American Citizenship and Its Decline

A new online course, American Citizenship and Its Decline, is now available from Hillsdale College. The free class is taught by history professor Victor Davis Hanson.

It’s hard to believe there is even a need for such a class. For most of American history, the people, understood as citizens, have ruled through elected representatives under the terms of the U.S. Constitution.

Today, however, it’s a different story. The constitutional rule of citizens is threatened by a new form of government, unaccountable to the people, in which power is held by a ruling class that seeks to transform our society.

Topics covered in Dr. Hanson’s eight-lecture course include: the erosion of the middle class, the disappearance of sovereign borders, the rise of tribalism, the growth of the deep state, the modern assaults on the Constitution, and the emergence of a global government.

Citizenship is rare in human history but essential to free government. American Citizenship and Its Decline is based on Hanson’s book The Dying Citizen, which examines the origins and history of citizenship in the West and the grave challenges to citizenship in America today.

Like the book, this course describes the current crises in America as symptoms of a far larger problem: the steady decline of the autonomy and political influence of the citizen. Dr. Hansen writes:

The class describes the origins and history of citizenship in the West, reminding us that it is a rare phenomenon both in the past and the present—given the enormous responsibility placed on citizens to create and control their own government.

Citizenship then requires a large and self-reliant middle class—currently shrinking under enormous economic strains. Clearly defined and enforced borders are also essential to ensure a civic space in which citizens can nurture common customs, sustain traditions, and honor their own shared past.

Yet borders are now increasingly fluid as mere residence and citizenship seem often indistinguishable. Pre-civilizational tribalism—identifying by superficial appearance rather than through shared culture and values—is returning to America as so often the salad bowl replaces the melting pot.

These organic, bottom-up challenges are often matched by top-down stresses such as the growth of a huge permanent, but unelected, government of bureaucrats and administrators who combine judicial, executive, and legislative powers that overwhelm the citizen.

In addition, revisionists in law, the media, and politics seek to change the Constitution, long-held customs of governance, and political traditions for short-term partisan agendas, on the theory that a new changing and fluid Constitution must match an always evolving human nature.

Globalism is an ancient challenge to the sovereignty of the nation-state. But in the age of instant communications and unprecedented concentrations of globalized wealth, so often elites seek to supplant American laws and independence with international organizations and often without the consent of the legislative branch or the assent of the governed.

The course ends, however, on an optimistic note that citizens still have it within their power to restore our traditions of empowered citizenship and return government to the control of citizens.

American Citizenship and Its Decline is free to enroll in, and you can start at any time. To watch the course trailer and begin your free class with Dr. Hanson, click on the secure link below.

We hope you will join in this examination of the history of citizenship in America and the primary threats facing American citizens today.

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