Today, a congressman such as Pete Stark can simply boast that the federal government “can do most anything in this country.” And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi won’t even consider the constitutionality of a government takeover of health care a “serious question.” Given this state of affairs, it does not seem unreasonable to reflect on the origins of the disdain for the Constitution in the Progressive Era.
Earlier in this piece, Hillsdale Professor Pestritto notes:
All this makes puzzling recent calls from some conservative quarters to lay off the original progressives. Matthew Continetti in the Weekly Standard, for instance, claims that “progressivism is a distinctly American tradition.”
In fact, it was anything but. Wilson sought, in his 1886 essay on “The Study of Administration,” to model America’s national administration on Bismarck’s Prussia. He wrote that this model of centralized government “is not of our making; it is a foreign science, speaking very little of the language of English or American principle. It . . . utters none but what are to our minds alien ideas. . . . It has been developed by French and German professors.”
Other leading progressives such as Frank J. Goodnow, the president of Johns Hopkins University, noted approvingly (in a 1916 lecture) that in Europe, unlike in America, the rights an individual possesses “are, it is believed, conferred upon him, not by his Creator, but rather by the society to which he belongs. What they are is to be determined by the legislative authority in view of the needs of that society. Social expediency, rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action.”
If “social expediency” does not send chills down your spine, then our government can, and will, do anything.
More shivers from the piece:
Wilson consistently advocated the adoption of a more English-style government, where there is no written fundamental law to serve as a check on the authority of the national legislature.