Starting Points

At Starting Points, we take the long view of American politics. Non-partisan and interdisciplinary, we aim to understand American politics by looking before and beyond our current political situation—before to the historical, cultural and intellectual roots of American politics, and beyond to the overarching ideas and guiding ideals of our unique political tradition.

LATEST ARTICLES

Symposium on Alexander Hamilton’s Legacy
May 17, 2018 by Quinn Carolan, Jack Sauter, and Wilfredo Najarro
- Hamilton is often sidelined in favor of other founders such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The Tocqueville Forum students featured here reconsider Hamilton’s legacy, aided by careful reading of Hamilton’s own writings.
A Practical Solution to the Death of the American Dream
May 10, 2018 by Pamela Larkin
- Has slowing class mobility caused the shift in American culture away from the traditional "American Dream"? Or has this shift in American culture caused slowing class mobility?
Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire
May 7, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Jennifer Pitts about her recent book, Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire
The Election of 1940
April 30, 2018 by John W. Jeffries
- While the war in Europe played a significant role in the parties’ nominations for the presidential election of 1940, it had a relatively small part, and less than is usually understood, in voting.
Equal Recognition: the Moral Foundations of Minority Rights
April 23, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Alan Patten about his recent book, Equal Recognition: the Moral Foundations of Minority Rights
Should Pornography that Patently Objectifies Women be Banned?
April 12, 2018 by Jared Kelly
- The debate around banning pornography that objectifies women fractured the feminist movement. Future attempts to outlaw pornography will follow the precedent set forth in Osbourne v. Ohio and attempt to ban pornography in order to protect public health and safety.
Defending Rorty: Author Interview with William Curtis
April 9, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with William Curtis about his new book, Defending Rorty: Pragmatism and Liberal Virtue
Congress in the Light of History
March 26, 2018 by David R. Mayhew
- What should we expect of a separation-of-powers regime interlaced with tough checks and balances? What should we expect of a legislature representing a heterogeneous public that seems to be growing more heterogeneous, not to mention more fractious, all the time? To think about these matters, it may pay to reach for historical perspective.
Bionic Wings
March 21, 2018 by Jacob Bruggeman
- “NOW!” screams Transhumanism—obsessed like Gatsby—refusing to take heed of others’ objections and so many warnings in the canon of science fiction and the timelessness of Murphy’s Law.
Supreme Court Expansion of Presidential Power: Unconstitutional Leanings
March 19, 2018 by Louis Fisher
- Starting with the Curtiss-Wright decision in 1936 and carrying forward to Zivotofsky v. Kerry in 2015, the Supreme Court has resorted to erroneous dicta and deference to promote independent executive power in external affairs. These judicial misconstructions have done severe damage to basic constitutional principles, including checks and balances and self-government.
Gaming the Framing: A New Way to Teach the Constitutional Convention
March 12, 2018 by John Patrick Coby
- Why study the Constitution through the medium of role-play? Students playing roles will better appreciate the difficulties of framing a constitution and better understand what was at stake and what was possible for the delegates who gathered in Philadelphia—better than if they simply heard or read about the event.
Ryan Anderson and the Continuing Challenge to Religious Liberty
March 5, 2018 by Scott Yenor
- The rubber for the marriage movement will meet the road on the issue of religious liberty. By conceding to “social harm” and “social meaning” arguments, Anderson and Girgis make it more difficult to defend religious liberty against anti-discrimination laws.
What Does “all men are created equal” Mean?
February 26, 2018 by Morgan Keith
- Two students from the University of Missouri take on this question at a time when many young people struggle with the promise of America juxtaposed against issues of institutional discrimination.
What Does “all men are created equal” Mean?
February 26, 2018 by Mackinlee Rogers
- Two students from the University of Missouri take on this question at a time when many young people struggle with the promise of America juxtaposed against issues of institutional discrimination.
Imagining a Federative Legislative Power
February 19, 2018 by Mariah Zeisberg
- To be rendered coherent in an age of US hegemony, the logic of our constitutional order calls for a legislative federative institution, through which the perspectives of domestic and foreign audiences can be considered in dialogue, and which can shape the way US power is projected abroad.
The Role of Christianity in Hobbes’s Political Project
February 15, 2018 by David Soper
- For Hobbes, religion is not inherently beneficial for society. Instead, good theology is required in order to make religion useful.
Common Core: Author Interview with Nicholas Tampio
February 12, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Nicholas Tampio about his new book, Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy
Nietzsche’s Final Teaching: Author Interview with Michael Gillespie
January 29, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Michael Gillespie about his new book, Nietzsche's Final Teaching
The Problem of the West[ern]
January 18, 2018 by Kiley Duhn
- Three great Western films—Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and the contemporary No Country for Old Men—delve deep into the American psyche and make a broad claim that the American way of mixing freedom and rule is inherently flawed.
Lessons from the Madness of Diogenes and John Brown
January 15, 2018 by Mark Benton
- Our politics has problems. There must be a way to bring the steadfastness of a Diogenes or a John Brown into public discourse uncompromised, but in a way that is also palatable to those who turn away from the words of someone so unusual.
Teachers of the People: Author Interview with Dana Villa
January 8, 2018 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Dana Villa about his new book, Teachers of the People: Political Education in Rousseau, Hegel, Tocqueville, and Mill
Does History Make Sense? Author Interview with Terry Pinkard
December 18, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Terry Pinkard about his new book, Does History Make Sense?: Hegel on the Historical Shapes of Justice
Neoliberal Evolution of the Space Exploration Industry in Relation to the Tech Industry
December 14, 2017 by William A. Preecs
- Ingenuity is a part of the American character. As Americans, we must reflect on the mistakes of our past in the evolution of Tech to best approach the coming evolution of the space exploration industry.
Gerrymandering and Gill in Constitutional Perspective
December 11, 2017 by Jay Dow
- Gerrymandering is as old as the republic itself. The siren call of court intervention is attractive but will eventually make the court just another political actor. A better solution to gerrymandering is smaller legislatures.
Are Intellectual Property Rights Moral?
December 4, 2017 by Gunnar Gundersen
- The case is hard for those challenging intellectual property. There is no coherent basis for a right to enjoy the creations of others without the compensation of or consent of their creator.
What’s New
November 20, 2017 by Starting Points
- What’s New will be a gateway for readers to learn and benefit from the accumulated wisdom of the excellent scholars working to further our collective understanding of the American political tradition.
Anti-Hispanic Sentiment and U.S.-Mexican Relations
November 16, 2017 by Jessica DellAquila
- The essay examines the racism present in the foundational period of foreign relations between the United States and Mexico that occurred between the 1840s and 1850s, seeking to show parallels between the racist rhetoric and policy of the foundational period of U.S.-Mexico relations and today.
Historical Records and Historical Narratives about the Constitutional Convention
November 13, 2017 by Lynn Uzzell
- It is both prudent and just to question the reliability of the records we use when forming our historical narratives. But it is no less prudent to question the wisdom of forming constitutional narratives that seek to replace the historical records with the historian’s speculations.
Is the Administrative State Legitimate?
October 30, 2017 by Joseph Postell and Jennifer Selin
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring Joseph Postell and Jennifer Selin
Do We Need A Compass?
October 16, 2017 by Andrea Radasanu
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring the founding editor of Compass, Andrea Radasanu
In God We Trust: Reconciling Religiosity in a Secular Nation
October 12, 2017 by Tess Saperstein
- The recent evolution of the Religious Right underscores the value that most Americans place on the separation of church and state. Religion is able to influence American politics only insofar as it reflects the expression of individual political opinions as motivated by religious belief.
Montesquieu and Despotism: Author Interview with Vickie Sullivan
October 9, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Vickie Sullivan about her new book, Montesquieu and the Despotic Ideas of Europe
Exit Left: Author Interview with Robert S. Taylor
October 2, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Robert S. Taylor about his new book, Exit Left
Free Time: Author Interview with Julie Rose
September 25, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Julie Rose about her new book, Free Time
What Did the Constitutional Convention Do with Slavery?
September 17, 2017 by Mary Sarah Bilder
- A Starting Points Constitution Day Conversation featuring Mary Sarah Bilder, author of Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention.
Living the Natural Law in an Age of Natural Rights
September 11, 2017 by Douglas Kries
- The natural law has much to contribute to our rights-focused political discourse. Three strategies can help those committed to the natural law to bring this contribution to bear in our time.
Do We Need a Natural Law Theory of the State?
September 4, 2017 by Lee Ward
- Is natural law equipped to ground a normative theory of the liberal democratic state in this era of the great struggle between globalization and its opponents?
Natural Justice and the Amistad
August 28, 2017 by Justin Dyer
- John Quincy Adams’ oral argument in the Amistad case is notable for its explicit appeal to the authority of the Declaration of Independence and to the practical political relevance of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Executive Exoneration to Congressional Clemency
August 21, 2017 by Edward Green
- The presidential pardoning power is valuable, but it must be circumscribed to a much greater extent than it currently is if it is to continue to have a positive effect on the governmental system of the United States.
Author Interview with Mark Alznauer
August 12, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Mark Alznauer about his new book, Hegel's Theory of Responsibility
Trump’s Twist on Identity Politics
August 7, 2017 by James F. Pontuso
- Trump has been successful with his base because he has given voice to those who feel like victims for being patriots.
Feminism, Transgenderism and the Politics of Identity
July 31, 2017 by Scott Yenor
- Following the logic of the feminist revolution toward its embrace of transgender rights provides insights into its unpredictable character.
The Career of American Feminism and its Rolling Revolution
July 24, 2017 by Scott Yenor
- The success of the second-wave feminist project requires a fundamental revolution in society’s mores and institutions. This revolution is closely connected with Dewey’s progressive political project.
Author Interview with Peter Steinberger
July 17, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Peter Steinberger about his new book, The Politics of Objectivity
Author Interview with Steven Smith
July 10, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Steven Smith about his new book, Modernity and Its Discontents
From the Editor: The Declaration of Independence and the History of Ideas
July 4, 2017 by S. Adam Seagrave
- The Declaration echoed the united voices of the ancients and moderns on the idea of nature’s relevance for politics, and highlighted the constructive character of preceding European political thought.
Author Interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley
July 3, 2017 by The Political Theory Review
- A Political Theory Review interview with Ryan Patrick Hanley about his new book, Love's Enlightenment: Rethinking Charity in Modernity
Plutocrats and Demagogues: The Prophetic Warning of Montesquieu
June 26, 2017 by Nicholas W. Drummond
- The French political thinker Baron de Montesquieu predicted the divisiveness of our current political climate. He also anticipated the two major threats likely to emerge in large democratic republics like the United States: plutocrats and tyrant demagogues.
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part II
June 19, 2017 by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman
James Madison: Politician or Political Theorist? Part I
June 12, 2017 by James H. Read and Kevin R. C. Gutzman
- A Starting Points Conversation featuring James Read and Kevin Gutzman

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