Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Montesquieu is amazingly merry to read, in his "The Spirit of the Laws."

I think it's because he was doing his life work, writing this book, after tons and years of research, and doing it well.

Montesquieu, for a person living inside the USA political system, is a jolly, smart grandpa. He's the balance of powers guy, the fellow who thought much and wrote clearly about how different parts of government could check and balance each other, and people in general could have liberty because of government containing itself from within.

"The Spirit of the Laws" was published in the mid-1750's. The US Constitution was made in the late 1780's. Monstesquieu's writing, which is wondrous easy to read for what it is, was in fact read by and influential on the constitution makers of here.

I think one reason he was having fun is that he really accepted human nature. He didn't expect human nature to change.

But he'd studied republics of history and thought that focus on checks and balances could improve the republic form. It would use people's drive for power for their team as a way of containing the drive for power of other government teams, and having it be so government could get it work done but not squash people.

The way balance of powers was written in the US Constitution and plays out on a daily basis wasn't was he envisioned it in detail, and in some ways, in general. But his ideas about what balance of powers was for, the spirit of it, in fact, lives on in daily basis in sober governemnt offices that are contained by other government offices from going to far.

I think it's fun to read Montesquieu not just because of his vast historic importance--credit where credit is due--but because he was so happy about dealing with the way actual humans are and happily sure that a way could be worked out the work with what humans actually are and get a good result--a better result, in fact, than had ever existed before.

It's like an antedote to utopian thinking, which can be dangerous, to read him. We humans, as is, can do much better if we think wisely and design our rules well.