The Least Imperfect Government: On Martin Diamond’s “Ethics and Politics”

"The Least Imperfect Government: On Martin Diamond's 'Ethics and Politics'" Interpretation 8.2, 3 (May 1980): 5-15.


In memory of Martin Diamond—my least imperfect friend through some forty years and always a model of luminous intelligence and saving human grace—I can only try to do two modest things: to grasp a little more securely what he taught all of us about the nature of the Founding; and to clarify some unanswered questions in our own fragmentary dialogues on politics and history, spoken and unspoken, with their perpetual meetings and partings of the minds that drifted toward yet never found a resolution.

If I speak more of the questions we probed and worried than of the more important answers he has settled, it is simply because Martin’s lucid writings have left very little need for commentators to discover what he meant to say. Perhaps by continuing our own unfinished conversation on the Founding, even with one voice sadly summoning the echo of the other, better one, I can suggest a distinctive and I hope useful perspective on his work. For brevity and focus, I shall address myself chiefly to one of his later essays—”Ethics and Politics: The American Way”—that at once epitomized much of what he had been writing and teaching about the Founding since Chicago days and pointed toward the next work that we shall never see.


Interpretation [pdf]