What is Your Definition of Liberty and Equality? Or, How Progressive Thought is Aligned with Facists, Nazis

My assemblyman Chuck DeVore was awarded “Young Republication Federation of California (YRFC) Legislator of the Year” award recently, and being his own best press agent, he posted notice about it on Red County.

When I comment on other sites, I tend to leave it there, but this one screamed for reaction from the readers of this page.

To read the entire post and the comments, go here. But here is a taste of it below.

I was asked to do the invocation for the meeting that marked the transition of power from Chairman Matt Harper to Ben Lopez.
During dinner we all had the delight of listening to a revved up Dennis Prager. One point in particular struck me as he spoke of liberty vs. equality and how modern American liberals tend to hate inequality more than evil (assuming they will even admit to the existence of evil).
I further ruminated over Mr. Prager’s remarks on a plane flight up to Sacramento this morning while reading the Claremont Review of Books (http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/), in particular, Mr. John C. Briggs’ review of Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words, by Douglas L.Wilson and The Gettysburg Gospel: The Speech that Nobody Knows, by Gabor Boritt. In these reviews and other essays, it stuck me just how powerful Mr. Prager’s line of reasoning was – in fact, liberty and equality are largely incompatible in that liberty, being secure in one’s Natural Rights including the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labor, is very different from equality, taking the fruits of someone else’s labor so you can be his equal.
I had written a simple one sentence congratulatory note to the Assemblyman on his award. And later in the string, I took issue with his definition of “equality” and asked if he was joking when he wrote: Of course, others have tried to govern using scientific Truth without the self-evident Truths. In the 20th Century, we called them Nazis, Fascists, Soviets, and sometimes Progressives. Here is his response:More...
Dan, when I wrote, “Of course, others have tried to govern using scientific Truth without the self-evident Truths. In the 20th Century, we called them Nazis, Fascists, Soviets, and sometimes Progressives.” It was not at all a joke.
The Progressives specifically rejected the Declaration and the Constitution when they embraced Hegelian thought. Read Frank Goodnow and his thoughts on the Administrative State. Goodnow, along with Woodrow Wilson, rejected the precepts of the Declaration. The basic core premise, the supremacy of Man, runs counter to the Founding with its principles that rights are fixed and the task for government it to secure what is already ours by right.
That the majoritarian impulses of the Progressive Movement have been tempered by the form of the U.S. Constitution and the naturally conservative nature of the American people does in no way lessen their clear philosophical connection with Hegel’s philosophy and thus, their philosophical connection with Marx. You may protest otherwise, but history clearly displays the connection for any to see if they care to read.
From a book review of “Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism by Ronald J. Pestritto and Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings edited by Ronald J. Pestritto” by Jean M. Yarbrough which I find accurate: “In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel rejected the theory of the social compact, arguing that states developed only gradually, and not by deliberate creation. He further rejected the idea that there could be natural rights that transcended a particular historical setting or that the subjective claims of the individual should take precedence over the common good. Because the state is the objective embodiment of the people’s will, and necessary for their ethical development, there could be no limits on its power. Thus mechanisms such as the separation of powers, which tended to restrain government, were misguided. Instead, Hegel placed his faith in supposedly impartial bureaucrats who, because they held lifetime tenure and were chosen by competitive examinations, would possess the independence and intellectual tools needed to discern the people’s objective will.”
And,
“Again following Hegel, Wilson rejected social compact theory as too abstract, despite the evidence that this was in fact how the American republic was established (and, we can add, the prevailing model of what constitutes legitimacy in today’s world). Nor did he show any sympathy for the idea that the so-called state of nature reflects an insight about the moral primacy of the individual or the legitimate purposes of government. For Wilson, it was not the rights-bearing individual who matters but the society as a whole. Accordingly, he rejected the founders’ idea that free government must seek to enlist the interests and passions, as well as the opinions, of each individual. For Wilson, the appeal to self-interest clearly marked a more primitive era, which history had left behind. Disinterestedness, directed toward the common good, was now the higher moral calling, and individual rights should no longer be permitted to serve as a barrier to the achievement of the ethical state. This was true especially for property rights, which Wilson regarded as historically contingent. He dismissed the founders’ claim that in a popular government, majority tyranny remains a permanent danger. History, acting through the great cataclysm of the Civil War, had brought forth a single nation out of a divided confederation and united it in one will. (Pestritto shrewdly wonders why two parties should remain if there is one will.) In Wilson’s reading, the Civil War did not vindicate the principles of the founding but moved decisively beyond them, to attain a higher unity of will.”
In his rejection of Natural Rights, Wilson (and the Progressives) have much in common with Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, who, in his 1861 Cornerstone Speech, said, “…The new (Confederate) constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the ‘rock upon which the old Union would split.’ He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature (Note: in this, Stephens references the Declaration); that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error…
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science (Note: the appeal to science, same as the Nazis, in this case, that one race of Man is inferior to another)… Their (Note: abolitionists, the Republican Party) conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men (Note: the equality of creation as referenced in the Declaration – i.e., we are all equally human). The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal. (Note: Stephens refers here to unequality of outcome – i.e., since slaves were slaves, they were obviously not equal with free people. In this you find a thread of thought in common with some modern day Progressives/Liberals who maintain that certain races need help because they cannot fend for themselves.)
Some food for thought and debate. Before anyone responds too strenuously, I would sincerely hope they would do themselves the favor of familiarizing themselves with the above references – it may take a few days… ;-)
All the best,
Chuck DeVore
State Assemblyman, 70th District
www.ChuckDeVore.com

Posted by: Chuck DeVore | July 25, 2007 at 01:36 PM
What’s particular amusing here is Chuck really believes what he says. And his line of reasoning on Wilson and Hegel is pervasive in conservative thought.
For fun, I went to Wiki for definitions and detail on Liberalism and Progressive thought and couldn’t find a reference to Hegel or to anything that might equate progressives and liberals as facists or Nazis. Hegel almost never comes up in the books I read on politics and I suspect my library and Chuck’s are both full with very few shared titles in it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressivism_in_the_United_States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism

Chuck must have missed this:
Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. A liberal society is characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy, free private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of all citizens are protected.[2] In the 21st century, this usually means liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.[3]

  1 comment for “What is Your Definition of Liberty and Equality? Or, How Progressive Thought is Aligned with Facists, Nazis

  1. July 26, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    “equality of opportunity”. I like that phrase. One, which, IMHO, many conservatives do not share. Whereas we will lend a helping hand to someone who has fallen, they will say “you have two legs like everyone else. Get up.”

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