an excerpt from an excellent interview with George Will on Econtalk-
George Will: Well, first, there is kind of fun, because there were two Princetonians involved: James Madison of the great class of…, I believe, 1771; and Woodrow Wilson of the class of 1879. So, it’s tidy. Beyond that, it’s accurate. Which is to say that Madison, who I think of as the best political philosopher/practitioner since Aristotle, said: First of all, there are such things as natural rights. Hence, there is such a thing as a human nature that is fixed and settled, not plastic to the touch of culture or government. That, we are more than culturally-acquiring creatures that take on the coloration of whatever social situation we are in. And third, from this flows the most important principle, which is separation of powers, to make government strong enough, to protect our natural rights, and not so strong that it threatens them. Woodrow Wilson, as the first self-consciously and theoretically progressive president–I’m not intentionally leaving out Teddy Roosevelt from both of those–rejected these premises: that, there’s not a fixed human nature, which gives government an enormous new project. Which is to make people better as creatures by making the social promptings[?] around them better. Therefore natural rights are a fiction and not a useful one–anthropologically naive; they really thought that Locke and Hobbes and the rest [?] out there was a state of nature rather than that being a heuristic device to help us think about these things. And, finally, he comes, as you would expect from someone who starts wrong, to wind up really wrong, by saying that the separation of powers is an anachronism that was suitable once when America was formed[?] and people, 80% of whom living within Atlantic tidewater on the fringe of a non-export continent–but, said Wilson, ‘Now that we are a great nation united by steel rails and copper wires, we need a nimble’–one of his favorite adjectives to describe government–‘we need a nimble government that can act with despatch.’ Which requires marginalizing Congress and celebrating a kind of watery Caesarism in the modern Presidency.