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Philosophy of the United States: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Philosophy of the United States: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
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Index , Notes , Bibliography , Appendix
$19.95 (19.95)

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The United States has become a major world power. Once admired as a model of democracy and a hope for refugees everywhere, today it often appears as a self-absorbed bully to the rest of the world. Is the United States government a democracy or the nerve center of a world empire controlled by the wealthy? Is its foreign policy the will of the people or entirely aloof from that will?

Philosophy of the United States examines history of the United States in terms of the vision its founders had and the constitution they devised to provide a framework for its citizens to pursue life, liberty and happiness. In shows important areas where the constitution has worked, where it has been ineffective, where it has been changed, and why the United States today suffers problems of legitimacy like other ancient empires as they aged.

This is an excellent book for anyone wanting a basic knowledge of the purposes and consequences, and strengths and weaknesses, of the American Experiment and how it fits in history—the broad overview.

"An absorbing, informative discussion of fundamental ideals, intended for intermediate students but accessible to any lay reader who wants to do some thinking about the basic principles of the American nation." —The Bookwatch, The Midwest Book Review

"…explores the history and political necessity of a philosophical undergirding for the rule of law and international affairs of the United States. It is not a "how to" book but more of "what" and "why" book. What is the ethical and religious basis of the country? Why is political philosophy important?

'The peace and order of any society require that the government be viewed as legitimate. Legitimacy implies that the citizens view the government as good, fair, and trustworthy. Legitimacy is moral, not legal' (p. 246).

Its thesis shows that many people are still not persuaded by the socially prevalent idea of "procedural liberalism" (e.g., John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, 1971), which contends that strong and public ethical and religious commitments undermine democracy."
—Journal of Church and State, Summer 2005

“With unusual scope and clarity, Anderson explores key moments in the development of Western civilization and the distinctively American qualities it presently embodies. With penetrating insight and constructive criticism, the book charts a course that the United States is well advised to follow if it is to live out the best meanings of its creed.”
—John K. Roth, Edward J. Sexton Professor of Philosophy and Director, The Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights, Claremont McKenna College

"...this is an informative and challenging book on the relationship between religion, philosophy and government that discusses all the right issues about which we should think and debate."
—Morton A. Kaplan, Distinguished Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of Chicago and publisher of The World & I

From the February 2005 issue of CHOICE:
Taking the events of September 11, 2001, as a call for reflection on the philosophy of the United States, Anderson provides a political history focusing on the founders' vision for the new nation and how the US has increasingly diverged from those ideas. This book compares the current economic and political power of the US to that of Babylon and Rome and concludes that America's pursuit of national self-interest since WW II has little to do with the nation's original aims. Some of the most interesting parts of Anderson's account concern radical changes in attitudes toward business corporations; corporations moved from being objects of suspicion and scorn at the nation's founding to being "persons" worthy of equal protection under the law by 1886. Anderson denies that the US is a "faith-based" society in the contemporary sense. He argues that early American civil religion entailed only that a transcendent deity endowed all with equality and a desire to pursue happiness. The book is highly critical of federal involvement in education and the welfare state. For Anderson, the best vision for the US lies in the tenets that guided its founders. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and general readers.
—J. A. Gauthier, University of Portland

"Philosophy of the United States is a most timely call for the reassessment and streamlining of the workings of America's system of justice, which has been increasingly questioned and maligned in recent times. As former counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, a constitutional and criminal lawyer, and an advisor to the Haitian, Philippine, South African and several other constitutional drafters, I have found few concise analyses and explications of this country's legal and constitutional machinery to share with those seeking to draw inspiration from the United States experience. Anderson's book clearly presents and outlines the fundamental questions that must be addressed by any constitutional democracy in the twenty-first century. If democracy is not only to survive but is to flourish it is incumbent upon citizens of all nations to understand the issues which Anderson articulates and advances so very well."
— Nicholas N. Kittrie, University Professor, Washington College of Law and author, The Future of Peace in the Twenty-First Century

"Philosophy of the United States provides a clear understanding of the legitimate use of political power. As a former military commander, political advisor, and professor of United States history, I am impressed with the way Anderson discusses our founding fathers’ understanding of human nature. This is important in developing a US foreign policy that provides genuine world leadership. It is imperative that contemporary Americans grapple with the issues he discusses. Any citizen who wants to vote with a broad view of the challenges we face should read this book. It is a call for action"
—Col. Buford Johnson (ret.), professor of political history and senior policy advisor to the Independence Party of Minnesota

“Students, scholars, and lay readers will come away with a new understanding of historical parallels and of the relevance of considering the past for shaping our future. Given the events of September 11, 2001 and the political, economic, and military responses to those events by the government of the United States, I think this is a very important book.”
—Bryan Hilliard, Department of Philosophy, New England College and author of The United States Supreme Court and Medical Ethics

"Perhaps the most valuable features are the comparative analyses of Babylon, Rome and the United States, and the useful incorporation of many relevant historical details into its narrative..."
—Patrick Hayden, Lecturer in Political Theory, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

"Americans in general are lost in terms of where this country came from and what it is about. I was particularly interested in the sections on financial power and globalization which show that Americans have often viewed corporations naively, with critics underestimating their potential for good and supporters ignoring their potential for harm, and often misrepresenting the philosophy of Adam Smith. Anderson provides a non-partisan and balanced framework for understanding the issues the United States faces."
—Kenneth R. Gray, Associate Professor of International Management, Florida A&M University

"Gordon Anderson's book answers a newly recognized need to understand the role of the United States in the modern world. America must discover a new recognition of itself, as its old self-image disappears. Oceans are no longer enough to keep the world's violent problems from our doors. The world we live in today cries for a reassessment of our founding principles. The Philosophy of the United States does this.”
—Frederick Sontag, Department of Philosophy, Pomona College, and author of The American Religious Experience: The Roots, Trends and Future of Theology


1158 bc, 410 ad , September 11, 2001
Challenges to the Foundation of the United States
The Need for Reflection and Leadership
Outline of the Book
Charting a Course

Part I: A Tale of Two Empires
The Rise of Empires on a Foundation of Justice
Ancient Rome
Maintaining the Empires of Babylon and Rome
The Babylonian Empire
Israel Is a Remnant of Babylonian Civilization
The Roman Empire
Thoughts After the Roman Empire : Love, Power, and Justice
Limits to Legitimate Justice
Leadership Qualifications
The Use of Political Power: Machiavelli to Locke
More Reflection on Love, Power, and Justice

Part II: The American Experiment
God, Religion, and the State
God Legitimates the State
Nature's God and Particular Religions
Life, Liberty , and Happiness
No Law Respecting an Establishment of Religion
Cultural Pluralism and National Unity under God in Earlier Societies
Religious Pluralism and National Unity Under God
Religion and National Unity
The Formation of the United States
Failure of the Articles of Confederation
The Constitutional Convention
Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
The Cabinet, the Courts, and the Treasury
State Neutrality in Foreign Affairs
The Government as a Referee
The Private Sector Makes the Citizen, the Government Provides Security
Every Citizen Is a Player
A Game for Farmers, Artisans, and Shopkeepers

Part III: Unplanned Developments
Checks and Balances on Political Power
Checks on the Executive Branch
Checks on the Judicial Branch
Checks Between the Upper and Lower Houses
Payroll and Perks
Legislative Accountability and Transparency
A Fraternity of Lawyers and Judges
Regulating Financial Power
The Colonies Were Foreign Charters
Corporations and Monopolies Not Governed by the US Constitution
Opposition to Corporations before the Civil War
A New Industrial Nation
Philosophical Debates and American Lessons
The Corporation Game in Modern Society
Government in Business
Business in Government
Universal Education
Education in Colonial Society
Early Thoughts on Public Education
English, Citizenship, and Science
Industry vs Taxpayers and the Education of the Poor
Practical vs Classical Education
The Second Great Awakening and a"Christian America"
Horace Mann and the Common Schools
Merger of School Districts and Politicization of Schools
Racial Segregation and Government Involvement
Public vs Private Education
The Proposal for School Vouchers
Civil Religion and Cultural Literacy in the Schools
Increased Federal Involvement in Education
Social Welfare
People Falling Through the Cracks
The Concept of Almshouses
The Great Benevolence Movement
The Rebirth of the Nation
The Social Gospel
Government Involvement in Social Welfare
Depression and the Welfare State
Expansion and Reform of the Welfare State
Health Care
The United States and the World
Foreign Policy in the First Century
The United States as a World Power
The Churches and the World
The League of Nations
Global Banking and Business
Separation of Politics and Economics
Realism and Power Politics
The United Nations
Multinational and Global Corporations
Toward a Philosophy of United States Foreign Policy

Conclusion: Philosophy and Legitimacy of the United States
Legitimacy of the Government
9/11 was a Wake-Up Call
The Role of Government as Economic Referee
Love, Power, and Justice

The Declaration of Independence
The United States Constitution
Amendments to the Constitution

Selected Bibliography

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