Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Founding Liberals?

Is there a straight line from the Founding Fathers to President Obama? Patrick Deneen thinks so.

He criticizes Glenn Beck's Claremont view of American History. Admittedly, this view incorrectly reduces American History to: Founders=Locke=Good v. Progressives=Hegel=Bad.
It is not that easy.

That being said, my POMO Con response to Deneen would look like this: Professor Deneen’s argument is the Progressives corrected or completed the project begun by the American Founders. The Founders inconsistently exempted human nature from the “conquest of nature” while the Progressives thought human nature had to be conquered as well. But it seems like the Founders were right on that score. Human nature is distinct from Nature. We are not “nature fodder” or parts of a whole; we’re wholes. Pascal’s observation of our restlessness is a sign of our distinctiveness, that ultimately we’re lost in the cosmos. The Progressives do not complete the Founding, they reject it.

Moreover, Progressives like TR and FDR were not anti-human nature i.e. they supported the traditional family (#5 on Deneen's list). Allan Carlson has written about this and labeled them 'maternalists'. They simply rejected limited gov't (#1 on Deneen's list) in favor of safety nets to protect the family. They use modern liberal means for socially conservative ends. They might be called ‘Political’ Liberals. The rejection of human nature as a standard doesn't come until the Sexual Revolution of the 1960's. We might call supporters of this era ‘Cultural’ Liberals. Modern Technology like Birth Control and Abortion are used to divorce women from their baby-making equipment. Political Liberals opposed these things which are now celebrated as making us free (from nature). The real question is not whether the Progressives complete the Founders, but whether the Cultural Liberals complete the Political Liberals.

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