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Harvey Mansfield

Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, studies and teaches political philosophy. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and[…]

The same thinking that led to the Nazi and Communist revolutions also led to the American Revolution.

Question: What are history's most interesting mistakes?

Harvey Mansfield: Well one is that the best regime can be made actual. This has led to world revolutions in the 20th century both on the right and on the left – the Nazis and the Communists. It also led to the American Revolution. Perhaps even a good thing but a very moderate revolution that substituted the rule of enlightened Americans for the rule of moderate British imperialists. So that was not as … as nasty and bloody a revolution as the others. We live in our time and in our country, so it makes no sense to condemn everything that we do or the main things I would do as historically mistaken. We need to have a sense of confidence that what we are about is worth it and … and … and so I don’t think we should be overcome by mistakes. Which I think as a country are fewer than you might find in say France or Britain or Germany, also very intelligent peoples.

Recorded on: 6/13/07