“A PHENOMENON noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity.
“In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be.
“Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”
“One cannot quarrel with religious beliefs, especially of a strange, remote, half-understood culture. But when the beliefs become a delusion maintained against natural evidence to the point of losing the independence of a people, they may fairly be called folly. The category is once again wooden-headedness, in the special variety of religious mania. It has never wrought a greater damage.”
[Tuchman, “The March of Folly” (Kindle Locations 347-350). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]
“[T]hey were fearless, high-principled, deeply versed in ancient and modern political thought, astute and pragmatic, unafraid of experiment, and — this is significant — ‘convinced of man’s power to improve his condition through the use of intelligence.’” [Tuchman, (Kindle Locations 429-430)].
Second, most of the founding fathers were lawyers or at least had training in the English Common Law, as well as experience in legislating as members of town councils or colonial legislatures. They came from a tradition of respect for the law, and when it came to stating their case for independence, they framed their argument in rational terms, eschewing the hate-speech of violent revolution.
Once independence was gained, they approached the task of governing with the same lawyerly care, devising a Constitution and Bill of Rights that has lasted ... until now.
“For two centuries, the American arrangement has always managed to right itself under pressure without discarding the system and trying another after every crisis ... Under accelerating incompetence in America, this may change. Social systems can survive a good deal of folly when circumstances are historically favorable, or when bungling is cushioned by large resources or absorbed by sheer size as in the United States during its period of expansion. Today, when there are no more cushions, folly is less affordable....” [Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim (2011-07-20). The March of Folly (Kindle Locations 442-444). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]