Front Page Titles (by Subject) Foreword - The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America
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Foreword - Robert A. Nisbet, The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America 
The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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to caroline, once more
It is tempting in this year of the bicentennial of the Constitution to speculate on the probable reactions of the Framers to the product of their labors and aspirations as it stands today in the world two full centuries after its inception. Such speculation need not be altogether fanciful. Some constitutional lawyers speak of recovering the “original intent” of the Framers, a not impossible feat given the clarity of the document itself and the abundance of ancillary sources of the Framers’ views on government. If original intent can be reasonably retrieved after two hundred years, why not probable reaction to the present age in America?
What would the Framers be most struck by in America today? I mean after they had recovered from the shock of seeing clean, strong, white teeth instead of decayed yellow stumps in the mouths of their descendants; after they had assimilated the fact of the astounding number of Americans who were neither crippled, disease-wasted, nor pockmarked from smallpox; and, of course, after they had taken rapt eyes off the high-speed vehicles on the streets? After these astonishments, what reactions might there be to the political and cultural scene?
Three aspects of the present age in America would surely draw their immediate, concerned, and perhaps incredulous attention.
First, the prominence of war in American life since 1914, amounting to a virtual Seventy-Five Years War, and with this the staggering size of the American military establishment since World War II. The Framers had relied on two broad oceans for the license to draft the most nonmilitary constitution imaginable.
Second, the Leviathan-like presence of the national government in the affairs of states, towns, and cities, and in the lives, cradle to grave, of individuals. The Framers had worked most diligently to prevent any future hypertrophy of the federal government. They had particularly disliked the sprawling bureaucracies of Europe in their day.
Third, the number of Americans who seem only loosely attached to groups and values such as kinship, community, and property, and whose lives are so plainly governed by the cash nexus.
In the pages following, I have enlarged upon these three aspects of the present scene in America.
Since this book contains in adapted form my 1988 Jefferson Lecture in Washington, D.C., I wish to express my deep appreciation to the National Council of Humanities for inviting me to deliver the lecture and my thanks to Dr. Lynne V. Cheney, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities, for her kind interest and aid in the presentation of the lecture. I thank also Hugh Van Dusen, Senior Editor at Harper & Row, for his special help and encouragement.