January 11, 2015

PATRIOT MAKER:

Walter Berns, 1919-2015  (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 1/10/15, Weekly Standard)

[T]hose who want to learn more about Walter may wish to visit the website dedicated to his work, walterberns.org. Walter's student and then friend and colleague Jeremy Rabkin wrote the introduction to the website:

Walter Berns was a student of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. Like a number of Strauss students of that era--notably, Martin Diamond, Harry Jaffa, and Herbert Storing--his work sought to apply the perspective of classical political philosophy to the study of American government and politics.

Almost all of Berns' important publications reflect his appreciation of the classical view that "government" and "society" cannot be sharply separated. Both are closely related aspects of a political community's "way of life." Much of his writing reflects the classical view that democracy depends on the character of the citizens, so their opinions and beliefs, their personal habits and degree of self-discipline--in a word, their virtues--will matter to the prospects of democratic government.

But Berns also acknowledged--indeed, often emphasized--that early modern thinkers (notably Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith) had tried to place politics on a new foundation and the American Founders largely embraced the new approach, with its promise of reducing religious conflict and enlarging opportunities for the creation of wealth. With his primary focus on constitutional law, Berns emphasized the challenge of limited government in an era that had become impatient with limits and confused about their purposes.


We reviewed his Making Patriots.  Brian Lamb interviewed him for Booknotes.

Posted by at January 11, 2015 8:34 AM
  

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