“Now, it came to me that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory.”
“The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. —Woodrow Wilson, 1912.
Many people believe that by voting Barack Obama out of office this November most of our problems will be solved. Noting could be further from the truth. Yes, we must vote Obama out but we need to do much more over the coming years to return our nation to a true constitutional republic as our founder envisioned. We need to turn back the tide of ever creeping progressivism that has dominated our politics, education system, and media since the turn of the twentieth century.
Progressivism is the belief that America needs to move or “progress” beyond the principles of the American Founding. Organized politically more than a hundred years ago, Progressivism insists upon flexibility in political forms unbound by fixed and universal principles. Progressives hold that human nature is malleable and that society is perfectible. Affirming the inexorable, positive march of history, Progressives see the need for unelected experts or masterminds who would supervise a vast administration of government.
Progressivism is rooted in the philosophy of European thinkers, most notably the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. Progressivism takes its name from a faith in “historical progress.” According to the leading lights of Progressivism, including Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Dewey, human nature has evolved beyond the limitations that the Founders identified. Far from fearing man’s capacity for evil, Progressives held that properly enlightened human beings could be entrusted with power and not abuse it.
The Progressive idea of historical progress is tied to the idea of historical contingency, which means that each period of history is guided by different and unique values that change over time. The “self-evident truths” that the Founders upheld in the Declaration of Independence, including natural rights, are no longer applicable. Circumstances, not eternal principles, ultimately dictate justice.
If human nature is improving, and fixed principles do not exist, government must be updated according to the new reality. The Constitution’s arrangement of government, based upon the separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism, only impeded effective government, according to Progressives. The limited government of the Founding is rejected in favor of a “living Constitution.”
Progressivism began in the 1880’s with the German school of philosophy. At that time Americans wishing for high academic honors or positions went to Germany to study and return with advanced degrees. They then went on to take positions in American universities like Princeton and John Hopkins to advance their progressive ideas. This German influence created a sea change in American education. Thus over the years our university system has been the harbor for the progressive agenda that we suffer today.
The administrative state is built on the rejection of the principles of our founders. Progressives believe government must change based on the circumstances of the times. This is called “historical contingency.” As Madison believed when he wrote Federalist Paper No. 10 that the “latent cause of factionalism are sown in the nature of man.” The progressives believe that man is changing and as he evolves he can become perfected under the guidance of the masterminds.
Progressivism had its most influence from 1880 to the 1930’s they believed the Constitution had become outdated by the social and economic ills of the day. It was Woodrow Wilson who stated; “The laws of this country have not kept up with the change of economic circumstances in this country; they have not kept up with the change of political circumstances.”
Progressivism began seriously encroaching on our rights in 1912 when Woodrow Wilson was elected as the 28th President of the United States. Wilson, a Democrat, succeeded the Republican William Howard Taft, and had served as the governor of New Jersey (1911-1913) and President of Princeton University (1902-1910). Wilson was a true intellectual elitist and internationalist who believed the Constitution was outdated and that government was the answer to all of society’s problems. He was also a staunch racist who believed Negros were persons of lesser intellectual ability. It was Wilson’s policies that dragged the United States into the First World War and ultimately to the founding of the League of Nations, a treaty the Senate rejected
In a speech, delivered during his successful campaign for president in 1912 and included in a collection of speeches called The New Freedom, Wilson puts forward the idea of an evolving, or “living” constitution Wilson stated:
“Now, it came to me… that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory.”
“The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life.”
“All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.”
“Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop.”
“Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia, July 4th, 1776.” “The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day…”
Wilson went on state:
“One of the chief benefits I used to derive from being president of a university was that I had the pleasure of entertaining thoughtful men from all over the world. I cannot tell you how much has dropped into my granary by their presence. I had been casting around in my mind for something by which to draw several parts of my political thought together when it was my good fortune to entertain a very interesting Scotsman who had been devoting himself to the philosophical thought of the seventeenth century. His talk was so engaging that it was delightful to hear him speak of anything, and presently there came out of the unexpected region of his thought the thing I had been waiting for. He called my attention to the fact that in every generation all sorts of speculation and thinking tend to fall under the formula of the dominant thought of the age. For example, after the Newtonian Theory of the universe had been developed, almost all thinking tended to express itself in the analogies of the Newtonian Theory, and since the Darwinian Theory has reigned amongst us, everybody is likely to express whatever he wishes to expound in terms of development and accommodation to environment.
Now, it came to me, as this interesting man talked, that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory. You have only to read the papers of The Federalist to see that fact written on every page. They speak of the “checks and balances” of the Constitution, and use to express their idea the simile of the organization of the universe, and particularly of the solar system,—how by the attraction of gravitation the various parts are held in their orbits; and then they proceed to represent Congress, the Judiciary, and the President as a sort of imitation of the solar system.
They were only following the English Whigs, who gave Great Britain its modern constitution. Not that those Englishmen analyzed the matter, or had any theory about it; Englishmen care little for theories. It was a Frenchman, Montesquieu, who pointed out to them how faithfully they had copied Newton’s description of the mechanism of the heavens.
The makers of our Federal Constitution read Montesquieu with true scientific enthusiasm. They were scientists in their way,—the best way of their age,—those fathers of the nation. Jefferson wrote of “the laws of Nature,”—and then by way of afterthought,—“and of Nature’s God.” And they constructed a government as they would have constructed an orrery,—to display the laws of nature. Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of “checks and balances.”
The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent upon their quick co-operation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. Government is not a body of blind forces; it is a body of men, with highly differentiated functions, no doubt, in our modern day, of specialization, with a common task and purpose. Their cooperation is indispensable, their warfare fatal. There can be no successful government without the intimate, instinctive coordination of the organs of life and action. This is not theory, but fact, and displays its force as fact, whatever theories may be thrown across its track. Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop.”
Progressive political science was based on the assumption that society could be organized in such a way that social ills would disappear. Frank Goodnow, president of Johns Hopkins University and the first president of the American Political Science Association, helped pioneer the idea that separating politics from administration was the key to progress. In his speech, given at Brown University, he addresses the need to move beyond the ideas of the Founders. He stated:
“The end of the eighteenth century was marked by the formulation and general acceptance by thinking men in Europe of a political philosophy which laid great emphasis on individual private rights. Man was by this philosophy conceived of as endowed at the time of his birth with certain inalienable rights. Thus, Rousseau in his “Social Contract” treated man as primarily an individual and only secondarily as a member of human society. Society itself was regarded as based upon a contract made between the individuals by whose union it was formed. At the time of making this contract these individuals were deemed to have reserved certain rights spoken of as “natural” rights. These rights could neither be taken away nor be limited without the consent of the individual affected.”
“At the end of the eighteenth century a great change was beginning in Western Europe. The enlargement of the field of commercial transactions, due to the discovery and colonization of America and to the contact of Europe with Asia, particularly with India, had opened new spheres of activity to those minded for adventure. The invention of the steam engine and its application to manufacturing were rapidly changing industrial conditions. The factory system was in process of establishment and had already begun to displace domestic industry.
The new possibilities of reward for individual endeavor made men impatient of the restrictions on private initiative incident to an industrial and commercial system which was fast passing away. They therefore welcomed with eagerness a political philosophy which, owing to the emphasis it placed upon private rights, would if acted upon have the effect of freeing them from what they regarded as hampering limitations on individual initiative.”
In a word, man is regarded now throughout Europe, contrary to the view expressed by Rousseau, as primarily a member of society and secondarily as an individual. The rights which he possesses are, it is believed, conferred upon him, not by his Creator, but rather by the society to which he belongs. What they are is to be determined by the legislative authority in view of the needs of that society. Social expediency, rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action.”
The result was the adoption in this country of a doctrine of unadulterated individualism. Everyone had rights. Social duties were hardly recognized, or if recognized little emphasis was laid upon them. It was apparently thought that everyone was able and willing to protect his rights, and that as a result of the struggle between men for their rights and of the compromise of what appeared to be conflicting rights would arise an effective social organization.”
The progressives thought that Constitution was with its mechanics of government were an obstacle to implementing their agenda, and they were open and honest in these opinions. They made no effort to mask these beliefs. The progressive platform of 1913 was a platform featuring regulation of the American economy, promoting social justice and redistribution of property. This was the platform Theodore Roosevelt ran on.
The progressives, such as Wilson, understood the Constitution was a means to an end of preserving the principles of the Declaration of Independence. It was Wilson who stated: If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence does not repeat the preface.” This would turn the Declaration into nothing more than a list of grievances against King George. It would have no meaning whatsoever.
Our Founders believed the doctrine of “Natural Rights” was meant for everybody at all times — Progressives like Wilson and Dewey did not.
In his essay on Liberalism and Social Action John Dewey believed Jefferson was the problem. As a leading Progressive scholar from the 1880s onward, John Dewey, who taught mainly at Columbia University, devoted much of his life to redefining the idea of education. His thought was influenced by German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, and central to it was a denial of objective truth and an embrace of historicism and moral relativism. As such he was critical of the American founding.
In this 1935 easy Dewey stated:
“The whole temper of this philosophy is individualistic in the sense in which individualism is opposed to organized social action. It held to the primacy of the individual over the state not only in time but in moral authority. It defined the individual in terms of liberties of thought and action already possessed by him in some mysterious ready-made fashion, and which it was the sole business of the state to safeguard. Reason was also made an inherent endowment of the individual, expressed in men’s moral relations to one another, but not sustained and developed because of these relations. It followed that the great enemy of individual liberty was thought to be government because of its tendency to encroach upon the innate liberties of individuals. Later liberalism inherited this conception of a natural antagonism between ruler and ruled, interpreted as a natural opposition between the individual and organized society. There still lingers in the minds of some the notion that there are two different “spheres” of action and of rightful claims; that of political society and that of the individual, and that in the interest of the latter the former must be as contracted as possible. Not till the second half of the nineteenth century did the idea arise that government might and should be an instrument for securing and extending the liberties of individuals. This later aspect of liberalism is perhaps foreshadowed in the clauses of our Constitution that confer upon Congress power to provide for “public welfare” as well as for public safety.”
Dewy went on to say:
“The earlier liberals lacked historic sense and interest. For a while this lack had an immediate pragmatic value. It gave liberals a powerful weapon in their fight with reactionaries. For it enabled them to undercut the appeal to origin, precedent and past history by which the opponents of social change gave sacrosanct quality to existing inequities and abuses. But disregard of history took its revenge. It blinded the eyes of liberals to the fact that their own special interpretations of liberty, individuality and intelligence were themselves historically conditioned, and were relevant only to their own time. They put forward their ideas as immutable truths good at all times and places; they had no idea of historic relativity, either in general or in its application to themselves.”
“If the early liberals had put forth their special interpretation of liberty as something subject to historic relativity they would not have frozen it into a doctrine to be applied at all times under all social circumstances. Specifically, they would have recognized that effective liberty is a function of the social conditions existing at any time. If they had done this, they would have known that as economic relations became dominantly controlling forces in setting the pattern of human relations, the necessity of liberty for individuals which they proclaimed will require social control of economic forces in the interest of the great mass of individuals. Because the liberals failed to make a distinction between purely formal or legal liberty and effective liberty of thought and action, the history of the last one hundred years is the history of non-fulfillment of their predictions.”
So as you can see progressivism was rooted in the belief that man was not capable of self-government and therefore needed the intellectual masterminds of government and academia to rule over them for their own good. They also were setting the roots of class warfare that would be perfected by the communists of the 1930’s and the teachings of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.
In Wilsons’ 1887 essay on Socialism and Democracy he advanced the idea that socialism was democracy. Wilson makes clear in this essay the consequences of rejecting the idea of inherent natural rights for the idea that rights are a positive grant from government. In his easy Wilson states:
“Roundly described, socialism is a proposition that every community, by means of whatever forms of organization may be most effective for the purpose, see to it for itself that each one of its members finds the employment for which he is best suited and is rewarded according to his diligence and merit, all proper surroundings of moral influence being secured to him by the public authority. ‘State socialism’ is willing to act through state authority as it is at present organized. It proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view, and that the State consider itself bound to stop only at what is unwise or futile in its universal superintendence alike of individual and of public interests. The thesis of the state socialist is, that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will; that omnipotence of legislation is the first postulate of all just political theory. (Emphasis added)
Applied in a democratic state, such doctrine sounds radical, but not revolutionary. It is only an acceptance of the extremist logical conclusions deducible from democratic principles long ago received as respectable. For it is very clear that in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals. Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be: limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none.”
Wilson goes on the state:
“The difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practical difference—is a difference of organization and policy, not a difference of primary motive. Democracy has not undertaken the tasks which socialists clamor to have undertaken; but it refrains from them, not for lack of adequate principles or suitable motives, but for lack of adequate organization and suitable hardihood: because it cannot see its way clear to accomplishing them with credit. Moreover it may be said that democrats of today hold off from such undertakings because they are of today, and not of the days, which history very well remembers, when government had the temerity to try everything. The best thought of modern time having recognized a difference between social and political questions, democratic government, like all other governments, seeks to confine itself to those political concerns which have, in the eyes of the judicious, approved themselves appropriate to the sphere and capacity of public authority.
The socialist does not disregard the obvious lessons of history concerning overwrought government: at least he thinks he does not. He denies that he is urging the resumption of tasks which have been repeatedly shown to be impossible. He points to the incontrovertible fact that the economic and social conditions of life in our century are not only superficially but radically different from those of any other time whatever. Many affairs of life which were once easily to be handled by individuals have now become so entangled amongst the complexities of international trade relations, so confused by the multiplicity of news-voices, or so hoisted into the winds of speculation that only powerful combinations of wealth and influence can compass them. Corporations grow on every hand, and on every hand not only swallow and overawe individuals but also compete with governments. The contest is no longer between government and individuals; it is now between government and dangerous combinations and individuals. Here is a monstrously changed aspect of the social world. In face of such circumstances, must not government lay aside all timid scruple and boldly make itself an agency for social reform as well as for political control?
‘Yes,’ says the democrat, ‘perhaps it must. You know it is my principle, no less than yours, that every man shall have an equal chance with every other man: if I saw my way to it as a practical politician, I should be willing to go farther and superintend every man’s use of his chance. But the means? The question with me is not whether the community has power to act as it may please in these matters, but how it can act with practical advantage—a question of policy.
A question of policy primarily, but also a question of organization, that is to say of administration.”
Of course in 1887 there was no Hitler with his National Socialists, no Lenin with his Communists, no Mussolini with his corporate socialist, and no Castro with his socialist state. Socialism has been responsible for the death, decline, and depravity of millions since Wilson’s proud advocacy it. It has been, and is today filled with “experts” such as Wilson, Dewey, Goodnow, and the rest of the Hegel inspired masterminds who are destroying the principles of Founders in favor of a utopian state.
Progressivism began retreating in the United States with the elections of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge as they began reducing the power of the federal government. But with the election of Herbert Hoover, a Republican, progressives once more began to grow the size and influence of government. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 progressivisms once again came to the forefront in tyrannical manner.
Roosevelt was the consument class warrior. A person born to wealth and privilege Roosevelt used class warfare to maintain his political power. During the depression he enacted draconian laws, such as the National Industrial Recovery Act Even though much of this act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court Roosevelt continued to push for more laws and regulations on business, farming, and citizens. Roosevelt believed that rights emanated from government, not from nature or nature’s God. In his 1944 address to Congress Roosevelt called for a new Bill of Rights. He stated:
“...It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis—recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights—for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.”
Most historians believe Franklin Roosevelt was the most progressive president in our history. After Roosevelt we had Truman (D), Eisenhower (R), Kennedy (D), Johnson (D), Nikon (R), Ford (R), Carter (D), Reagan (R), George H. W. Bush (R), Clinton (D), George Bush (R), and Barack Obama (D). Some have been more progressive than others with Reagan being he least progressive and Obama the most. Some have attempted to reduce the size and influence of the administrative state while others, like Johnson, George Bush and Obama, have fueled the administrative beast.
No matter whom we have occupying the White House the government bureaucrats, academic masterminds, and the well trained progressive media will remain and attempt to thwart any attempts at reducing their influence and power.
When Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 they wrote the following into the article III of the ordinance:
“Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Our founders believed that religion, morality, and knowledge were the linchpins needed to preserve the Republic they had fought for. Progressives have replaced religion with conditional morality and morality with relativism. They have replaced knowledge with indoctrination to conformity. Our schools and colleges have replaced teaching the Constitution and writings of our founders with social justice and equality of results.
So even defeating Barack Obama at the polls this November we will still have a long way to go to return to a Constitutional Republic dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the protection of our individual property as our founders envisioned, but it certainly is a beginning.