In his outstanding new book, Property and the Pursuit of Happiness, Edward J. Erler faithfully defends the most important teachings of his mentor, the late Harry V. Jaffa, while also offering new insights concerning Aristotle, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Leo Strauss.

Now professor emeritus of political science at California State University, San Bernardino,Erler shows that the American Founders regarded the Declaration of Independence as “the authoritative source of the principles of the Constitution,” and focuses on how the founders understood the right to property, expressed in the Declaration as “the pursuit of happiness.” Today this right is poorly understood and often singled out as the source of modern man’s decline into shallow egoism. Erler argues, however, that the founders’ right to property included not only material goods but spiritual possessions—among them life, liberty, and conscience. Thus understood, the right to property is the comprehensive human right encompassing all others. It is the key to preserving limited republican government, and defending it is a moral duty.

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Although the American Revolution established a radical break with the past, its principles were not wholly modern. Erler contends that the Declaration clearly

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