What is progress and what is the best path “forward“? Is it to continue down our unmistakable path of statism and “forward” to managed decline? Or is it to reignite that passion for liberty that drove our Founders to take on the world’s greatest empire and to defeat it? To recapture that spirit that drove the nation’s young patriots to resist the British arms through thick and thin, mud and muck, and rain and shine? The hour is now bleak but the torch yet burns.
We hear much of compassion and equality on the left, but what could be charitable and desirable about relegating one’s fellow human beings to an impoverished existence under an all-encompassing tyranny? Because this is the unmistakable track record of the radical left’s agenda, and it should be emphasized here — it is no accident.
Why has the progressive left failed to deliver — progress? It has given us statism, dependency, economic regulation, high taxation, trade imbalances, cultural decay… surely, no sane American can think these stem from a free market system. We lose trillions in regulations, force corporations oversees with punitive taxes, and then wonder why the middle class is shrinking, or why the American Dream is dying on the vine.
Productivity and innovation demand freedom so that people can pursue what makes them happy, much like trees demand sunlight, air, and space to take root and bear fruit. But our government has become like a blight, and its sycophants and statists like vines; instead of protecting us so that we may grow and prosper, it restrains our limbs, shakes down our fruits, and strangles the life out of our republic.
We must now reassert the real way “forward,” out of the morass of incessant meddling and the malaise of poverty-inducing policies that threaten our nation’s very existence — at least as freedom-loving Americans would recognize it. As counter-intuitive as it may seem to some, we must show why the Constitution, a more than two hundred year-old document, shines the light on the way forward, while the left’s utopian fantasy, as vainglorious as it is, leads to poverty, desperation, and tyranny.
Progress is a term the hard left has co-opted, as if such a thing could be laid perpetual claim to, and as if the way forward is not subject to debate. Such rhetorical hubris belies a rigid, authoritarian mentality that disregards the historical record and the achievement of real progress in this country.
Contrary to statist mythology, what brought America forward to the first rank among nations was an ideology that runs directly contrary to the left’s agenda. American conservative ideals — political freedom, individual liberty, and the free market economy — laid the foundation for a people whose future was very much in doubt, and helped them succeed as the undisputed leaders of the free world.
None can deny that American began to rise to world power status around the turn of the twentieth century. At this point in history, the federal government spent a modicum on all its functions combined. The country, nonetheless, accelerated in relative clout after Europe undertook two disastrous world wars. The United States played the role of off-shore balancer in the those clashes during their darkest hours when their fateful decision was very much in doubt.
The nation became victorious in those seminal wars of our era, only to fall from glory in contests it easily could have won. It was not from a lack of capability that the American people could not resolve the conflicts successfully, but from a lack of political will and a failure of leadership.
Domestically, the nation has become more lethargic and less spirited since the beginning of the so-called Progressive Era; it is now ossifying and declining along with Europe. The last remnants of American exceptionalism are being squeezed out: we are becoming more like the spiritual and political brethren our forefathers sought to break free from, and with predictable results.
The American Revolution did not succeed because it was based on tradition. It was a radical experiment that succeeded because it was enshrined in truth. Truth led the founders of the republic to amazingly conclude that government was a necessary and ever-distrusted evil to rule over imperfect men. This is hardly a conclusion the leaders of a country would willingly adopt under normal circumstances. This makes America exceptional in many ways; yet also an exemplar for peoples in the world who desire to throw off their oppressive governments.
Two hundred and thirty three years ago, our country chartered a manifesto to break the bonds not only of colonial servitude, but the bounds of tradition and obeisance to arbitrary rulers. Man would instead be enlisted to rule and serve himself, and thus society, within the strictures of a rule of law derived by reason and grounded in truth. The Declaration of Independence was, and still is, a radical document.
The foundation of the American Republic in self-interest was not an instrumental one; it served no political science; it was a first principle of political philosophy that was powerful and emancipatory because it was true. This is an understanding of philosophy virtually unknown in modern times.
Philosophy does not serve because it is pliable and negotiable, and thus an instrument of politicians, but because the demands of truth are harsh and require a rigorous and uncompromising mind, and a person unafraid to take unpopular positions. When the Founding Fathers boldly justified their revolution with philosophy, the love of knowledge properly speaking (as opposed to sophistry), their courage and convictions were anchored in eternal truths rather than ephemeral interests.
The slurs cast at the founders by revisionist historians like Charles Beard and Howard Zinn belie a refusal to engage the philosophy of the founding on the merits. Specifically, their assault on this nation’s history is based on supposedly self-evident attacks on both the Founding Fathers and their “narrow self-interest.”
Yet the founders were not proposing to satisfy their self-interest at the expense of others; they were embedding the reality of self-interest in a revolutionary document for the world to see and offering it as a light to those living in darkness. It was intended for men whose reason could apprehend it, and not for charlatans with designs on power.
The recognition that educated men can apprehend truth by reason is the antithesis of the insulting and inhumane nature of Marxism. This anti-philosophy’s dogmatism is that all of its opponents are engaged in ad hoc rationalizations that are but reflections of their own narrow and selfish material interests. Inexplicably, radicals are able to escape the ‘false consciousness’ of capitalism that makes them “selfish.” This is a faith-charter that exempts radicals from the bounds of their own philosophy.
It was the intent of Marx to foment a world revolution when he devised his Communist Manifesto. As Marx himself put it, “All that exists deserves to perish.” If one examines the planks of the document, one finds that much of the ideological arsonist’s work has been achieved. This is despite the atrocities indisputably associated with governments attempting to put Marx’s ideas into practice. Whether or not the intention behind these policies is to usher in a paradise is inconsequential; there is no necessary linkage between intentional destruction and progress.
The American system, in contrast, was designed to succeed. The genius of the founding, as framed by the Constitution, is that its economic and political system complements self-interest. It links social cooperation and material progress in a free market, while providing safeguards against arbitrary coercion by government. The liberalization of self-interest promoted competition, individual responsibility, and hard work, while punishing laziness, stupidity and a misunderstanding of reality.
This near perfection of a political system led the American people to become pragmatic, and we unfortunately lost that philosophical awareness that our system is the best one because it is the right one. Over time this pragmatism, when combined with state education’s subversion of our intellectual life, bled over into relativism. Thus our identity crisis as a country, which has brought us to the precipice of self-destruction.
To bring us to the point where men will volunteer slavery and take hope in noble lies, the left has eroded the reason so necessary to apprehend the genius of the American founding. This agenda has led inexorably to the demise of liberty, because only educated enlightened men and women can be self-governing. And only self-reliant individuals can become truly enlightened, because becoming as such requires people experience the negative consequences of their actions, instead of passing them off onto some imagined entity called “society,” which is composed of real people.
Thus the radicals’ declaration of “rights,” which demands receiving something for free through the government, leads to the enslavement of one’s fellow citizens to service those demands. Freedom becomes slavery through the state, whether its occupants are democratically elected or not.
The way to reverse course is to return to limited government, not as a way of bringing back a halcyon but imperfect past, one that had not achieved yet the vision of the founders that all should be free from political oppression, but to avoid the tragic catastrophe that comes from pursuing a notion of progress unrooted in reality, rather than one that builds upon reality and allows human beings in all their wonderful uniqueness to pursue their own hopes and dreams. That is what will lead the nation back to real progress.
Kyle Becker blogs at RogueGovernment, and can be followed on Twitter as @RogueOperator1. He writes freelance for several publications, including American Thinker, Misfit Politics, and OwntheNarrative, and is a regular commentator on the late night talk shows at OTNN.