Book Review: The Five Thousand Year Leap

The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, by W. Cleon Skousen

This particular book was loaned to me by a friend who has an intriguing taste in mostly historical works [1], after we had a somewhat lengthy conversation about its contents, and the historical and philosophical context of the American republican order. As this is a subject of great interest to me [2], as a student and practitioner of the principled American way of thinking, a way that is still not universally tolerated around the world, much less practiced. This book is largely a positive one, seeking to discover the ways that work, although it contains a fair amount of principled criticism of those who would consider the American constitutional order obsolete, and a great deal of praise in the way in which the Founders thought far more seriously about the example of history and the need to align the positive law of the American republic with both natural law as well as the laws of scripture.

The contents of this book and organization are very unusual. The book begins with a relatively short section looking at the challenge the Founding Fathers faced in establishing the American republic, as well as their similar and voluminous reading. The second section includes 28 principles of the American republic [2] that have accounted for its greatness, many of which are based on a firm understanding of biblical and natural law, and many of which are vulnerable given contemporary culture. Ultimately, the writer is harsh on our leaders over the past century, but also seeks to prompt change in the minds and behavior of the commonfolk. After this are two essays that reflect on the possibility of Israelite origin for the Anglo-Saxons in light of their similar legal order and repeat the information included in the principles, and then the book closes with some important American documents (the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Common Sense) as well as a series of questions to ask people running for office.

Given the content of this book, it is clear that this book is designed for an American audience, particularly an American audience that would likely judge itself as constitutionalist. It seeks to straddle the divide among those who consider themselves supporters of Lincoln and supporters of the Confederacy (who might find the author’s praise of Calhoun as a Senator pleasing, which I do not). The author has some striking and honest and provocative statements to make, including a desire to overturn the 17th Amdendment and bring the election of Senators back into the state legislature. Although the book is based on American history, and points out that the founders deliberately rejected the sort of welfare state that has been a European project for the last couple of centuries, the book is clearly applicable to other nations and societies. How it is applied, of course, is a matter of considerable importance and delicacy.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example: tice-taney/

[2] The 28 principles are:

1. The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.
2. A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.
3. The most promising method of securing a virtuous and morally stable people is to elect virtuous leaders.
4. Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.
5. All things were created by God, therefore upon Him all mankind are equally dependent and to Him they are equally responsible.
6. All men are created equal.
7. The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things.
8. Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
9. To protect man’s rights, God has revealed certain principles of divine law.
10. The God-given right to govern is vested in the sovereign authority of the whole people.
11. The majority of the people may alter or abolish a government which has become tyrannical.
12. The United States of American shall be a republic.
13. A constitution should be structured to permanently protect the people from the frailty of their rulers.
14. Life and liberty are secure only so long as the right to property is secure.
15. The highest level of prosperity occurs when there is a free-market economy and a minimum of government regulations.
16. The government should be separated into three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.
17. A system of checks and balances should be adopted to prevent the abuse of power.
18. The unalienable rights of the people are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution.
19. Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to government, all others being retained in the people.
20. Efficiency and dispatch require government to operate according to the will of the majority, but constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority.
21. Strong local self-government is the keystone to preserving human freedom.
22. A fee people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men.
23. A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education.
24. A free people will not survive unless they stay strong.
25. “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship–entangling alliances with none.”
26. The core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family; therefore, the government should foster and protect its integrity.
27. The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest.
28. The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example and blessing to the entire human race.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Book Review: The Five Thousand Year Leap

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