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.


Moving Beyond American Conditional Aid to Haiti
August 16, 2018 Chang-Dae David Hyun

A root cause of Haiti’s poverty is the IMF’s structural adjustment plan. A solution based on Chinese aid, unlike neo-liberal policies, allows Haiti to protect its rice and other industries.

Constitutional Individualism: The Ninth Amendment and the “Natural Rights of Man”
July 19, 2018 Lucas Benjamin Drill

The Ninth Amendment is not a one-off historical anachronism aimed at protecting nonexistent rights. Instead, it should be construed by the courts as a bulwark against undue governmental interference in people’s private lives.

Dante’s Philosophical Life: Author Interview with Paul Stern
July 9, 2018 Starting Points

A Political Theory Review interview with Paul Stern about his new book, Dante’s Philosophical Life: Politics and Human Wisdom in Purgatorio

Henry Clay and the Spirit of Compromise
July 1, 2018 Samuel Postell

Henry Clay attempted to render compromise a political virtue. In a time of weak parties, sectional strife, and agitation from abroad, Clay understood that the Speaker of The House needed to appeal to Republicans and Federalists alike if he wished to unify coalitions and pass substantive policy to affirm American independence, facilitate self-government, and urge ...

Tocqueville and the Earthbound American Spirit
June 21, 2018 Starting Points

This article assesses the gulf between Tocqueville’s claim that human beings have naturally transcendent souls and his observations of the democratic souls of Americans.

Why Honor Matters
June 17, 2018 The Political Theory Review

A Political Theory Review interview with Tamler Sommers, Associate Professor of Philosophy at The University of Houston, about his recent book, Why Honor Matters

Why Won’t Free Speech Save Us?
June 11, 2018 Bruce Ledewitz

Ross Douthat wrote a May 27 column for The New York Times provocatively titled, Free Speech Will Not Save Us. The columnist was casting doubt on the argument that the best way to cure political polarization is with renewed respect for the right of people to speak.

The Founders on Race and the Rational Basis of Natural Law: Reply to Peter Myers
June 4, 2018 Thomas G. West

For the founders, the social compact is based on equal consent on both sides. Existing citizens should consent to new citizens, just as new citizens should consent before being admitted to citizenship.

Author Meets Critics: Thomas G. West’s The Political Theory of the American Founding
June 4, 2018 S. Adam Seagrave

The parochialism implied by the title of West’s book and reflected in much of its content contrasts with the universality of the founders’ rhetoric and with the timelessly applicable ideas of natural rights and the natural law.

Author Meets Critics: Thomas G. West’s The Political Theory of the American Founding
June 4, 2018 Peter C. Myers

The great contribution of West’s book is to bolster the argument that the founders are a formidable group, not only in their political prudence but also in their claim to genuine moral and political wisdom.