The Jaffa-Berns Feud Revisited

Steven F. Hayward, Powerline, September 11, 2015. Remarks from Claremont Institute APSA panel, September 2015.


Berns inclined toward a Hobbesian reading of Locke while Jaffa worked out an Aristotelian reading of Locke. Jaffa thought America the best regime, in the classical sense. Though he never declared himself directly on the question as Jaffa did, Berns probably thought so too, but for reason best captured in the old joke that an optimist thinks this is the best of all worlds, while the pessimist knows it is. Berns was more pessimistic about the nation’s course, and who can blame him. Jaffa, in one of his last interviews, said he was neither pessimistic nor optimistic—he saw grounds for both.