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A Disquisition on Government
A Disquisition on Government
A Disquisition on Government
Audiobook3 hours

A Disquisition on Government

Written by John C. Calhoun

Narrated by Mel Foster

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

Written between 1843 and 1848, John C. Calhoun's A Disquisition on Government addresses such diverse issues as states' rights and nullification, slavery, and the growth of the federal judicial power. Articulating Calhoun's perspective on government as seen from the point of view of a permanent minority (the South), A Disquisition on Government relies on the doctrine of a concurrent majority. Calhoun's concurrent majority captures the idea that because unchecked majority rule can lead to tyranny over minority interests, minority groups should possess veto power government actions that affect them. Although Calhoun primarily intended this doctrine as a justification for slavery, the broader idea of a concurrent majority as a protection for minority rights has since become a pillar of American political thought.
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateDec 26, 2011

John C. Calhoun

At 78, John C. Calhoun has decided to write the story of his life. He’s married to Jewell for 55 years. He has four grown children and ten grandchildren. Having worked in nineteen jobs in twenty five states, he is now retired and lives in Powell, Tennessee. Th e author of two previous books, “Th e Fullness of Time” and “Reluctant Empire”, he enjoys woodworking, singing, and writing. Being a born storyteller, he has quite a bit to tell.

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    The consummation of all political theory, Calhoun's argument for the "concurrent majority"--formed when all the diverse and competing interests in a nation must agree to any policy moves--has lasting value in an age of increasing reliance on pure numerical majorities. Calhoun argued that governments are in place to restrain men and that "organisms" are placed on governments in enlightened nations to restrain the governments themselves, which must be done because they are run by men, who are as imperfect in positions of power as they are otherwise. The "organism," in our case known as the Constitution, is meant to prevent governments from asserting absolute rule, and, as Calhoun shows, when a pure numerical majority is all that is necessary to implement policies, the government is nothing short of absolute. Calhoun sharply argues that even though many supposed "friends" of good governance will clamor for purer, more simply numerical democracy as a solution to bad outcomes, they hurt society rather than help it by so doing.Calhoun clearly was heavily influenced by Aristotle and Adam Smith, and his sophistication and perceptiveness stems from them. His argument is deep and nuanced, and shows complete command of the subject matter. What's unfortunate is that, because many members of Congress at the time from his region were labelled "Calhounites," Calhoun is best remembered as a Southern hypocrite, favoring plantation chattel-slavery and clamoring for more democracy. This is because Calhoun resisted the majority under Andrew Jackson's administration and because thirty years later people from the same region resisted the majority under Lincoln. It also stems from the fact that Jefferson Davis, who led the Confederacy in the 1860s, was Secretary of War, just as Calhoun had been, but that's an extraordinarily weak link. This is not logic at its finest. By imposing modern norms and mores onto him, and by imposing modern logic (which is much worse, since that's a total oxymoron), we miss the depth and range of insight he provides, and we also draw false historical conclusions; many of those same Southerners were not individuals he had any respect for or intimate connection with. Modern readers tend not to understand Calhoun, but that's a product of their own educational shortcomings and not of the strength or weakness of Calhoun's political philosophy.I would argue that this text trumps all of the great works of political theory--Plato and Aristotle and Machiavelli and Hobbes and Milton and Locke and Montesquieu and Burke and The Federalist and so on--and, in 80 pages, makes the strongest possible case for respecting the Constitution as it was set up. I've read all of them. I've read Acton and Weber and Marx and Hayek and Spinoza and Descartes and Montaigne and Bacon and Thucydides and Livy and Gibbon as well. Calhoun's the best and ought to be treated as such, though with the caveat that he is terrible with comma splices.And for anyone to give this book one star is comical.

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