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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Question: What is the case for a strong executive?

Harvey Mansfield: The case for the strong executive rests on the fact that America is the first republic that was formed with a strong executive. Previous republics had executives who were at the bidding of the legislature, or who rebelled against that – like Oliver Cromwell – and became tyrannical. So how do you . . . how do you make an executive that’s strong enough and yet remain Republican or obedient to law? The difficulty is that law cannot prescribe in advance every situation that’s going to arise. Nor can any general principle. So you will always need to rely in government, or have a way of relying in an emergency. Or maybe also even – also for the long term – a single mind who can decide without infringement or hindrance. Of course you can make him accountable afterwards, as our president is. But there needs to be someone who’s looking at the whole and who can react in the name of the whole. And that’s what our constitutional executive power is. It’s a power even, I think, to go against the law when the law would bring disaster, as might happen.

Recorded on: 6/13/07


What is the case for a stro...

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