I. Liberalism: The foundation of American Government and Culture
a. Liberalism was the parent of two significant forms of government: Stable Capitalist Democracy, and Marxist Totalitarianism. This has blurred the distinction between the America's progressive left, and Marxist radicals. Philosophical Origins:
"Rousseau begins his most famous work, The Social Contract (1762) by reminding us of both our past and the predicament of the present with this enigmatic observation: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One believes himself the master of others, and yet he is a greater slave than they." Here, Rousseau is exposing the self-deceptive nature of modern life. Individuals agreed to establish a state believing it would bring them freedom; instead, they established class inequality and the rule of the rich for themselves, but with the appearance of rule of all by all. Among the first of all modern political theorists to understand domination when individuals enslave themselves-all under the guise of autonomy or freedom. If the present situation was unacceptable, what prerequisites were necessary to create a legitimate community? His prescription is threefold, involving property, factions, and individuals."
B. Regarding the split between American Progressivism and Marxism:
What Conservatives often label as "social engineering" or "Marxism" arises of a misunderstanding of the vast differences between the means and ends of modern progressives and marxists. The Marxists means are violent revolution, command economies, and totalitarian control. The end is a static utopian pipe dream of a classless society. The Progressive rejects Marxist dogmatism on its insistancy that material comfort will bring happieness and order, or that human beings could be effectively motivated by anything besides their own best interest. The Origin of disagreement between the modern American "Right" and "Left" can be traced back to this assertion of Roussou:
"It is therefore one of the most important functions of government to prevent extreme inequality of fortunes; not by taking away wealth from its possessor, but by depriving all men of the means to accumulate it; not by building hospitals for the poor, but by securing the citizens from becoming poor."
The difference between Marxism and American Progressivism is gigantic. For one, Progressivism rejects the Marxist means of revolution, command economies, and working class-totalitarianism. The American progressive believes that a large middle class is essential to maintain a healthy democracy. We believe in free-markets, but we also reject the idea of a deregulated "free-hand" as an idea of antiquity; it promotes social instability and expoloitation. Marxists are opposed to democracy, capitalism, and religion; which is in full contrast with the American Progressive Left. The closest similarity between the Progressive left and Marxism is their belief in redistrubution of wealth. Yet again, Progressives redistribute wealth within our constitutional limits, and do so to prevent exploition, and social instability:
"The role of government was to help combat the creation of antagonistic class relationships by passing legislation, for example, income and luxury taxes, property laws, designed to redistribute wealth. "No citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy a another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself," Rousseau argued. In this specific prescription involving "citizens" who either "buy" other citizens, or must "sell" themselves, Rousseau showed clearly that his concern was with the lack of freedom created by capitalist economic relations where one class of citizens bought the services and freedom of another class of citizens."
In summery, Progressive's goal is to prevent exploitation, class-warfare, with the end goal of maintaining a just and orderly democratic-capitalist society. In contrast, Marxism seeks to abolish capitalism with violence, and claims authority to rule in totality for their goal of a "classless society".
II. Madison: The Prototype of American Conservatism-
"Experience with the Articles of Confederation, however, convinced many of those who gathered at Philadelphia that the prime threat to the American experiment lay not in a tyrannical individual or minority but in the capricious moods of majorities. This distrust of uneducated, mob-like majorities fit in nicely with the aristocratic attitudes of many of the Founding Fathers, and it provided some balance to the question of controlling unwarranted authority. The central problem of American liberalism then became, at least in Madison's eyes, the establishment of a popularly based government that would avoid the excess of tyranny whether imposed by a minority or a majority.
Indeed, I'd argue that the very survival of the American experiment can be attributed to Madison's level-headed pragmatism in our constitution. Here is a summery of Madison's philosophy towards government:
The most common cause of this instability was a majority of the citizens who, for whatever reason, attempted to impose their will upon the rest of the society and in the process deprived them of their rights. Simply stated, prior democratic forms had a marked tendency to degenerate into mob rule. Sensing its inability to govern, the mob would then elevate a single person to assume dictatorial powers in the name of the people, and once that happened that particular democratic experiment was finished." -(Note Madison's ability to forsee where failed Democracies would go to: Totalitarianism or Fascism in the modern conception. )
"This tendency of a group of citizens, whether a majority or a minority of the whole, to seize power and deprive other citizens of their rights was the cardinal difficulty with democracies; a solution to the problem would have to be found before the system could work. One must take note of a distinctly Hobbesian attitude in Madison's analysis of human nature. Human passions are such that, in the absence of constraints, people will naturally seek to dominate one another. As Madison boldly stated, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition . . . But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
Madison's level of genius is perhaps best exemplified by this observation:
"The reason of man, like man himself is timid and cautious, when left alone; and acquires firmness and confidence, in proportion to the number with which it is associated." In one of the most uncharitable observations ever penned on human nature, Madison ... eloquently captures the essence of the situation. It bears repeating: "Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." Even Socrates, historical symbol of the wisest and most just individual, will turn into a member of a tyrannical mob when he becomes associated with like-minded individuals."
III. Thomas Jefferson: The Prototype of the American Progressive.
Thomas Jefferson perhaps best exemplifies the American progressivism. These following words are often repeated so often they have lost their profound impact:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.
"Concepts of equality and rights go back to the time of Thomas Hobbes, and the ideas of consent of the governed and the right to overthrow government can be traced to John Locke. What is new to more modern political thought is Thomas Jefferson's introduction of the concept of "happiness" as a standard by which to evaluate governments. More importantly, he argued that if government does not allow people to pursue happiness-an abstract and ethereal notion itself-people again have the right to revolution. With the introduction of happiness, then, Jefferson introduced a higher standard for government to strive for, and he began to describe a view of American liberalism that was not attached to private property."(Note: I consider elections to be bloodless, legal, and just revolutions. Jefferson's use of words like "overthrow" should be understood within historical context. Progressives are well aware of the lessons of the french revolution, and reject the idea that any Democracy should be "overthrown".)
A crucial distinction of the American Progressive's ends:
Jefferson did not believe that property acquisition was what individuals should pursue throughout their life. Instead, happiness is the end for which we were created. Jefferson's clear preference of happiness over property is evident on at least one other important occasion. While serving as the American Minister to France, Jefferson was asked to review an early draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. Jefferson bracketed the words "right to property" and substituted the phrase "search for happiness." Throughout Jefferson's life he argued that it was happiness-not property-to which individuals have an equal, natural right.
Therefore, the Progressive considers wealth to be a means for survival, and opprotunity. Without a means to survive or self-improvement, the pursuit of happieness is irrelevent. Thus, progressive economic philosophy believes that greater consideration should be given to the rights of the poor to be able to improve their lives and survive, than should be given to the rich to pursue vanity. It's a myth that progressives want to take money from average citizens to create big government programs that make people lazy. Do not confuse progressivism with the failures of quasi-socialist New Deal programs.
IV: The Twentieth Century: The great distortion
Today, American politics is dominated by six groups: Progressives, Conservatives, Liberals, radicals, Corpatists, and Reactionaries. These labels have nothing to do with party organization, they are system of beliefs regarding who gets what, why, and how. The most pragmatic and benifical philosophies are progressivism and conservatism. Those two check and balance each other, and allow society to progress. Conservatives check progressives from becoming to radical, and progressives check conservatives from becoming too reactionary. Do not confuse them with the right and left, these two philosophies are realist and aimed at creating the maximum benifit for the maximum amount of people. They ask, "What do we have, what can we do with it, should we do anything with it?" These philosophies are opposed to these Ideological based systems:
1. Liberals (not to be confused with Liberalism) overly emphasize the importance of government centralization and control in guiding society. New Deal programs are the definition of Liberal policy. This type of thinking almost destroyed the Democratic party. (Tends to lean towards Marxism)
2. Radicals decieve themselves into beliving they are fighting for justice, equality, and freedom. However, usually those words are mere slogans to cover their own power hunger and egoism. In reality, their message is "If we change society my way, which is the absolute right way, everything would be great". Radicals are not interested in debate, they are interested in gaining unchecked power to move forward their own ideology. (Tends to lean either way)
3. Reactionaries think we've moved in the wrong direction and claim that we should look backwards for answers. Usually, their conception of the ideal past is a fantasy-world which cleverly manipulates ignorant voters. Often, underneath their claim of restoring "values", they are simply attempting to gain power at the expense of the rights of others. Their prime motivations are either greed, power, or religious and racial intolerence. (Leans Fascist)
4. Corpratism is the most dangerous of American ideologies. They masquarade as both Republican, and Democrat, Conservative, or Liberal. Their common bond is their loyalty to unwavered freedom for corporations, and the deception which they use to hide such loyalty. Their rise has directly corosponded to the rise of broadcast television since the 1950's. Corpratists need not be policy makers to control society. Their ownership of public airwaves has allowed them to define and control debate. Any careful analysis of the means and ends of corpratists reveals alarming lack of regard for human rights, democracy, justice, or freedom. Their behavior is essentially Fascism dressed up as unregulated capitalism. Indeed Mussolini said, "Fascism might very well be called Corpratism: For it is the merging of the corporation and state". This may explain the corpratist's preference of right wing conservatism. (Is Fascism, with the corporation replacing the state as the main powerbroker).
VI. How did this happen?
The Origin of Modern Progressivism:
"Beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, people began asking how one could be free without the means to exercise that freedom. To use an obvious example, a person residing in the United States possesses a theoretical freedom or right to leave that country for any other place in the world. That theoretical freedom does not, however, put the money in his or her pocket that will permit the exercise of this right. Isn't a person similarly situated, but who possesses the means to exercise the abstract right of free movement, actually more free than one who does not? Stated in a slightly more complex way, people were beginning to see that economic inequalities conferred greater power on some of their number and that the abstract values of liberty and equality meant little without the ability to fulfill them.
Similarly, the theoretical equality between black and white, male and female, is little more than meaningless rhetoric if minorities and females are systematically denied the opportunity to achieve at least some degree of economic equality. To return to our initial point, however, governmental legislation that is designed to achieve at least some degree of economic equality, or laws that attempt to ensure that blacks and women will be treated equally both in fact and in theory will undoubtedly constrain the freedom of other members of the community. This is precisely what is meant by the tension between freedom and equality. When my ability to discriminate on the basis of race religion, or sex is abridged through the action of government, my personal liberty is limited. While all right-thinking individuals would applaud such legislation on the grounds that such discrimination deprives others of their rights, from the individualistic liberal point of view, it does reduce freedom.
The response from majoritarian liberalism would simply be that the classical value of freedom is meaningless without relative equality. The hallmark, then, of the American majoritarian liberalism of the twentieth century is the attempt to use the political system to ensure greater degrees of equality or, at least, equality of opportunity.
Placing greater weight on the principle of equality, this side believes that participating in politics is not simply an activity to be engaged in out of self-protection but rather an endeavor that is beneficial in itself, part of living a fully human life. Since every person must have an equal effective right to develop his or her own individual powers and capacities, some of the so-called market freedoms will be restricted in the interests of social well-being.
The major ideological split from conservatives and progressives can be seen here:
1. Conservatives: believed that democracy was essentially a political mechanism for electing government. It was important in that it allowed individuals to protect themselves from each other as well as the government. Since this viewpoint espoused the market freedoms associated with capitalism, it desired a minimum amount of governmental influence so that in the private economic arena individuals could pursue their own advantage.
2. Progressives: Democracy is not only an electoral mechanism but also as a way of life, a type of society. Placing greater weight on the principle of equality, this side believes that participating in politics is not simply an activity to be engaged in out of self-protection but rather an endeavor that is beneficial in itself, part of living a fully human life. Since every person must have an equal effective right to develop his or her own individual powers and capacities, some of the so-called market freedoms will be restricted in the interests of social well-being.
Originally, the ideology of individualistic liberalism developed alongside of capitalism. It was believed that in contrast to the feudal economic tradition, capitalism would free humanity from the past and put an end to economic scarcity, so both individual and aggregate material needs would be met in the most efficient manner. As class divisions became more apparent and increasingly unmanageable, individualistic liberal theorists extended the franchise. First, they included nonproperty-owning white males; eventually, black males and then women were granted the vote. This extension of the franchise provided the precondition for the rise of majoritarian liberalism.
... the implementation of a more majoritarian form of the individualist tradition was more easily achieved in countries other than the United States, largely because of the strictures imposed by the Madisonian system. In America, the debate over how much majoritarianism does in fact exist or, for that matter, ought to exist, goes on.
The second tradition of alternative liberalism sprang from different roots, but its ultimate goal was and is the same as that of individualistic liberalism-the freeing of the individual so as to ensure the full development of his or her potential. These liberals, however, differ in their view of what processes ought to be used to accomplish that purpose and what values a truly liberal society ought to pursue. Lacking ties to capitalist economics, espousing a more equalitarian society, and arguing for a full participatory community, alternative liberalism provides a legitimate alternative to the dominant individualist tradition.
Finally, we must emphasize once again the values of toleration and dialogue inside of the broad spectrum of perspectives contained in liberalism. Regardless of which liberal thinker one encounters, each values the necessity of an ongoing dialogue in the search for a democratic society.