Saturday, August 6, 2011

Progressivism: Individualistic ideas are discredited and reputiated

Charles Merriam, in his book "A history of American political theories, Quotes Francis Lieber approvingly as he writes this: (Pages 306 through 309)
Following Lieber, came a line of American political scientists, many of whom were trained in German schools, and all of whom had acquired a scientific method of discussing political phenomena. Among the most conspicuous figures in the new school are Theodore Woolsey, whose Political Science appeared in 1877, and John W. Burgess, who wrote, in 1890, Political Science and Comparative Constitutional Law, and a number of others who have contributed materially to the development of the subject.

The method of these authorities has already been indicated, and need not be discussed at length. The significant fact about it is the change from the rather haphazard style of discussing political theory in earlier days to a more scientific way of approaching the questions of politics. A far more thorough knowledge of history and a broader comparative view of political institutions are conspicuous in the new system.

The doctrines of these men differ in many important respects from those earlier entertained. The individualistic ideas of the "natural right" school of political theory, endorsed in the Revolution, are discredited and repudiated. The notion that political society and government are based upon a contract between independent individuals and that such a contract is the sole source of political obligation, is regarded as no longer tenable. Calhoun and his school had already abandoned this doctrine, while such men as Story had seen the need of extensive qualification of it. Objections to the social contract were strongly urged by Lieber, and were later more fully and clearly stated by others. In Lieber's opinion, the "state of nature" has no basis in fact. Man is essentially a social creature, and hence no artificial means for bringing him into society need be devised. Lieber condemned the contract theory as generally held, on the ground that it was both artificial and inadequate. Such an explanation of the origin of the state can be regarded as true only in the sense that every political society is composed of individuals who recognize the existence of mutual rights and duties. Only in the sense that there is a general recognition of these reciprocal claims can we say that the state is founded on contract; and this, of course, is far from what the doctrine is ordinarily taken to mean.

As a matter of fact, the state may originate, and has originated, Lieber said, in a variety of ways, as, for example, through force, fraud, consent, religion. Still more strongly is the opposition to the social-contract theory stated by Burgess. The hypothesis of an original contract to form the state is, as he reasons, wholly contrary to our knowledge of the historical development of political institutions. The social-contract theory assumes that " the idea of the state with all its attributes is consciously present in the minds of the individuals proposing to constitute the state, and that the disposition to obey law is universally established." These conditions, history shows, are not present at the beginning of the political development of a people, but are the result of long growth and experience. This theory therefore cannot account for the origin of the state. Its only possible application is in changing the form of the state, or in cases when a state is planted upon new territory by a population already politically educated.

In the refusal to accept the contract theory as the basis for government, practically all the political scientists of note 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.

So you see, It's obvious that SOMEONE should rule over us, there's not really this natural right for you to rule over yourself. That's just the "spirit of the time" - a phrase that Woodrow Wilson was fond of. 1 2

Who should rule? The elites, obviously. Those who know better than the uneducated masses. As society progresses, we're simply going to need the progressives. But it's regulation, not socialism, so, see how free you are? No, those regulations are not coercive. That's just for your own good, because the progressives know better than you.

Something else here worth noting is how these ideals are imported from Germany. I'd like to get into that a little bit later.

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