The “progressive” takeover of America

The present Democratic leadership of the United States avoids owning up to the “progressive” philosophy it adheres to. This may be because the US government’s finances are expected to deteriorate dramatically in the medium term, largely as a result of entitlement programmes such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The ideological roots of the Obama administration’s response to the current fiscal crisis lie in the progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, explains Tiffany Jones Miller in the National Review. The takeover of the American constitutional arrangements was inspired by Germany’s “Iron Chancellor” Bismarck. Between 1820 and 1920 thousands of budding American social scientists and others had studied at German universities. According to Miller:


“…[T ]he movement consciously sought to supplant the authority of the principles of the American founding with a new conception of Freedom, History, and the State inspired by early-19th-century German idealism. The progressive refounding of America thus had both a destructive and a constructive aspect.”

German-trained economists such as Richard T. Ely triggered a philosophical revolution which dispensed with notions of limited government and accepted the fundamental underlying role of collective morality. Other influential progressives in the same vein were Theodore Woolsey, John Dewey and James H. Tufts. The “father” of the progressive American Political Science Association, Charles Merriam, later to become the head of FDR’s National Resource Planning Board, wrote:

“The individualistic ideas of the ‘natural right’ school of political theory, endorsed in the Revolution, are discredited and repudiated…In the refusal to accept the contract theory as the basis for government, practically all the political scientists agree. The old explanation no longer seems sufficient, and is with practical unanimity discarded. The doctrines of natural law and natural rights have met a similar fate.”

The progressives were heavily under the spell of Hegelian idealism that replaced the Lockean guarantee of individual property and liberty under the law as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Following Hegel, the progressives believed in a lofty promise of freedom that “materialised” in self expression and perfection of one’s spiritual potential. Perhaps candidate Obama’s campaign visit to Hegel’s Berlin was an ominous sign.