The Public Interest

The forms and formalities of liberty

Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr.

Winter 1983

Men living in democratic centuries do not readily understand the utility of forms; they feel an instinctive contempt for them.... Forms arouse their disdain and often their hatred. As they usually aspire to none but facile and immediate enjoyments, they rush impetuously toward the object of each of their desires, and the least delays exasperate them. This temperament, which they transport into political life, disposes them against the forms which daily hold them up or prevent them in one or another of their designs.

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