As we watch what was left of our constitutional republic crumble before our eyes, it’s natural to wonder when and by whom the wrecking ball was first swung.
For anyone more awake than woke, it is clear that the “new left,” whose takeover of the Democratic party and the majority of our public institutions is nearly complete, is a strain of Marxism, bent on the eradication of our empire of liberty and its replacement with a dictatorship of their own enlightened selves.
Before there was Marx, however, there was Hegel; and before the ideas of the “materialist” madman took hold of our elites, those of his “idealist” predecessor were already doing yeoman’s work in the multigenerational project of dismantling the United States of America.
In Claremont Review of Books, Myron Magnet reviews Ronald Pestritto’s study of the Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, which details the influence of German philosophy on Woodrow Wilson, whose scholarship and presidency galvanized a movement that succeeded in radically transforming the theory and practice of American government.
Though our founders were undoubtedly influenced by modern philosophy, the central feature of the political order they crafted—checks and balances—is rooted in a fundamentally classical point of view.
According to that (sane) view of the world, human affairs ought to be governed by reason, which is capable of discerning the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Since, within each human breast, reason is beset by passions of a fallen nature, the rule of reason cannot be secured by entrusting any one man, or like-minded group, with absolute power.
Instead, public policy must be specified in laws written and executed by officials representing different coalitions in different ways, placing each in a position to confirm the merits and correct the faults of the others’ contributions.
As yet another fancily dressed disciple of Machiavelli, Hegel also espouses the rule of reason. For those of his school, however, reason is not a means of discerning and conforming to objective truth, but rather a tool by which human beings subject an inherently chaotic world to their own essentially subjective desires.
“Progress,” in this view, is not closer conformity to objective principles, now dismissed as “a priori speculations” with “no historical foundations.” Rather, it is the consolidation of absolute power by man over nature.
To achieve this goal, all the energies of all men must be directed into the same channel, and so there must be a “unity of the public mind.” As a result, liberty of conscience, and all related freedoms, are demoted from their prior position as inalienable endowments, and come to be regarded as nuisances to be eliminated, or, when that idea is too shocking, “redefined” as needed.
In a nutshell, the result is a regime governed by unelected and uncontrolled “experts,” who claim to speak for the people, so long as the people they pretend to speak for are agree to think only what their enlightened despots tell them they ought to think.
If these same people have the audacity to think otherwise, they will soon learn that, despite what they may have been told on TV, “progressivism means the death of self-government.”
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