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A Constitution in Full: Recovering the Unwritten Foundation of American Liberty, Peter Augustine Lawler and Richard M. Reinsch II

Reviewed by Adam Carrington

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Our body politic is sick. So say Peter Augustine Lawler and Richard M. Reinsch II, in their joint book published after the former’s untimely death. These men describe America’s intense divisions as a “contest between progressivism and simple-minded individualism.” They contend that these ills, though competing for supremacy, spring from a common origin: liberalism.

In particular, they pinpoint liberalism’s pernicious, individualistic anthropology, one that perceives humans as unbound by nature or by cultural institutions such as religion and the family. Lawler and Reinsch trace the disease in part to John Locke, the English political thinker whose beliefs they tie closely to the Declaration of Independence. Lockean man begins in a state of nature, prior to political community, and therein possesses inherent, natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Through a social contract, he forms a government to protect these natural rights. Lockean man, by Lawler and Reinsch’s lights, at once is apolitical and asocial. Thus, most constraints on individuals stemming from political and social institutions are inherently suspect, if not outright illegitimate.

This philosophy obviously connects to libertarian economic thought and its commitment to the free market. Yet Lawler and Reinsch trace contemporary progressivism&rsquo

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