First Principles Journal

  • Rethinking What Universities Teach
    First Principles Journal on July 1, 2012

    1951 a young William F. Buckley Jr. wrote God and Man at Yale, showing where Yale was failing as a university. More than sixty years later, the situation is even worse—and not only at Yale…


  • The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet's Prescience
    First Principles Journal on January 29, 2012

    “Conservatives are cracking open Atlas Shrugged and shouting about socialism, but they seem to have lost the appetite for thinking through the problem of community in an individualistic age—which is, of course, precisely the problem that make socialism so appealing in the first place.” . . . Ross Douthat on The Quest for Community.


  • The Meaning of America
    First Principles Journal on July 4, 2011

     by Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass - 07/05/11

     What are the principles of the American Founding, and how can those principles be concretely applied today? Answering those questions is a central concern for ISI as it is for the editors of the new ISI book What So Proudly We Hail. In this short video, Leon and Amy Kass share reasons why they and Diana Schaub compiled What So Proudly We Hail, and the unique power of stories to address “the sentiments, the moral imaginations, the characters, the hopes and aspirations” of American citizens.


  • Humane Economics
    First Principles Journal on June 30, 2011
    Andrew Abela - 07/01/11

    John Médaille is an experienced business manager with a graduate degree in theology and a passion for distributism, the economic system proposed by Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton that promotes widely dispersed property ownership. His book Toward a Truly Free Market, which is being released this month in paperback, is an ambitious attempt to present an exposition and defense of distributist economic theory. While it is expressly “not the great tome that distributist political economy deserves,” its nineteen chapters cover a very extensive scope.

    The first two chapters set up the main thrust of the book, which is to demonstrate the important insight that distributism, unlike alternative theories, is an economic “theory that combines both justice and freedom.” Chapters three to five explore whether political economy should be considered a science, and whether we have a correct understanding of our current economic malaise. Here Médaille makes a most notable point, that “those who wish to scale back the extent of government involvement in the economy must first analyze the failures in the economy that make heavy government involvement necessary.” The central failure, explains Médaille, is the lack of justice.

    In chapter six, he makes the case for the necessity of justice for political economy. Here, he provides a very forceful criticism of contemporary economic theory, which, “lacking a coherent notion of distributive justice, is not, and cannot be, a complete description of an actual economy.” This is why our economic theory fails us so often: “Clearly, you cannot accurately predict the behavior of a system you cannot accurately describe.” In chapters seven to nine, he extends his criticism of economic theory by exploring, in turn, what he refers to as the “fictitious commodities” of money, labor, and land.

    The next four chapters explore in turn: property, just wages, taxation, and government. In chapter fourteen, he explains the harmful impact of the costs of big government on the economy, and proposes ways in which distributism could lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost of government, including eliminating agricultural and transportation subsidies and abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. The next three chapters provide suggestions for changes to taxation, industrial policy, and health care, while chapter eighteen attempts to show that distributism can work in practice, by profiling four cases: the Mondragon cooperative, the Emilia-Romagna regional economy, the Taiwanese “Land to the Tiller” program of the 1950s and 1960s, and Springfield ReManufacturing Corp, an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) company. In the final chapter Médaille makes Philip Blond’s political agenda his own: to remoralize the market, relocalize the economy, and recapitalize the poor. To this, Médaille adds a fourth point: to reinvigorate and relocalize the political order.

    Toward a Truly Free Market is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning more about distributism, and what the theory could contribute to current economic debate. The book is “intended to give the nonspecialist reader the intellectual arms and armor necessary to enter the [economic] debate on more equal terms.” Its success in achieving this intent, however, and in appealing to an audience wider than committed distributists, is limited by a number of serious flaws.


  • Legendary Teachers and Real Education
    First Principles Journal on April 27, 2011

    by Peter Augustine Lawler
    A fine feature of REAL EDUCATION by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus is its sensitive and altogether unideological treatment of professors who become legends.


  • Rethinking Calhoun
    First Principles Journal on April 3, 2011

    Calhoun, following Thomas Jefferson’s “Kentucky Resolutions” and James Madison’s “Virginia Resolutions” of 1798, pointed out that American federalism had an apparent flaw. The federal government could not be the final judge of its own powers.


  • Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy
    First Principles Journal on March 2, 2011

    In a penetrating essay dating from 1948, the Hungarian political philosopher Aurel Kolnai wrote that in our time, a balanced defense of liberty should aim “to displace the spiritual stress from the ‘common man’ aspect of Democracy to its aspect of constitutionalism and of moral continuity with the high tradition of Antiquity, Christendom, and the half-surviving Liberal cultures of yesterday.”


  • Tocqueville on Aristocratic Indians and Southerners
    First Principles Journal on January 25, 2011

    by Peter Augustine Lawler
    On Tocqueville's assessment of the aristocratic elements of America at the time: the Indians and Southerners.


  • Libertarians: The Chirping Sectaries
    First Principles Journal on January 20, 2011

    by Russell Kirk
    Russell Kirk on Libertarians


  • Burke and the American Tradition of Ordered Liberty
    First Principles Journal on December 27, 2010

    Crowe focuses on Burke, his life and formation, along with the notion of ordered liberty


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First Principles is the online journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute where college and university faculty and students as well as those interested in ideas can find original content and archival material on American intellectual conservatism.

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