Jefferson is a national icon, and has been from the early years of the American Republic. He is also one of the most enduring figures in intellectual and political history.
But how much do we really know about what he believed? The author of this great new study on Jefferson argues that we know little, due to wild distortions that have been made of Jefferson during the 20th century.
Incredibly, Jefferson has been re-rendered as a kind of proto-New Dealer and statist, or perhaps a Luddite who doubted the merit of progress, or perhaps a believer in global democracy run by the nation state.
None of this is true. Bassani shows that Jefferson was a special kind of libertarian. He did not believe in government, but for one or two areas. Nor did he believe in the "union" much less the nation state. He was a radical individualist who had no use for the political collective. This is where we find the very core of his thought.
Author of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat in France, leader of the opposition to the Federalists in the 1790s, president of the United States from 1801 to 1809, critical conscience of the country until his death on July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson is the most widely studied, fascinating and genuinely representative American intellectual.
Bassani surveys Jefferson’s views in the twofold articulation—the rights of man and states rights—that represents the core of all his political ideas. While recent scholarship on the subject tends to portray a union devotee, nonindividualistic, antiproperty rights Jefferson, with possible communitarian, if not even protosocialist undertones, this work does Jefferson justice.
After careful examination of his political theory, the readers will recognize the third president as a champion of liberty, natural rights, and antagonism of the states towards interference by federal powers.
This scholarly book is both thorough and passionate, and, in the end, absolutely decisive: it takes back Jefferson for the causes he believed in his entire life.
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Austrian Economics, Freedom and Peace