The late 1800’s specifically the 1880’s were as interesting and dynamic as any other time in American history. The industrial revolution was in full swing, the West was wild as ever, and unions were standing up against corporations making demands for things we take advantage of today, like an 8 hour work day. The capital of the United States was unveiling monuments to great men, and telephones were the wave of the future. With all of this innovation and social change one could look at the last 20 years of the 19th century and say it truly did define what makes America great, but you actually have to ask, why would anyone want to destroy that?
This was the beginning of progressivism, an ideology that is based on the ideal that freedom and liberty are not inherent rights of an individual, as was stated by the Founders, but a gift granted by the government. Progressives saw a world where individuals were able to wield great influence, with corporations and labor unions bickering and the Supreme Court striking down labor laws it is somewhat understandable why some men may be looking for a change in policy. Progressives weren’t looking to change policies though, they wanted to fundamentally change the United States into a collective rather than a voluntary state of individuals.
Progressives believed everything good could come from the state. The state could take ordinary men and make them do extraordinary things. It was no longer the job of the State to protect the natural rights of the individual, but to grant them the rights and freedoms.
The individualistic ideas of the “natural right” school of political theory, indorsed in the Revolution, are discredited and repudiated…. The origin of the state is regarded, not as the result of a deliberate agreement among men, but as the result of historical development, instinctive rather than conscious; and rights are considered to have their source not in nature, but in law. – Charles Merriam
It isn’t shocking that these ideals came out of academia. Men who were fascinated by European political systems and felt the Founders were archaic and in some sentiments stupid and misguided in their idea that individuals could possibly create their freedom. They also took extreme issue with the concept that anything was natural, or human nature, to them government created society and that society would feed the government and form a mutual dependence.
“Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.” –John Dewey
These ideals, propagated by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, have become so accepted that most people don’t even realize that what is standard policy consideration is based on a philosophy that is contrary to the founding principles of this country. From the crushing regulations on business, to the government telling you what lightbulb you could buy, all of those policies that are based on individual suffering for the greater good are based in Progressivism. The terrifying prospect of progressivism is that so many people accept it without fully realizing that it’s mired in the principle that one must gain his freedom from his government.
Governments do not create good, at best, they mitigate evil. When a man must depend on government to survive, than his survival is no more guaranteed than the mail coming at the exact same time every day.