Constitution 201: The Transformation of America’s Political Institutions

This lesson is taught by Dr. Kevin Portteus, Associate Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, and faculty advisor for Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program.  Dr. Portteus teaches courses in American political thought, and American political institutions.  He is also a visiting graduate faculty member at Ashland University.  Dr. Portteus’ book, Executive Details:  Public Administration and American Constitutionalism, is under review for publication.  He received his BA from Ashland University, his MA and PhD in Politics from the University of Dallas.  Those interested in seeing and hearing this lecture, or any of the others in the series, may register at constitution.hillsdale.edu.  There is no fee. Progressives divide government into two essential parts:  Politics, which is representation of the will of the people; and Administration, which is the development and implementation of civic policies and programs.  When we are taught about the Progressive Era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in our high school history classes, there is focus on Progressive reforms that made government more directly representative:  direct election of senators; initiatives and referendums; and party primaries.  This brought politics closer to the people and improved their ability to express their will for change—especially progressive changes beyond Constitutional limitations.  Yet, Progressives’ more important contribution to American government was the concept of the administrative state, where bureaucrats, relatively free from political control, would ply their specialized expertise in the implementation of that popular will.  The Progressive vision was a politics of broad social policy (“We want clean water and air!”), resulting in declarations of objectives from representative government (a Clean Air and Clean Water Act specifying the broad objectives and not much...

As 2012 Comes To An End, The World Has Never Been Better

There’s an urban legend besetting the urbane that capitalism is a system of privilege designed for the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world.  Not so.  Capitalism works at least as well for us Bob Cratchits as it does for misers, probably better.  Capitalism is the only proven mechanism by which the workers of the world may unite to lose their chains. The big picture is set out in a recent article in the UK’s The Spectator, a magazine that bills itself, modestly yet with a sterling claim, as “the best-written and most entertaining magazine in the English language.”  (Exception: apparently these blokes haven’t been reading Forbes but let us not quibble.)  Its Why 2012 was the best year ever observes: “It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.” This world scoop lays out paragraph after paragraph of impressive evidence for its thesis.  One of the most compelling points: In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was...