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Progressivism: Still Dangerous After All These Years

Posted By Julia Shaw On September 20, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In First Principles | Comments Disabled

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Love him or hate him, Glenn Beck has a point: Progressivism rejects America’s foundational principles. For the past one hundred years, progressive intellectuals and politicians have been desperately trying to sever Americans’ attachment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence—with its emphasis on human equality, natural rights, consent of the governed, and limited government—and instead embrace a more European model of governance. Progressives assert that America has advanced beyond the principles of the Declaration of Independence. All men were not created equal; some peoples are more historically advanced than others. Rights are not tied to human nature; government creates rights. The consent of the people is unnecessary for legislation; technical expertise should regulate every detail of life.
Just read what the progressives wrote. As Ronald Pestritto notes in his latest Wall Street Journal op-ed on “Glenn Beck, Progressives, and Me [2],” Woodrow Wilson repeatedly lambasted the Founders’ institutions of government, especially the separation of powers, and instead praised a new “foreign science, speaking very little of the language of English or American principle” that would become the new administrative state. Theodore Roosevelt is more pointed:

I do not for one moment believe that the Americanism of today should be a mere submission to the American ideals of the period of the Declaration of Independence . . . Such action would be not only to stand still, but to go back. American democracy, of course, must mean an opportunity for everyone to contribute his own ideas to the working out of the future. But I will go further than you have done. I have actively fought in favor of grafting on our social life, no less than our industrial life, many of the German ideals.

Over the years, research on the progressive thought and influence has developed quite a pedigree. The Claremont Institute and its scholars have contributed extensive work on the roots of progressivism. Just peruse through the archives of the Claremont Review of Books [3] to read about the 1912 election’s transformation of American Politics [4] or Progressivism influence on Obama [5] to name a few. The Claremont Review of Books’ editor Charles Kesler, whose work has been particularly influential on current experts on progressivism, recently appeared on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss the waves of progressivism [6] and the grand liberal project.

National Review has featured several other pieces on the progressivism. Check out their December 2009 cover story The Four Horseman of the Progressive Apocalypse [7], featuring essays on John Dewey, Richard Ely, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Herbert Croly. Or, read bout the harmful implications of progressivism; for instance, Tiffany Miller revealed that Progressives have left America with a tremendous legacy of debt [8]; William Voegeli reminds Salon’s Michael Lind why liberalism is so dangerous [9].

Of course, The Center for American Studies at Heritage continues to study the Progressives’ ideas and influence. We have explored what the tenants of progressivism [10], the empty rhetoric of change [11], and progressivism’s embrace of big government [12], bureaucratic tyranny [13],  and unlimited administration [14].

These are still only a few of the many scholars, institutions, think tanks that explore the progressive intellectual tradition’s rejection of the Founding Principles and embrace of a new kind of governance. These critiques of progressivism have changed political discourse and have prompted Progressives to start whitewashing their intellectual history defending themselves [15], if they can. But if America continues down Europe’s well-trod path [16], don’t say there wasn’t a warning.


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URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/09/20/progressivism-still-dangerous-after-all-these-years/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.foundry.org/wp-content/uploads/Theodore-Roosevelt.jpg

[2] Glenn Beck, Progressives, and Me: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704554104575435942829722602.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

[3] Claremont Review of Books: http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/

[4] 1912 election’s transformation of American Politics: http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1152/article_detail.asp

[5] Progressivism influence on Obama: http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1579/article_detail.asp

[6] the waves of progressivism: http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=OTkzNzE1ZTk5YTIwNzg4MmU4NTJiOWY4MDMyNzhmMjU=

[7] The Four Horseman of the Progressive Apocalypse: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/2009/12/four-horsemen-of-the-progressive-apocalypse.php

[8] left America with a tremendous legacy of debt: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/243417/progressives-legacy-bankruptcy-tiffany-jones-miller

[9] why liberalism is so dangerous: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/243543/why-liberalism-dangerous-william-voegeli

[10] tenants of progressivism: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/07/the-progressive-movement-and-the-transformation-of-american-politics

[11] empty rhetoric of change: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/10/the-idea-of-change-in-american-politics-meaningful-concept-or-empty-promise

[12] big government: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/11/the-birth-of-the-administrative-state-where-it-came-from-and-what-it-means-for-limited-government

[13] bureaucratic tyranny: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/08/Bureaucratizing-the-American-Government-or-the-Renewal-of-Self-Government

[14] unlimited administration: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/01/limited-government-unlimited-administration-is-it-possible-to-restore-constitutionalism

[15] defending themselves: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/04/progressive_traditions1.html

[16] down Europe’s well-trod path: http://www.heritage.org/events/2010/04/decline-and-fall

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