"If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of finer clay than the rest of mankind?" — Frédéric Bastiat (The Law)
During the ongoing harangue over the Sequester we have heard a great deal of demagoguery over a miniscule 2.5% in spending. The politicians and media argue over the merits or lack of merit in the cuts. They rarely if ever mention the constitutionality of the programs that will have to reduce their increase in spending. They claim Headstart will be affected and children will be hurt. They claim teachers and firefighters will be laid off. They claim people won’t get their food stamps. All of these domestic programs are not warranted in the Constitution. They are programs that have been instituted by progressives over the past 100 years.
So how have we gotten to a point in our history where these utopian policies and programs have become so embedded in our national psychique that no one seems to care if they are warranted in the Constitution? They are the products of progressives, utopians, masterminds, and statists who believe they know better how to govern than the people. Once these programs are instituted and the people adapt to them it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to get rid of them. So how did all of these progressive utopian programs begin?
We can trace the progressive era back to the turn of the twentieth century and men like Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette. As governor of Wisconsin (1901-1906) La Follette instituted many progressive policies such as; unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and support of unions. This was fine for a state under the 9th and 10th Amendments.
However, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate (1906-1925) he attempted to introduce legislation that would bring his state policies to the federal government. He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in 1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote. La Follette's platform called for government ownership of the railroads and electric utilities, cheap credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, stronger laws to help labor unions, more protection of civil liberties, an end to American imperialism in Latin America, and a referendum before any president could again lead the nation into war. Every one of these policies were unconstitutional, especially the call for a referendum prior to a declaration of war. Theodore Roosevelt and La Follett were of a mind that the federal government
The idea of elite academics and masterminds governing in an administrate state came from Woodrow Wilson. In his 1913 “What is Progress Speech” (a part of his New Freedom essay) Wilson stated:
“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 cooperation, 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.
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.”
As you can see Wilson looked upon the Constitution as a “living” document not the organic law of the United States.
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 (masterminds) who would supervise a vast administration of government.
According to the leading lights of Progressivism, including Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Frank Goodnow, 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.”
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 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. (See: The Progressive Rejection of the Founding.)
These progressive ideas have matured through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to Obama’s doctrine of fairness and equality. All are based on less liberty and wealth redistribution.
For hundreds of years, human beings have used lead for many purposes, and life on earth has not exactly come to an end. Now we are told that the lead used in hunting and fishing is harming animals and fish, and it may just have to stop. The scary thing is that one individual, an appointed bureaucrat directing the Environmental Protection Agency, has the power to impose such a ban.
The pattern is familiar with this administration. A small cadre of elite administrators, czars, judges, or politicians — often just one person — thinks it (or he or she) has the right to decide what's best for 320 million Americans. Without adequate information, debate, or cost analysis, regulations are written and imposed, and no one, not even the people's representatives in the House of Representatives, has the right to influence them.
Political elites have always existed in America, and during the past 100 years they have gravitated toward the Democratic Party. FDR's "brain trust," which included Guy Tugwell and Hugh Johnson, was just one example. But perhaps no administration in our history has been controlled by elites to the extent that the Obama presidency has. With academics like Cass Sunstein and crony capitalists like those backing green energy projects calling the shots, the elite have stepped in, determined to rule in place of the public will.
What is now happening was predicted — and celebrated — over forty years ago by Robert L. Heilbroner, one of the darlings of the New Left. In “The Limits of American Capitalism”, Heilbroner laid out a plan by which the innately conservative leanings of the American people could be quashed and replaced by the centralized control of a political elite. Heilbroner's book concludes with a chilling vision of the way forward. What he advocates is, in effect, a socialist totalitarian state, where the government controls every aspect of human life. In the name of reform, this statist system would regulate if not nationalize all major industries — but it would also go farther than that.
What Heilbroner envisaged was the rise of a ruling elite centralized in government, media, and the universities. This group of decision-makers would operate "on behalf of" the public and on the basis of "scientific principles" of social control. As Heilbroner writes, "not alone economic affairs but the numbers and location of the population, its genetic quality, the manner of social domestication of children, the choice of lifework — even the duration of life itself — are all apt to become subjects for scientific investigation and control"
Heilbroner's books were bestsellers in the 1960s, widely read and admired by liberals everywhere. They were, in effect, neo-Keynesian, pro-statist instruction manuals studied by the likes of Bill Ayers and Cass Sunstein, President Obama's tutors in state control and regulation.
Heibroner's books popularized the liberal premise that the political elite and masterminds promoted by Wilson and Roosevelt have the right and obligation to make fundamental decisions on behalf of the mass of citizens. In doing so, Heilbroner understood, the elite must find ways to subvert the naturally conservative inclinations of the people — especially those block-headed businessmen whom Heilbroner so despised. Decision-making must be shifted from individuals and elected representatives to bureaucrats and judges appointed by leftist politicians. Public opinion must be shaped and molded by elitist academics and journalists. The will of the state must be imposed, by coercion and violence if necessary. This was the future of America, according to Robert L. Heilbroner, and it is the vision of America adopted by those young activists in the 1960s and 1970s that now constitute the leadership of the Democratic Party.
Heilbroner believed that it would take hundreds of years to overturn democracy in America, in part because of the nation's widespread support of capitalism and the country's pesky tradition of individual rights. He noted, however, that the process could be speeded up in the event of a severe economic crisis. Another great national depression or prolonged recession would make it possible for government to enact a series of "reforms" that would shift control from the private sector to government. Government would then control not just major sectors of the economy, but the personal lives of all citizens. Their incomes, their health care, their educations, their home mortgages, their communications and entertainment, their access to news and information would all fall under the control of the political elite. At that point, Heilbroner believed, utopia would be at hand.
Everything that Heilbroner predicted is now coming to pass. Attorney General Holder has waged a virtual war against Arizona's attempt to defend itself against unchecked immigration. Congress has created an office of consumer affairs with broad powers to regulate financial transactions. A European-style bureaucrat has been appointed to direct the rationing of medical services. And the EPA believes that it has the authority not just to police hunting and fishing supplies, but to regulate carbon dioxide, a natural product of the act of breathing.
The preferred modus operandi, in fact, is to appoint a single individual with the power to control some large part of American life. So much power has now been concentrated in the hands of a handful of appointees, most of them reporting directly to the president, that it is now doubtful whether America can still be considered a democratic nation. Government has become the enemy of the people, because it is now in the hands of left-wing elitists who are opposed to traditional American values and who have only contempt for the Constitution.
The progressives say the apocalypse is hand with a measly 2.5% cut in the growth of federal spending. They claim that women will not be able to get cancer screening and there will be layoffs of firefighters and teachers. They claim children will suffer and abused women will not have a safe haven as shelters will close. They claim children will starve without food stamps and school breakfasts and lunches. Every one of these claims is not only false they are talking about spending programs that have no basis in the Constitution. If the people of the sates want these programs it is their prerogative under the 9th and 10th Amendments to enact them and appropriately tax their citizens. The only restriction on the states are defined in Article I, section 8 and the “due process” and “equal protection” clauses of the 14th Amendment. States cannot reinstitute slavery or restrict voting rights. States cannot declare war; enter into treaties with foreign powers or coin money. States cannot infringe on your Constitutional rights to bear arms or suspend habeas corpus due to something called the “incorporation doctrine” that was defined by the Supreme Court when dealing with the 14th Amendment Outside of those restrictions the states can lay direct taxes on their citizens to pay for all of those social programs so beloved by progressives.
When the 16th Amendment (income tax) was passed and ratified during the Wilson administration the Congress and the Executive has had a blank check signed by the taxpayers to spend on any program the elite masterminds or greedy politicians deem in their best interests. It is also time for the American people to become educated in the Constitution and the vision of our Founding Fathers if we want this republic to survive.
It’s time to begin talking about the Constitution and what the federal government should be spending money on and not demagoguing, as Saul Alinsky outlines in his Rules for Radicals, on the social implications of the cuts in the federal budget.
The election of 2012 was, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude." By a narrow margin, the latter stole the election, and we are now at the tipping point of Liberty.
Obama's economic model is based on the Cloward-Piven strategy, a socialist scheme to overload the government welfare system to the point of crisis, requiring replacement of that system with a national system of "guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty." This collapse is written into the genes of the debt load Obama has created, a burden that he anticipates will overwhelm free enterprise within the coming decade.
If Obama wins a socialist majority in the House in 2014, that model is all but guaranteed.
There will one day be a new morning in America, another Sunrise on Liberty, but in the meantime, we face some very dark years ahead.