Great Thinkers in Political and Social Science

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Great Thinkers

The list below identifies some of history’s great thinkers, and indicates some of their views that have impacted my own. Some agree and some disagree with the views I’ve expressed in my book. That book is titled, “Proposals for Separating Money and Politics”.

The names are listed below in birth order. You can click on a name or an image to open a separate browser tab in Wikipedia to read more about that person.

CLASSICAL ERA THINKERS:

Plato, a Greek philosopher, developed the idea of “Philosopher Kings”. In other words, political leaders should love truth and govern for the good of the community. That is, they should not seek personal power or wealth.
Aristotle, Plato’s pupil, wrote that the city is the true center of political life. Also, he classified governments into 3 ideal types: (1) rule by one, (2) rule by a few, and (3) rule by many. In addition, he showed that there are perverted forms of each type.
Polybius, a Roman historian, analyzed Aristotle’s government types. Specifically, he showed that a mixture of all three ideal types proved best, both in Sparta and in the Roman Republic.
Cicero was a Roman statesman and master orator. He was a powerful influence on Enlightenment thinkers. For instance, he influenced John Locke, David Hume, Montesquieu, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
Jesus Christ taught many concepts that are often seen as cornerstones of Western Civilization. For example, he taught the golden rule, greatness through service, and non-violence. Most importantly, many of us accept him as the Christ or Messiah (anointed one), and almighty God.

EARLY ENLIGHTENMENT ERA THINKERS:

John Milton was an English poet and defender of republicanism against the monarchy. For example, he defended Cromwell’s Commonwealth. In fact, he was imprisoned for opposing the re-establishment of the monarchy.
James Harrington, an English political theorist, developed the idea of a utopian constitution. In addition, he influenced America’s founders to hope that a “natural aristocracy” would run their new U.S. government.
Algernon Sidney, an English political theorist, was executed for his revolutionary writings. For example, he opposed the divine right of kings. In addition, he supported the people’s right to replace a corrupt government with one of their choosing.
John Locke, an English philosopher, was one of the greatest influences on European and American thinkers. For example, he was noted for his defense of an individual’s liberty as well as his right to the product of his labor.
Montesquieu, a French philosopher, developed the form of “separation of powers” followed by America’s founders. As a result, U.S. government powers are divided between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

LATER ENLIGHTENMENT ERA THINKERS:

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher. He was the first to declare that a large nation could be a republic. That is, it needed no king to hold it together. In other words, the very size itself of the nation would prevent local prejudices from dominating nation-wide.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss philosopher. He was the first to declare that a group of small republics could federate into a large republic. Furthermore, he declared that the will of an individual cannot be represented by another person.
William Blackstone was an English jurist. He literally wrote the book on the constitution of Great Britain, which was the model for the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, his writings were studied by essentially all of America’s founders.
Adam Smith, a Scottish economist, is called the father of economics and of capitalism. For example, he developed the concepts of the division of labor and the free market. Furthermore, he showed that rational self interest and competition produce prosperity.
Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish philosopher and member of Britain’s Parliament. He argued against Britain’s harsh treatment of the American colonies. He also supported “Old Whig” views in Parliament. As a result, he has been called the father of conservatism.

AMERICAN FOUNDING ERA THINKERS:

Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, statesman, and diplomat. He was also involved in the Declaration of Independence, the procurement of French support for the Revolution, the treaty with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington was Commanding General of the Continental Army and President of the Constitutional Convention. After that, he was the first U.S. President, where he refused to get the U.S. involved in the wars between England and France.
John Adams pushed harder than anyone for independence. He was also the first U.S. Vice President, and the second U.S. President. Furthermore, he wrote a multi-volume tome showing that the U.S. state governments were modeled on Britain’s mixed government.
Thomas Jefferson wrote almost all of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the second U.S. Vice President and third U.S. President. He advocated for maximum democracy and wide-spread public involvement in government, especially local government.
James Madison had more influence over the U.S. Constitution than anyone. He also wrote the Virginia Resolutions which influenced the debate between states’ rights and national supremacy. Furthermore, he was the fourth U.S. President.
Alexander Hamilton gained General George Washington’s trust and respect. Then, as Treasury Secretary, he influenced the early development of the U.S. executive branch more than anyone, even President Washington.

NINETEENTH CENTURY ERA THINKERS:

John C. Calhoun was a political theorist and U.S. Vice President. He also developed the theory of concurrent majority, which advocated for states’ rights. Furthermore, he posthumously influenced the southern states’ secession.
Daniel Webster was a U.S. congressman and Secretary of State. His powerful speeches for national supremacy influenced the northern states’ military action against southern secession.
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French diplomat, political scientist and historian. Also, he traveled the U.S., writing extensively and brilliantly about the American experiment in democracy.
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher and political economist. He argued that government should be limited to preventing harm. Also, he said that involving all people in government makes better people.
Jefferson Davis was a U.S. statesman as well as President of the Confederate States of America. He believed the tariffs imposed by the northern states were enriching northerners at the expense of southerners.
Abraham Lincoln was a U.S. President and a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery. For example, he argued that the U.S. founders had intended for this abolition to eventually occur.
Henry David Thoreau was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. He believed an individual should disobey a law he considers unjust, and suffer the consequences. In addition, he wrote a diary of his life on Walden’s Pond, as well as a journal.

TWENTIETH CENTURY ERA THINKERS:

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist. He used nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from Britain. Later, he was assassinated for being too soft on Pakistan.
Woodrow Wilson was a U.S. President and political scientist. He argued that the U.S. Constitution is a “living document”. That is, the courts must decide its meaning based upon their interpretation of popular sentiment, regardless of the original intent of its writers.
G. K. Chesterton, an English philosopher, argued against both capitalism and socialism. Instead, he opted for the largely Catholic notion of distributism. In addition, he believed that modern progressivism has failed to learn the lessons of history.
J. B. S. Haldane, a British-Indian biologist, argued that large organisms are not large because they are complex, but rather that they are complex because they are large. Most importantly, Jane Jacobs applied his concept to governments and other organizations.
Friedrich Hayek was an Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher. He argued that socialism, and any kind of centralization of power, was a certain path to slavery. In addition, he strongly favored maximizing local self-government.
Robert Nisbet was an American sociologist. He argued that the only antidote to government over-control was the ability of people to form communities of common interests. For example, he argued for families, local churches, civic organizations, and any gathering of like-minded people.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ERA THINKERS:

Jane Jacobs observed human behavior in neighborhood settings and fought city governments. As a result, she powerfully influenced the field of urban planning and renewal.
Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist. He advocates for supply-side economics and libertarian conservative ideas. Also, he strongly supports free market capitalism.
Gordon S. Wood is an American historian. He argues that circumstances forced America’s founders to create an elective aristocracy and sell it as “representative democracy”.
Ron Paul is an American congressman and former presidential candidate. He argues that local communities should have self-determination.
Robert D. Putnam is an American political scientist. He argues that American civic life has collapsed in recent decades. In addition, he says most associations improve social acceptance.
Robert Reich is a progressive American economist. He argues that our largest corporations operate against the common good and should be broken up. On the other hand, he supports capitalism.
Charles Krauthammer was an American political columnist. He strongly advocated the “originalism” view of the Constitution. That is, the original intent of its authors should guide its interpretation.
Mike Huckabee is a former American governor and presidential candidate. He argues that national money grants to states have destroyed the autonomy of the states.

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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