This time, it’s his essay on The Rhetorical Presidency, a riff on the book of that title by Jeffrey K. Tulis. The book’s thesis is that before the Progressive era, Presidents were expected to stay in the background and mind their own business. The original Constitution was designed to keep government limited, regardless of the popular will. The Progressives saw thwarting the popular will as a bug, not a feature, and hence they rewrote the Constitution to unshackle government and redefined the President as an advocate for the popular will.

Anyway, that is my quick introductoin, but I recommend reading the entire essay. Friedman’s take on the Progressive era differs in important respects from Jonah Goldberg’s take in Liberal Fascism, and I think perhaps my take differs somewhat from either of those. I hope to have a discussion soon with Friedman about this topic.

Meanwhile, note the comment by “cmot from Chicago” on this post:

high density cities are less responsive to citizen concerns, and more prone to capture form the various extractive classes.

Read the whole comment. My intuition is that urbanization played a big role in shaping the role of government. As I said in the post, a dense urban environment makes Coasian bargaining difficult, creating demand for government intervention. However, as the commenter points out, the “solution” of stronger city government brings its own problems.