Michael van der Galien

The Survival of the Republic and Montesquieu

Posted on January 9 2010 12:30 pm
Michael van der Galien was born in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden in 1984. For as long as he can remember, he has been obsessed with the United States. When he was 17 years old, he started blogging - of course about America. His articles have been published at Big Hollywood, Pajamas Media, Hot Air (the GreenRoom) and Right Across The Atlantic. He's also an editor for the Dutch conservative blog, De Dagelijkse Standaard.
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In earlier posts – here and here – I drew attention to the pre-eminence of Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu in and for a time after the eighteenth century, and I suggested that at least one of the reasons for his pre-eminence is still pertinent today. There are other such reasons, which I addressed at length in Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty and in Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, and they, too, deserve consideration. I will discuss one such here.

Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws is a large book, and it is difficult to know which elements within it are the most salient. There is, however, one passage in which Montesquieu tells us outright that what he is about to say is fundamental to everything else that he says. “I,” he writes near the end of the first of the work’s six parts, “shall be able to be understood only when the next four chapters have been read.” Then, in those four chapters, he argues that forms of government are closely related to the size of the territory that must be governed. Republics are well-suited to polities small in extent; monarchies, to polities of intermediate size; and despotisms to polities great in size.

Much, much more food for thought at Big Government.

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