[BOOKS] F.H. Buckley: ‘The Presidency Has Turned Into an Elective Monarchy’

“Presidentialism is significantly and strongly correlated with less political freedom.”

The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in Americabuckleybook by F.H. Buckley, Encounter Books, 2014, 319 pages, $27.99.

For Reason writes: Try making sense out of what Americans tell pollsters. According to the Pew Research Centerfewer than one in five of us trusts the federal government. Gallup says that nearly three quarters of us consider it “the biggest threat to the country in the future.”

[Check out Buckley’s book “The Once and Future King” at Amazon.com]

Yet by equally overwhelming margins, Gallup shows Americans agreeing that “the United States has a unique character because of its history and Constitution that sets it apart from other nations as the greatest in the world.”

[Also see Juan Linz‘s 1990 article “The Perils of Presidentialism”]

Apparently, we’re disgusted and frightened by our government as it actually operates. And yet we’re convinced that we’ve got the best system ever devised by the mind of man.

On both counts, no one’s more convinced than American conservatives. Few goquite as far toward constitutional idolatry as former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who earlier this year proclaimed that God “wrote the Constitution.” But the superiority of our national charter, with its separation of powers and independently elected national executive, is an article of faith for conservatives.

It’s about time for some constitutional impiety on the right, and F.H. Buckley answers the call in his bracing and important new book, The Once and Future King. Buckley, a professor of law at George Mason University and a senior editor at The American Spectator, is unmistakably conservative. But that doesn’t stop him from pointing out that America’s not so all-fired exceptional—or from arguing that our Constitution has made key contributions to our national decline.

In the conventional narrative, Buckley writes, “our thanks [must] go to the Framers, who gave the country a presidential system that secured the blessings of liberty.” A “nice story,” he says, but one that “lacks the added advantage of accuracy.”

First off, we’re hardly “the freest country in the world.” As Buckley points out, his native Canada beats the United States handily on most cross-country comparisons of political and economic liberty. In the latest edition of the Cato Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World rankings, for example, we’re number 17 and we don’t try harder. Meanwhile, as Buckley points out, the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s “Democracy Index” ranks us as the 19th healthiest democracy in the world, “behind a group of mostly parliamentary countries, and not very far ahead of the ‘flawed democracies.'”

There’s a lesson there, Buckley argues…(read more)

Reason.com


One Comment on “[BOOKS] F.H. Buckley: ‘The Presidency Has Turned Into an Elective Monarchy’”

  1. […] By Pundit from another Planet “Presidentialism is significantly and strongly correlated with less political freedom.” The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America by F.H. Buckley, Encounter Books, 2014, 319 pages, $27.99. For Reason, Gene Healy writes: Try making sense out of what Americans tell pollsters. According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than one in five of us trusts the federal […] Like this? Read more and get your own subscription at […]


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