Steven Smith: “What is a Statesman?”

Steven Smith
September 11, 2023

Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and Professor of Philosophy Steven Smith has a new article on the Liberties website entitled “What is a Statesman?”.


We yearn for great leaders, but we seem to resist them when they come along. This is a paradox inherent to democracies, between the demand for liberty, equality, and self-reliance among citizens and the continuing need for leadership in the unruliness of an open society. We vacillate between power and drift, between embracing strong leaders and endorsing a kind of leaderless rule. Our confusion about statesmanship is partly because we have lost the language in which to understand the term. The term statesman has an old, even an antiquarian ring about it. Herbert Storing, a great historian of the American founding, once noted that there seems something almost “un-American” about the word.

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