As the political rhetoric heats up between now and November 2012, it is good to remember that behind our partisan divide over budgets and abortion we are all Americans. But we should also give thought to what that means. In Keeping Our Republic, Principles for a Political Reformation, Matthew Parks and David Corbin, political scientists at The King's College and columnists for WORLDmag.com, remind us that what unites us as Americans-whether we are Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives-and what sets us apart among the nations is our republican form of government. Many countries try to steal moral standing from that noble term by calling themselves republics. The People's Republic of China, for example. But they are stealing honor from freedom to disguise the shame of their tyranny.
According to Parks and Corbin, we are losing our freedom in America and slipping into government as mastery, the government of lords over subjects. On paper, in our Constitution, we have the same republican institutions we have had since 1789 (with important amendments). But in practice we have been surrendering our liberty to a technocratic, administrative state, or what Angelo Codevilla calls "the ruling class."
So Parks and Corbin have given their fellow citizens this little volume to school us in a kind of republicanism 101 with the hope of leading a "political reformation." From the start, they point the finger at the "bipartisan ruling class" that sees itself having "a natural right to command" us, and has been pushing us along "the progressive abandonment of our republican principles." But the authors lay blame also at the feet of ordinary Americans: "[W]e have lost touch with what it means to be a citizen of a republic." The remedy for the current American decline, they argue, is "that we relearn how to think and how to act like republicans."
To help us in our re-education, Parks and Corbin cover our "republican principles" in six chapters that address current political points of division from the standpoint of what ought to be fundamental points of agreement taken from our founding era and founding documents. The titles of most of these chapters come as no surprise-equality, responsibility, justice, lawfulness. But two chapters-honor and prudence-signal the reader that, despite the book's concise simplicity, this is no mere high school civics primer, though it's useful in that role.
As the delegates left Independence Hall at the close to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, someone asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well Doctor, what have we got-a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin's response: "A republic, if you can keep it." He knew that popular government is a delicate institution that depends on a citizenry understanding the principles of liberty and sacrificing the immediate pleasures of self-indulgence for the noble prospect of self-government. This book is for reconstituting citizens who can in turn reclaim their republic and the dignity of their own liberty.