11-7-14 – Progressivism and Decline of the West, Part 2

by Tom Licata

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Progressivism – so pervasive in today’s Democratic Party – is the ideology of American suicide and specifically of American Constitutionalism. This is the second in a series of writings dissecting and analyzing Progressivism’s ideological beliefs and ideas, to which the just stated conclusion will become self-evident. “Suicide” is an emotive term but here I use its cognitive ‘self-inflicting’ meaning. That is, the demise of American Constitutionalism is coming almost entirely from internal or domestic sources, rather than external or foreign. (In case you missed it, here is Part 1 in this series.)

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The frameworks of these writings are largely taken from James Burnham’s 1964 work, “Suicide of the West,” a detailed analysis of liberalism’s history and beliefs, which ends in the conclusion that “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.”

This second in the series analyzes Progressivism’s beliefs about the nature of man.

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God is referenced four times in the Declaration of Independence: Once as “Creator” and once representing each of the three branches of government: The “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” representing the Legislative branch; “the Supreme Judge of the world” representing the Judicial branch; and “Divine Providence,” representing the Executive branch.

The implication of these references to God is that if He were to govern us – which He doesn’t, He allows us to govern ourselves – no government would be necessary, as God is infallible.

And what follows from this is that man is a thing with a nature found in the middle of the order-of-creation: Below God but above the beast, capable of reason and governing himself. With this understanding, government is required but it’s required to be limited for the same reason that man needs law — those making and administrating the law also need to be restrained.

And this is exactly what James Madison had in mind in Federalist #51:

“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

In a nutshell, the three frameworks of American Constitutionalism: Limited government; Representation; and Separation of Powers were all formed around these traditional beliefs about man’s fixed and permanent nature.

Progressivism, on the contrary, believes man’s nature to be not fixed but plastic or moldable and evolving, with a near unlimited potential for development. Progressivism holds that there’s nothing innate or intrinsic in man’s nature which prevents it from achieving their ideal vision for society. And most important is this: Because there’s nothing innate in man’s nature to block Progressivism’s ideal society, the obstacles must be in the external or extrinsic conditions of society. These conditions consisting primarily of man’s ignorance, corrected through Progressive education; and inadequate social institutions, corrected through Progressive institutional and bureaucratic reform.

This Progressive view of man’s “plasticity” or evolutionary nature can be “contrasted with the traditional belief, expressed in the theological doctrines of Original Sin and the real existence of [evil], that human nature had a permanent, [fixed] essence, and that man is partly corrupt as well as limited in his potential,” writes Mr. Burnham.

These attacks on the doctrines of Original Sin and man’s fixed nature began with such Renaissance thinkers as Bacon and Enlightenment philosophers as Rousseau. They taught that man was essentially good and even perfectible – and this is very important – given the right set of earthly and material conditions.

And here we get to Progressivism’s core: If we are a product of our conditions, why not just create a government big enough to dominate the conditions? Why not take the restraints off of government, and let it go? Here’s why not: Science may give us knowledge of means but its ends are still in the hands of those with feet of clay. So in attempting to create an ideal society using the tools of modern bureaucratic science and technology, more rather than less Constitutional restraints are necessary.

To wit, in the state of Vermont we now have allowed our bodies to become property of a “Council of Ministers” known as the Green Mountain Care Board; our landed property under the control of a government edict known as Act 250; and our children’s minds indoctrinated under government monopolized schools known as Act 60/68: All subjugations transpiring under the deception of “compassion” and “equality.”

If it’s not already self-evident that Progressivism and American Constitutionalism don’t go together and are mutually exclusive, then read both the first of this series and the third, coming out shortly.

– Tom Licata is a member of the Ethan Allen Institute board of directors

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Bulmer November 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

What I can not understand is given all the road blocks, Act 250 for example, declining school enrollment, rising property taxes, fewer and fewer challanging, good paying jobs, rising electricity costs, the list goes on, why Vermonters continue to elect and reelect those responsible for this mess. It didn’t happen over night. It’s taken years. I just wonder if and when Vermonters will put a stop to this kind of behavior. Perhaps election November 2014 will be the beginning of the end of the progressives in Vermont. I certainly hope so.

Reply

David Usher November 9, 2014 at 12:53 am

The fundamental difference between Christian beliefs and secularism is the view of the perfectibility of Man. This is the principal factor that informs a person’s politics and was the preeminent factor in creating America’s system of government.

History reveals that mankind is fundamentally evil, not good. This is confirmed both in Scripture and by a fair reading of history with warfare and power grabs as the dominant condition accompanied by killing, enslavement and destruction.

Our founders understood this and created a Constitution with separation of powers to provide a tension between the branches of government so as to thwart the assumption of power by any one branch.

If Mankind were essentially ‘good,’ this counterbalance would be unnecessary.

When we entrust our well-being to government, we choose a frail system that seldom has our best interests as first priority. An informed citizenry and limited government is the best hope for our liberty and freedom to thrive. The Constitution enshrines this construct.

Reply

David Usher November 9, 2014 at 1:12 am

The fundamental difference between Christian beliefs and secularism is one’s view of the perfectibility of Man. This is the principal factor that informs a person’s politics and was the preeminent factor in creating America’s system of government.

Reality reveals that mankind is fundamentally evil, not good. This is confirmed both in Scripture and by a fair reading of history with warfare and power grabs as the dominant stasis accompanied by killing, enslavement and destruction.

Our founders understood this and created a Constitution with separation of powers to provide a tension between the branches of government so as to thwart the assumption of power by any one branch.

If Mankind were essentially ‘good,’ this counterbalance would be unnecessary.

When we entrust our well-being to government, we choose a frail system that seldom has our best interests as first priority. An informed citizenry and limited government is the best hope for our liberty and freedom to thrive.

Reply

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