theories that equally explain the facts, always choose the simplest.
  6. Remote Link - HTML Third Institute on the Magna Carta, Sir Edward Coke (1628) — Authoritative commentary on the Magna Carta as understood at the time.
  7. Remote Link - HTML Thomas Hobbes — Site dedicated to his works with commentaries, from Eric Hochberger.
  8. Remote Link - HTML An Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith (1776) — Classical economics that shaped the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
  9. Remote Link - HTML John Stuart Mill — Site dedicated to his works with commentaries, from Eric Hochberger.
  10. Remote Link - HTML On Democracy in America, Alexis de Toqueville (1835, 1840) — Discusses the society that makes republican government work and how it is shaped by that form of government.
  11. Remote Link - HTML Disquisition on Government, John C. Calhoun — Discussed the problem of defending the rights of a minority against a persistent majority.
  12. Remote Link - HTML The Structure of Liberty, Randy E. Barnett — Excerpts from a libertarian approach to law.
  13. Remote Link - HTML Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract, Entry from online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  14. Remote Link - HTML Liberalism, by Ludwig Von Mises. Critique of the dominant political faction in the modern world.
  15. Remote Link - HTML Natural Law and Natural Rights, by James A. Donald. Historical review of the concepts.
  16. Remote Link - HTML Why Freedom? — Debate on social contract theory between Tibor Machan and Jan Narveson at the Independent Institute Conference Center, March 31, 1999.
  17. Remote Link - HTML Works of George Orwell — Includes 1984 and Animal Farm.
  18. Remote Link - HTML Spinoza Website — Collection of the philosophical works of Baruch de Spinoza.
  19. Remote Link - HTML The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, by L. Fletcher Prouty (1997).
  20. Remote Link - HTML Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois and the Rationale for the American Revolution, by Bruce E. Johansen.
  21. Remote Link - HTML The Proceedings of the Friesian School — Collection of academic papers, dedicated to the philosopher Jakob Friedrich Fries (1773-1843).
  22. Remote Link - HTML Lysander Spooner Collection — American political philosopher.

Also see the collections of Liberty Online and James A. Donald.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.
— H. L. Mencken
For every problem there is a solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong."
— Albert Einstein

Political Science

  1. HTML Version Prisoner's Dilemma and Public Choice Theory — Explorations of the conflict between what is rational for the individual and what is rational for the group.
  2. HTML Version Behavioral Economics — Explores the psychological and cognitive factors in economic decisions.
  3. HTML Version Text Version  PDF Version  Remote PDF Version Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems, by Jay Forrester — Classic paper on why public policies produce unintended consequences.
  4. HTML Version Text Version Evolving Complex Networks in Constitutional Republics, by Jon Roland — Examines how changing network structures can reveal how political and economic processes behave and misbehave.
  5. HTML Version Chaos and Constitutions, by Jon Roland — Examines how the behavior of societies can only be managed in small ways and without reliable outcomes.
  6. Blogger post Metagaming for Constitutional Design — Toward constitution-writing programs that may generate better constitutions than conventions of human beings can design.
  7. Remote HTML Version Pynthantics — The art and science of asking questions to get useful answers.
Home
Original URL: http://www.constitution.org/cs_basic.htm
Maintained: Jon Roland of the Constitution Society
Original date: 1995/09/25 — 


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