Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Forgotten "ism"

During the late ‘30s of the last century our political discourse was hijacked and many commonly understood words were changed to mush; it was during this time that we forgot one of our most important “isms”.

In fact, this forgotten “ism” has a distinguished, benevolent past. At one time, it was the foundation for one of the greatest transformations in world history; a transformation that changed the face of the earth for the better. This "ism", once forgotten, became buried under volumes of obfuscation and mis-representation. It was deliberately hidden from us by men who wanted us to forget that it was once our salvation. Indeed, our "forgetting" it has brought about one of the tragedies of history. This forgotten "ism" was fathered by the Enlightenment.

As Isaac Kramnick describes it:

“…political differences notwithstanding, the intellectuals of the French and British Enlightenment operated in relatively similar settings. They shared the profound transformation of Western life brought by commerce and industrialization and, with it, the emergence of middle-class Figaros (as in Mozart’s opera Le marriage de Figaro) as the new cultural ideal. Far from being alarmed at this great change, they generally embraced the new commercial civilization and its values, seeing it as a progressive, reforming force that would undermine the dead hand of aristocratic privilege and religious fanaticism. Theirs was also an age of increasing literacy, as for the first time in history reading ceased to be a monopoly of the very few, the rich, and the clergy. It was also an age when intellectuals eagerly wrote for and to this wider audience of new readers, not yet having become alienated from the philistine public in a posture of romantic weariness. (parentheses mine)

What was the message of these Enlightenment intellectuals? What were their ideals? They believed that unassisted human reason, not faith or tradition, was the principal guide to human conduct….Particularly suspect was religious faith and superstition. Humanity was not innately corrupt as Catholicism taught, nor was the good life found only in a beatific state of otherworldly salvation. Pleasure and happiness were worthy ends of life and realizable in this world. The natural universe, governed not by miraculous whimsy of a supernatural God, was ruled by rational scientific laws, which were accessible to human beings through the scientific method of experiment and empirical observation. Science and technology were the engines of progress enabling modern men and women to force nature to serve their well-being and further their happiness. Science and the conquest of superstition and ignorance provided the prospect for endless improvement and reformation of the human condition, progress even unto a future that was perfection. The Enlightenment valorized the individual and the moral legitimacy of self-interest. It sought to free the individual from all varieties of external corporate or communal constraints, and it sought to reorganize the political, moral intellectual, and economic worlds to serve individual interest.”(1)

Philosopher John Locke taught “…(t)hat individual mind imperially ordered chaotic sensory experience, constructing, therefore, its own meaning for the world. This Lockean portrayal of individuals as sole intellectual creators of their universe dominates the eighteenth century, from the writings of his disciples Hartley and Condillac to Helvètius, Beccaria, and Condorcet. No wonder, then, that Diderot and d’Alembert dedicated the Encyclopeie in part to Locke.

It wasn’t only Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding, however, that held the Enlightenment in thrall. It was also the political liberalism of his Second Treatise on Civil Government. Indeed, it is in its basic assumptions about society, so heavily influenced by Locke, that one sees best the linkage of the Enlightenment’s ideals and liberal individualism. Enlightenment liberalism set the individual free politically, intellectually and economically. The political universe was demystified, as the magical power of thrones, scepters, and crowns was replaced by rational acts of consent. The individual (understood, of course, in the Enlightenment as male and property-owning) did not receive government and authority from a God who had given his secular sword to princes and magistrates to rule by his divine right. Nor did the individual keep any longer to his subordinate place in a divinely inspired hierarchy, in which kings and noblemen had been placed above him as “your highnesses” who were society’s natural governors. Government was voluntarily established by free individuals through a willful act of contract. Individuals rationally consented to limit their own freedom and to obey civil authority in order to have public protection of their natural rights. Government’s purpose was to serve self-interest, to enable individuals to enjoy peacefully their rights to life, liberty, and property, not to serve the glory of God or dynasties, and certainly not to dictate moral or religious truth.”(1)


“The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason; when tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in the works of history and on the stage; and when we shall think of them only to pity their victims and their dupes; to maintain ourselves in a state of vigilance by thinking on their excesses; and to learn how to recognize and so to destroy, by force of reason, the first seeds of tyranny and superstition, should they ever dare to reappear amongst us.”(2)

If you want to see what makes the United States different from any other nation, don’t assume it is because we are a Christian nation. Instead, look at the whole history of philosophy and recognize the magnificent transformation that was created by the Enlightenment and by the secularism that it inaugurated. Indeed, the Enlightenment and the Constitution of the U.S. both sought to mitigate the problems inherent in theocracy and dictatorship (based, at the time upon the tyranny of the King of England who also headed the state religion).

The philosophical movement called the Enlightenment resulted in a totally new age that spawned the scientific method, individual rights, limited government, economic freedom, the separation of church and state – and most importantly the right to happiness. These ideas liberated the individual mind and taught man to think and do as he willed, to travel, to learn about the world and to decide for himself the answers to the major questions of the ages. These ideas, not faith, are the cause of decades of affluence; the societies that institute them are the best, cleanest and safest in the world today.

Organized religion did not bring the ideas of the Enlightenment to the world but instead fought them for centuries. Before the Enlightenment gained influence, religion brought us oppression and political domination in the name of God. Although we seldom hear stories about the Inquisition and its tortures, we are often told that such oppressive practices were rare, exceptions to the norm, etc. Yet, I think the best way to understand our Enlightenment society is to analyze how the Constitution bans religion in the First Amendment and especially why the Founders chose to do so.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first phrase says that the government cannot establish a religion or enact a law that establishes a state religion over the people. If this is not a direct prohibition of religion in public life, I don’t know what is. Why did the Founders insist on this Amendment? Because they knew that people had differing views on many topics and especially religion. They knew of the many religious wars where one group sought to impose itself on other groups. They knew the history of Christianity and the utter disregard it has had for people that sought to think differently. They knew of Galileo’s struggles and other thinkers who were punished and ostracized for disagreeing with the Church. They knew about the Inquisition and the witch trials. They also knew that many people came to the American continent to escape religious persecution in Europe and elsewhere. They knew that the best way to ensure that people could think for themselves as free people is to ensure that no one religion got control of the government. So they specifically prohibited the establishment of religion by government.

Notice they did not prohibit religion as long as it was practiced privately and through the consent of people who accepted its tenets. In fact, the second phrase about not prohibiting the free exercise of religion was intended to establish the prohibition of religion in a different way. By also protecting the free exercise of philosophical or religious ideas, the Constitution protects the mind against being forced to think in any way prescribed by others. Because of this phrase, people no longer saw the members of other religions as fearful or threatening. This situation did not exist before our Constitution.

Carry this idea further to the next phrase where the government could not prohibit free speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and you are on your way to creating a truly secular society by means of general principles that protect the mind and reason. The result of this protection is that people could be safe from persecution and prosecution for their ideas and beliefs – of any type. The benefits of free inquiry, open discussion and even the freedom to disagree with others all came from this Amendment and from the establishment of a government that protected the mind against coercion. This meant that any individual could, if he wanted, focus all attention on God as he understood him, or he could instead focus his attention on reality.

With the establishment of the Constitution, not only were people free of persecution for thinking, they were also free to develop new ideas and to express them. This created a free market of ideas where people could openly decide, without fear, what they thought. The result was better ideas, more useful ideas and this spurred the development of new products in an open market for ideas. Industries such as publishing, manufacturing, even political debates and strong disagreements could all flourish out in the open instead of in hidden backrooms. After a time, the result of free speech and free inquiry was a society that grew safer, citizens that grew more self-confident and an economy that grew stronger because the products being offered and delivered were increasingly better.

The last part of this Amendment, about petitioning the Government for a redress of grievances, established the basis for the judicial system where objective laws could settle disputes, where the government was the protector of rights and people dedicated to justice could actually dispense such justice in an impartial way. The focus of government was to ensure that no one had the right to appeal to and impose any ideas on the citizenry without coming up against a judicial protector of individual rights.

The First Amendment established the right of the free mind to live in society without threat or force. In essence, it established individual rights and liberated, above all, the previously captive mind. By outlawing religious domination, the American system of government inaugurated, for the first time on earth, or at least since the Greeks, a society where people were free to think, to speak their minds, to pursue economic well being, to be safe and to live among other men with little fear of envy or robbery. This was the legacy of the Enlightenment.

Because of the Constitution, individualism became so strong in America that people (religious and non-religious) learned to think for themselves about what would make a better life. This meant that religion, rather than trying to secure its dominance as it did in Europe, had to accept a position of political powerlessness. This led to the establishment of capitalism and even to a nation of the most generous people in the world. Rather than having to live with a religion imposed by government, the separation of church and state forced religious altruists to merely exhort people to be altruistic and go to church. The newly rich and affluent people that built America, because freedom had made them affluent, became benevolent givers through voluntary contributions – they called it altruism, but this benevolence was expressed, not as altruism, but as generosity.

So what happened? What went wrong? What the history books seldom tell us is that, because of the Enlightenment, our new nation was the first to effectively liberate the mind of man, to establish reason as the method among men for dealing with each other. Generally speaking, as time went by, those who advocated reason, freedom, capitalism, individual rights and limited government were called “liberals”. Their philosophy was called “liberalism” because they advocated “liberty”.

The big mistake came when we dropped the emphasis on liberty and reason and started seeing our dueling “isms” as a conflict between religious conservatism and “secular” progressivism.


How is it that God and religion were once the agents of monarchy and state religion, the agents of the divine right of kings and the "off with his head" form of justice while also being the agents of freedom and individual rights, of the pursuit of happiness and objective law, even capitalism? Logically, the contradiction cannot be resolved and it points to the flaws inherent in the position that our nation was a product of faith and God.

In Europe, as the Enlightenment flourished and began changing the world, many philosophers, because they were afraid that religion would die, did their best to undo the influence of reason. Kant and a number of other thinkers sought to save God and religion from the onslaught of science. In the name of reason, they declared that reason could not understand reality; they declared that man’s sensory make up was not able to apprehend it.

Even some of the leaders of the Enlightenment had difficulty reconciling a belief in God with the idea of reason. Deists, for example, attempted a compromise by declaring that God is the Creator of the universe but He no longer wanted to intervene in historical events. This view was intended to make room for reason but it too relied on rationalism; it postulated a belief as the foundation for reality. When the choice for man is between two forms of rationalism (Theism and Deism), reason has no defenders among philosophers. Its influence must decline. (3)

With few real defenders, the attacks against reason grew. Many thinkers, following Kant, argued that only religious morality could save man from being his own destroyer. The view that man is imperfect, with Kant’s help, as well as the similar views of earlier “conservative” philosophers like Hobbes, survived the Enlightenment and gave the conservative movement the ammunition it needed to argue that the separation clause was never intended to eliminate religion in government; rather God and his commandments were necessary in order to save man from the sins of “imperfect” individuals. Progressives, as their philosophy developed, saw government as the vehicle to accomplish God’s plan for the victims of greed while conservatives moved toward religiously-based institutions (including government) to control man’s greed. According to this view, religion was relevant because it was the only antidote to immorality. And by selectively focusing on certain aspects of Judeo-Christian theocracy, they argued that a free society was an outgrowth of societies described in the Bible.

Fundamentally, conservatives do not hold that reason is good for man. They hold that faith in God is superior to reason, that God is the ruler of the universe and men should be subservient to God’s plan. This is decidedly not the same philosophy that influenced many of the Founders when they declared that man had the right to the pursuit of happiness.

The pattern of the conservative strategy (that would also emerge in the progressive strategy) has been to change the meanings of terms presented in the Enlightenment-generated Constitution. The goal was to establish “sacrifice” as a defining motive of the Founders against the Constitutional protections of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; they preached against individualism and demanded that both the church and government follow God’s view of what was right for men. They sought to undermine a woman’s right to her body by claiming to be against “murder” of babies. They fought against the teachings of science in the schools, especially the scientifically proven views of Darwin and his theory of evolution. They advanced a literal interpretation of myths found in the Bible. They argued about the Pledge of Allegiance, into which they had inserted the words "under God", about removing God from our schools, Christmas decorations, even efforts to secularize Christmas (which had a secular past as well). They accused the progressives and other secularists of being atheists who hated God. They sought to ostracize and disenfranchise these people in order to defeat opposition to their own growing incursions, and, in an effort to enter the mainstream of political thought, they never mentioned that their actual goal was theocracy.

The genesis of the conservative movement was a need to discredit the Enlightenment for its contribution to freedom. By claiming that only religion could successfully lead to a moral life and freedom, they strove to disconnect the Enlightenment from having an influence as a moral force. They also strove to distort the individualism found in the Enlightenment (that consisted of men dedicated to reason rather than faith) by making a straw man out of secularism. They sought to bury the Enlightenment's cry for freedom by declaring it an agent of tyranny when, in fact, secularism was an outgrowth of the historically accurate truth that organized religion (and theocracy) was tyranny.

Through this twist of thinking, religion was able to associate itself with the good; creating a new movement of "freedom-loving" people who saw the rights developed in the Enlightenment as a gift from God, not part of man's nature. And to "prove" their point, they reminded us that the Declaration of Independence itself had said that rights were "endowed by their Creator". By taking the Declaration out of the historical context of the Enlightenment, they transformed our founding principles to those of the very religion against which the Founders were attempting to rebel.

What they ignored is that the term "endowed by their Creator" was intended to be inclusive of all opinions about the source of rights especially "natural law" and Deism. And, since the Declaration was a statement of individual rights, the term “their Creator” did not mean that man belonged to God but that each person’s interpretation of God was his own. Certainly, some of our founders believed that the Christian God was the source of rights and this position, to their minds, was consistent with the idea that God was nature. Yet, the Declaration made no mention of the Bible, Moses or supernatural intervention into the lives of men. Nor did it claim that man could only be moral by practicing God's injunctions. The intent of the Framers of the Declaration, rightly or wrongly, was to accommodate the views of all while also adhering to the principle that rights were derived from the laws of nature...from man's nature. This view was more consistent with Francis Bacon's view that "nature to be commanded must be obeyed" and that proper government must recognize that man must be free. The implication was not that rights were a gift from God but that they were derived from nature...regardless of how you interpreted nature.

But we must look at the Constitution to determine what the Founders were trying to accomplish: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Notice they did not say anything about religion when setting down the purpose of the document.

As the conservative movement grew, the Enlightenment philosophy that defended the individual, and made our nation possible, was now conveniently out of mind. When the progressives entered the fray and began to undo Constitutional protections, conservatives saw their opportunity to bury the influence of reason forever by connecting it to progressivism and government intrusions. Picking up on Marx’s materialist views, that touted the value of logic over faith, and the communists’ long-standing anti-religious persecutions, conservatives decided that if communists and socialists were advocates of science, then science, because it was this-worldly and materialistic, must also be false. Accepting the validity of science, they decided to reject it. When comparing science with faith, they extolled the value of faith. When comparing materialism to spiritualism, they extolled the superiority of the spiritual and they praised the idea that there was a relationship of the spiritual with the free.

This enabled the progressives to pick up the mantle of reason and science and gave prospective dictators the advantage. Rather than connect science with reality and an improving life for all, science became the handmaiden of dictatorship. When the progressives declared that they were advocates of reason, how could the advocates of rationalism and faith argue? Since Marx was not really scientific, neither were the progressives. Out goes reality for the conservatives and in comes pseudo-science for the progressives, the effort to use illogical thinking (that they called "science") to validate government power and collectivism.

The arguments for capitalism as developed by Smith, Locke, classical economists and other “liberals” could now be used, in a distorted sense, to provide cover for the religious conservatives in times when they were out of power. "Free market" ideas help conservatives to create political outrage against the dishonesty of progressives that keep them in the debate. Yet, it is conservatives, in various forms, who have championed some of our most disastrous policies including Anti-trust, government regulations and political graft to name a few. In an effort to capitalize on the political success of the progressive movement they attempted to beat the progressives to entitlement programs and, most often, because they have no argument against altruism, they wound up “me-tooing” the progressives.

Conservative intellectuals and politicians use a religious, utilitarian, form of pro-capitalist argument in order to get into the mainstream of debate but, once in power, they ignore economic freedom in favor of establishing religion in society. The idea of “compassionate conservatism” that ignores the free market in favor of faith-based charity is nothing more than religious progressivism.

If you doubt my assessment of religious conservatives, consider that most of these groups do not fight for individual rights. Their version of the fundamental unit in society is not the individual but the family. This form of collectivism holds that the family is the most important unit that must be protected in society. They use all sorts of "social" arguments that blame the family breakdown on selfishness and anti-social behavior. They claim that this breakdown causes crime, immorality, familial dysfunction and other "problems". By ignoring the value of the individual in society, they ignore his need to be free and proceed to enslave him or her to the family by insisting that self-sacrifice is the essence of our social strength. The progressives could not agree more. And since collectivism always requires a scapegoat, these conservatives are quick to blame the independence fostered by capitalism as the cause of society's breakdown. Their solution is more Anti-trust prosecutions and regulations. This leaves the door open for the progressives to “create” problems that can be blamed by both progressives and conservatives on capitalism.


Progressives, on the other hand, influenced by many of the same European philosophies as the conservatives, rather than seeking to establish religion, seek to use a more virulent form of collectivism as a cover for plunder. Their “god” is society; their ideas, also accepted on faith, pray to a different deity of power politics. Because of their Marxist base, they see their goal as gaining control of the “machines” so they can plunder production.

The influence of Kant and his philosophical descendants continued to grow in Europe even while the Enlightenment flowered in America. The power and influence of Hegel, Kant, Popper and others continued to feed the rhetoric of aspiring dictators. The progressive movement emigrated from Europe and became the American brand of communists, union organizers, socialists, pragmatists and today’s progressives that are bent on expanding government through higher taxes and entitlement programs – an American form of a fascist state. Progressives make up a descending scale, a “slippery slope”, so to speak. At the top of the slope are those that hide their true intentions by covering themselves as Constitutionalists who use the language of freedom. Sometimes we call these people “honest liberals”. The more brazen, the bottom of the slope, admit they favor a violent overthrow of capitalism. In essence, they are all the same; their only difference is the amount of force they claim to advocate. They all advocate force against citizens – this is the characteristic that invalidates their philosophy and exposes the lie that they are Constitutionalists.

History has shown that progressives will appropriate to themselves the language and emotions of their most powerful enemies in order to masquerade as people holding similar values. The early example was Kant himself. After declaring himself a man of the Enlightenment dedicated to reason, he maliciously wrote volumes to show men that there was no connection between man’s mind and reality and that the only thing one could do is his duty to God (5). Other thinkers such as Marx took these leads and provided the foundations for some of the most corrupt and murderous political systems in history, the various political ‘isms’ that required government brutality in order to accomplish feigned “social justice”. The legacy of Kant is millions of dead bodies. This is the legacy from which the progressives have sprung.

In America, because of the Constitution, progressives had a different challenge. The Marxists and socialists tried at first to declare violent revolutions through labor unions. They attacked and denigrated capitalist leaders, calling them robbers, thieves, charlatans and crooks. As they changed colors and morphed into progressives, they did everything they could to pry the Constitution from the hands of the people so they could replace it with the same destructive systems through which their brothers had devastated Europe. That pesky Constitution has always been in the way.

In those early times they recognized the true enemy. As the emerging religious right had also realized, their mortal enemy was the liberalism of the Enlightenment, the philosophy of reason and the individual.

In our early days, the two divisions of political thought were individualism/laissez faire capitalism (otherwise known as classical liberalism) and collectivism as embodied in the populists and early progressives such as Teddy Roosevelt. The classical liberals, who had nothing in common with today’s liberals, were the embodiment of the Enlightenment that created our society, while the early progressives saw capitalism, self-interest and individualism as the problem, not because it did not work, it clearly was successful, but because capitalists stood in the way of their taking over the machines.

Progressives have sought to turn government from one that protects individuals to one that would coerce them into working for “social goals” or “social justice” as defined by them. They needed a scapegoat which they found in capitalism, an economic system that was nothing more than freedom. They turned capitalism into a pariah by distorting its nature and best features. Through propaganda, they successfully turned capitalism and individualism into predatory killers and altruism (the real predatory killer) into a benevolent goal that just tried to improve life. As the ideas of Marx, Dewey and other philosophers gained ascendance, those of Locke, the Founders and classical liberals began to fade.

In her excellent book (The Forgotten Man) on the Great Depression, historian Amity Shlaes discusses an important theme that resounded through out the difficult years of the Great Depression. She reprises a theme put forward by philosopher William Graham Sumner about the forgotten man of the era. She writes:

“About half a century before the Depression, a Yale philosopher named William Graham Sumner penned a lecture against the progressives of his own day and in defense of classical liberalism. The lecture eventually became an essay, titled “The Forgotten Man.” Applying his own elegant algebra of politics, Sumner warned that well-intentioned social progressives often coerced unwitting average citizens into funding dubious social projects. Sumner wrote:

‘As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine…what A, B, and C shall do for X.” But what about C? There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X. What was wrong was the law, and the indenturing of C to the cause. C was the forgotten man, the man who paid, “the man who never is thought of.

In 1932, a member of Roosevelt’s brain trust, Ray Moley, recalled the phrase, although not its provenance. He inserted it into the candidate’s first great speech. If elected, Roosevelt promised, he would act in the name of “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Whereas C had been Sumner’s forgotten man, the New Deal made X the forgotten man-the poor man, the old man, labor or any other recipient of government help.”(6)

Many think that this focus on the consumer rather than the producer is the very idea that prolonged the depression. I submit that this shift away from the real forgotten man, the enlightened producer, is the very essence of progressivism. As a result of this shift our nation has been poorly served by politicians. In fact, there is a forgotten “ism” that parallels the forgotten man. Where the forgotten man for the progressives was the slave, the hard working American, who silently fed the nation, the forgotten "ism" was the philosophical fountainhead that had to be silenced so that conservatives and progressives could accomplish their baseless enslavement of the individual. These ideas, reason, the efficacy of the senses, individualism, natural rights and limited government, born in the Enlightenment, had successfully liberated the mind and the body of man so he could flourish and prosper. With progressives and especially with the New Deal, these ideas had to be removed from consideration. That forgotten “ism” is “liberalism.”

“(In 1936) Roosevelt won because he created a new kind of interest group politics. The idea that Americans might form a political group that demanded something from government was well known and thoroughly reported a century earlier by Alexis de Tocqueville. The idea that such groups might find mainstream parties to support them was not novel either: Republicans including the Harding and Coolidge administrations, had long practiced interest-group politics on behalf of big business. But Roosevelt systematized interest-group politics more generally to include many constituencies—labor, senior citizens, farmers, union workers. The president made groups where only individual citizens or isolated cranks had stood before, ministered to those groups, and was rewarded with votes. It is no coincidence that the first peace-time year in American history in which federal spending outpaced the total spending of the states and towns was that election year of 1936. It can even be argued that one year—1936—created the modern entitlement challenge that so bedevils both parties today.

Roosevelt’s move was so profound that it changed the English language. Before the 1930s, the word “liberal” stood for the individual; afterward, the phrase increasingly stood for groups….”(7)

From the advent of the progressive movement, the political debate in America became hijacked by progressives who began calling themselves “liberals”. Not only did they steal the name from an “ism” that was their diametric opposite, an “ism” that saw the individual as sovereign, they even took upon themselves the moral authority to expropriate his property, his mind and his accomplishments. Essentially, they wiped out the only “ism” in our society that defended the individual and they moved the discussion away from protecting the individual to employing coercive measures against him.

The problem for the progressive movement has always been that collectivism and self-sacrifice, do not work. In order to gain the upper hand against capitalism, progressives had to invent atrocities committed by capitalism so they could take over the corporations and blame them for all the failures created by collectivism. It has taken a massive campaign as well as a hugely corrupt re-writing of history to accomplish this most devastating of deceptions.

Yet, even after these decades-long propaganda campaigns and their successes, the Constitution continues to be in the way. It is a bulwark against the progressives because it is based on individualism and it creates checks and balances that must be negotiated in order to turn society from capitalism to re-distribution. During these campaigns to undermine the Constitution, the gridlock created by its checks and balances manages to keep the progressives at bay while individuals continue to prosper. We may be at the end of this process. The progressives are finally winning…so far.

Notice that the progressives have never sought to co-opt the conservative movement. They needed a weak opponent that they could blame for supporting capitalism. This strategy was part of their road to victory. Attack a movement that does not want capitalism, accuse it of being in bed with capitalists, and you limit any real opposition. Certainly, they sent a group out called the “neo-conservatives” to pretend to be conservatives while always advancing progressivism, but this has been a dead Trojan horse, so to speak.

In order for their strategy to work, they had to co-opt their only real opposition and turn its arguments inside out. All of the high-minded and evocative terms that animate near universal support for freedom and limited government were turned by progressives in the universities into their destroyers. Masquerading as “liberals”, the progressives have gotten away with a lot. For instance they ignored the term “natural rights” and expropriated for their use the income of producers; they ignored the term “individual” and began talking about “victims”; they ignored the term “individual rights” and promoted the right to be taken care of; they changed the term “freedom” to mean freedom from want; they turned our constitutional republic into democracy, the will of the people to coerce the productive; they changed the word capitalists to mean “oligarchs”, the very people they enslave and extort money from; they ignored the term “rule of law” so they could make “re-distribution” legal; theft became “social justice”; guaranteed income became “equality”; the pursuit of happiness became part of the corrupt past.

The progressives’ goal was to transition government from one designed to protect the individual to one that would enslave the individual. They want to turn man from a self-reliant, self-respecting “man of action” into a self-sacrificing robot devoid of mind and hope for the future – and they want to call it hope for the future.


We can now evaluate and find the true causes of the present condition of the world.

Conservatives assigned to reason an inferior position and blocked themselves from arguing for limited government on a solid, believable foundation. What they lost was the strength of conviction that our founders were right. They became defenders of a Pre-Enlightenment past and the status quo; hardly worth listening to by educated people. Today, we are bombarded by weak arguments that our society was based on religion, that charity was a concept that belongs to conservatives not to progressives, that God and the Ten Commandments were the foundations of liberty and that references to religion and religious morality in the words of the Founders prove that they did not see religion as an element of tyranny.

With conservatives unwilling to give up faith in spite of the fact that the Enlightenment had clearly shown reason to be superior in the real world, their goal was to ensure that religion survived the Bill of Rights, that it did not become associated with theocracy and religious persecution. In order to make room for faith, they had to denigrate individualism and reason and exhort man to give up his mind in favor of an ineffable spiritual idea that the Enlightenment had discredited. The result is that individual rights had no defenders and the progressives were given a free ride on the road toward dictatorship. Not only is this state of affairs the fault of progressives, it is the fault of conservatives who saw reason as an enemy. The result, the greatest governmental and economic system in the history of mankind had no defenders.

On the other hand, the progressives picked up the banner of reason and gave us pseudo-science to justify their undoing of man's rights and capitalism. This made it possible for them to claim that their un-scientific prejudices, their rationalizations for force and violence were scientific and that their ideas were superior to those of the superstitious conservatives - which gave them the force of moral authority. The progressives turned the idea of charity into forced altruism and suggested that society should replace God. Once again, true reason was left out of the discussion.

This left us with only two options, two political "isms" that were both only variants of the very ideas against which the Enlightenment had argued. It was against the basic premises of the conservatives and the progressives that the Enlightenment had made the best arguments; arguments fully defensible and superior; but which had conveniently been pushed out of history with disastrous consequences. Worldwide, the result was poverty, concentration camps, genocide, war, plunder and a constant slide among many nations toward fascism and communism.

We must hold the conservatives and progressives fully responsible for these results. They have been witnesses to the wonders of reason, capitalism and freedom, they have all the evidence they need in order to make the right choice: classical liberalism; individualism, freedom, capitalism, man's rights, limited government - the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Instead, they chose the lowest values possible: anti-reason and a war against the body and mind of man.

In conclusion, I’d like to suggest that the Tea Party Movement is not a conservative movement. It is the movement of the forgotten man and the forgotten “ism”, classical liberalism, a movement that defends and celebrates the individual and his potential for greatness. The Tea Party movement need not compromise with any other group, progressive or conservative. Let these other groups work out their own issues and contradictions. Let them compromise with the individuals who make up the Tea Parties...but let us not put up core principles for negotiation. If other movements want to join the Tea Party protests, they can, but no other group is powerful enough to co-opt the Tea Parties. As Robert Tracinski has eloquently suggested, the Tea Party statement of principles is clear:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 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, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

What of the future? How can we defeat the progressives and their totalitarian dreams? I think the best way is to fulfill the promise of the 1st Amendment and become an opposition that is truly inclusive. We need to reclaim reason and individual rights in our political discourse by rejecting both theocracy and progressivism. We must stand up for the forgotten 'ism'; the true political philosophy of the Enlightenment known as "liberalism".

As John Locke wrote: "...all the power of civil government relates only to men's civil interests, is confined to the care of the things of this world, and hath nothing to do with the world to come."(8)

By following this maxim, we can put those of us who favor liberty on an equal footing against progressives and conservatives. We can re-establish the foundations of our arguments based on reason while we expose the pseudo-science of the progressives; and the potential tyranny of the theocrats; and this will expose their views as truly ignorant and primitive. We can discuss man's rights on a proper metaphysical base that derives from reality rather than another realm of existence. On this foundation, we may yet save our country and create a political majority that could include, not only those who favor religious toleration, but also those who have become disenchanted with the unwarranted force and control being advanced by both the progressives and conservatives. We can see the Republicans for what they are; theocrats who would use force against citizens and who only repeat arguments for liberty when it helps them get votes. We can see the Democrats for what they are; radical descendents of Hitler and Stalin who have learned how to use words to hide from us that they intend to make us slaves.

Hopefully, we will soon be able to say, “Liberalism is dead. Long live liberalism.”

(1)The Portable Enlightenment Reader, edited by Isaac Kramnick, paperback, The Viking Portable Library
(2)The Future Progress of the Human Mind, Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) Reprinted in The Portable Enlightenment Reader edited by Isaac Kramnick, the Viking Portable Library
(3)Read Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff
(4)See Persian Letters by Baron de Montesquieu
(5)What is Enlightenment? Immanual Kant
(6)The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes, Harper Perrennial, paperback Page 12
(7)Ibid Page 11
(8)A Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke

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