Michael Knowles: “Free speech cannot be an open plain; nor can it be a jungle; it must be a delicately manicured garden."
Corporate rights was not a spontaneous development but the result of a sort of corporate civil-rights movement. Through litigation (generally well-financed) over two centuries, various corporations won decisions by which corporations evolved from government-created artificial persons, not even mentioned by name in the Constitution, into entities possessed of many of the same constitutional rights as flesh-and-blood human beings.
We justify our choices as the price of innovation, of progress, of efficiency. We tell ourselves we can’t afford to do anything else. We even tell ourselves it’s for the children. And so we bankrupt our posterity so we can eat, drink, and be merry. It’s a nice life for those who get to live it, but it’s not reproducible.
The Lincoln that Schaff puts forth cultivated liberal democracy by placing limits and crafting public consensus. In order to see Lincoln in a new light, Schaff applies Aristotle’s ideas of moderation and prudence as his lens. It is not simply that Lincoln knew the good, but, as a good steward of liberal democracy, he embodied the good.
What would be helpful is a book that acknowledge both sets of trends and moves beyond name-calling to begin the hard work of engaging in the tensions and trade-offs between them. Beneficial too would be a clear-eyed encounter with the fact that measures of human happiness and fulfillment have not skyrocketed along with our greater health and wealth. People need more than just more stuff.