Throughout the Republican presidential primaries, the candidates have continually expressed ideas that reveal much about how they regard not just themselves, but the nature of America generally and the office of the presidency in particular. There is no better example of this trend than a brief but intense exchange which transpired between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum during the debate in New Hampshire on January 7.
Romney, as everyone by now knows, spares no occasion to tout his experience as a successful businessman. When he again brought up his business acumen in New Hampshire, Santorum correctly noted that a successful businessman does not a good President make. The former Senator of Pennsylvania then went on to say, incorrectly, that what America needs in her President is a real “leader.”
Confusion abounds among both the political and voting classes as to the character of the American presidency. This confusion, in turn, is a function of confusion regarding the character of America itself.
Every type of human relationship is an association of some sort or other. What we call a “state,” then, is a kind of association. As the English conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott observed, from reflection on the various ways in which the state has been conceived since its emergence from the late medieval era nearly five centuries ago, two “tolerably distinct” models emerge: A state has been conceived as either a “civil association” or an “enterprise association.”
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Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. (photo)