“The Forms and Formalities of Liberty”

Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., "The Forms and Formalities of Liberty" The Public Interest 70 (1983), 121-131.


“The populism I have described as aggressive informality is fundamentally opposed to constitutionalism, which promotes respect for forms above all. Governing in a constitutional manner is governing regularly, that is, formally. Locke wrote that the “form of government” (which we may take for the constitution) depends on where the legislative power is placed; and the legislative power must be supreme so that government can be by “settled, standing laws” and “stated rules.” Such government is opposed to the rule by the arbitrary will of one, few, or many. This dissatisfies our populist informality today because it elevates the form of government over the end.”

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