I’ve been getting run ragged trying to chaise down the roots of two things that ought to be pretty easy to chase.
One is just the American Way. What is the ‘chain of events’ that leads from “back then” to “us now”?
The other is The Socialisms. That one is more troublesome for several reasons. First off, it fractures and breeds new variations faster than a flu virus in an irradiated hog farm. Secondly, they keep changing the names of things. So there is this explosion of “different things” that aren’t all that different. Often with names that are confusingly similar to completely opposite ideas. (So, for example, in America the “left” has taken “liberal” from what it used to mean as a more ‘libertarian’ ideal. In ‘digging in’ I also found that anarcho-socialism has tried to re-brand itself as “libertarian socialism” – an oxymoron if ever I’d heard one…)
I’m up to about 21 different -isms, and a few -ocracies and -ologies too, and with no end in sight. This is the kind of thing that can drive an Aspe around the bend. We really really want consistency and completion. This is wholly inconsistent (sometimes deliberately so, IMHO) and has so many lose ends it is looking schizoid with multiple personality disorder.
But ‘A Tidy Mind’ demands some kind of handle on all this, so I’m going to toss some of it at the wall and see what sticks, and leave some to be added in future days. Hopefully those bits will be the lesser important ones.
I’m going to use Wiki links for a lot of this. Yes, they are horridly biased when it comes to “All Things Socialist or Political”. Then again, from a “know your adversary” point of view, that could be a good thing. And, right up front, I consider Socialism Writ Large as my adversary. The amount of damage done to the world by the various flavors of it is truly horrific. From The Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics to the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi) it’s just been a world of greif.
With that said, I’m no ‘free market capitalist’ either. We had the age of the Robber Barons and it was not good. Intellectually I can make the strongest case for what is termed Lange Type Socialism or sometimes “Market Socialism” in it’s “Socialism Lite” level. Robber Barons are evil. Dictators (be they kings, emperors or commissars) are evil. We need some kind of ‘countervailing power’ between the various power centers… and in an all out free market, you end up with a few Oligarch Robber Barons. So my bias is that I want Libertarian Ideals, but see that we need some kind of Government Cop to prevent Robber Barons from owning the world.
OK, that’s my bias. So what is the trail of history?
The Ancient Regime
I’m going to drop my first anchor point here. In reality, there is a deeper level. One can wander back to the Democracy of Ancient Greece, or the Republic Of Rome. But that doesn’t help all that much in explaining the “now”. Well, other than a sidebar that the Founders of the USA knew that the Greeks had discovered Democracy to be a bad form of government as it is unstable and tramples minority rights; and that Republics are both just and stable. Those are known from history, but not very explanatory.
Democracy passes into despotism.
Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.
Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.
So, knowing that, we in the USA got a hybrid system. The Senate was appointed by the States, as their representatives and to preserve their States Rights, and also so serve as a check on the will of the people that would otherwise inevitably lead to the bankruptcy of the government and then on to dictatorship. The House was elected by the people, to gain the best of Democracy without it’s unbridled ills.
(Later the US Constitution was changed to make Senators directly elected. Much of the decay of the USA can be traced from that point. It takes about a generation for Democracies to fail… so it’s a slow enough process to not show up very fast. Having a largely Republic heritage and with ours now being an indirect Democracy, it may take two generations or three, but once we removed State Appointed Senators we pretty much guaranteed the Welfare State and ultimate demise back to Dictatorship.)
Which brings us back to the Ancient Regime.
That is the description applied to France for most of it’s older history. An age of Kings and Privilege.
The Ancien Régime (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃sjɛ̃ ʁeʒim], Old Regime) refers primarily to the aristocratic, social and political system established in France from approximately the 15th century to the 18th century under the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts (like the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts), internal conflicts and civil wars, but they remained a confusing patchwork of local privilege and historic differences until the French Revolution ended the system.
Much of the medieval political centralization of France had been lost in the Hundred Years’ War, and the Valois Dynasty’s attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Wars of Religion. Much of the reigns of Henry IV, Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of “absolute monarchy” (typified by the king’s right to issue lettres de cachet) and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, ancien régime France remained a country of systemic irregularities: administrative (including taxation), legal, judicial, and ecclesiastic divisions and prerogatives frequently overlapped, while the French nobility struggled to maintain their own rights in the matters of local government and justice, and powerful internal conflicts (like the Fronde) protested against this centralization.
The need for centralization in this period was directly linked to the question of royal finances and the ability to wage war. The internal conflicts and dynastic crises of the 16th and 17th centuries (the Wars of Religion, the conflict with the Habsburgs) and the territorial expansion of France in the 17th century demanded great sums which needed to be raised through taxes, such as the taille and the gabelle and by contributions of men and service from the nobility.
One key to this centralization was the replacing of personal “clientele” systems organized around the king and other nobles by institutional systems around the state. The creation of the Intendants—representatives of royal power in the provinces—did much to undermine local control by regional nobles. The same was true of the greater reliance shown by the royal court on the “noblesse de robe” as judges and royal counselors. The creation of regional parlements had initially the same goal of facilitating the introduction of royal power into newly assimilated territories, but as the parlements gained in self-assurance, they began to be sources of disunity.
Why mention this? Because it was just this kind of regime that had taken hold in most all of Europe after the fall of The Roman Empire. It was this kind of regime that was the antithesis of what the USA was to become. It was the abuses of Kings, centralizing power and taxation, setting the approved religion for all their people, that led to the Colonial Revolution and the United States Of America. You see it directly reflected in our constitution and bill of rights.
No taxation without representation (something we may need to revisit if the UN starts to claim it can tax us…)
No national establishment of religion. (Says NOTHING about practice by individuals, in government or out, only that the Sovereign doesn’t get to set the religion for all, we each get to choose.)
No titles of nobility (Kings and Princes have no place in this government).
So, if we arose partly out of a rejection of the Old King George and the whole British version of the same Royalty based system, it’s a good place to set our anchor. Yes, there had been precursor rumblings. The Magna Carta set aside some rights for the other nobles, though there were several generations of “does so, does not” to come after the first signing.
On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta. Confronted by 40 rebellious barons, he consented to their demands in order to avert civil war. Just 10 weeks later, Pope Innocent III nullified the agreement, and England plunged into internal war.
Although Magna Carta failed to resolve the conflict between King John and his barons, it was reissued several times after his death. On display at the National Archives, courtesy of David M. Rubenstein, is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta. This version was entered into the official Statute Rolls of England.
Enduring Principles of Liberty
Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. It is concerned with many practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system under which they lived. The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:
“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”
The key thing to realize here is that this was about how the pie of dominance was to be shared among the dominating… It is often held up as a first step in the liberty of the Free Man, and in some ways it is. Some small shred of the normal Absolute Power of Kings was wrested away and some degree of what we would now call Human Rights and Property Rights were taken by the Barons… but not the common man.
In many ways, the U.S. Colonial Revolution was just a replay of the Magna Carta, largely driven by the Landed Gentry but with a bit of added liberty and freedom handed out to the average man along the way. (It would be much much later that those liberties extended to women and racial minorities as well).
But after the Revolution, a strange thing happened. The U.S. Constitution is even MORE lavish in handing power and liberty to the common man, and restricting the power of the Central Sovereign. The United States then flourished for a couple of hundred years.
Eventually, we began to change. It largely started with the Progressive Movement of the Roosevelts (both of them!) and has, with fits and starts, lurched ever more toward Democracy (and away from Republic) and ever more toward “Progressive” ideals. Now, about 50 years later, or almost 2 generations, we are bankrupt from people “voting for themselves the largess of the public purse” and headed to the inevitable collapse (that is typically followed by a dictatorship – this time likely a ‘dictator of the committee’ from either the IMF or the UN or both; IMHO, but that’s highly speculative so far.)
It’s not hard to trace those currents, up to the Progressive Era; but at that point things get muddy.
“Why?” Takes us down several other paths, some of which have their own roots back to the time of the French Revolution, when The Ancient Regime was overthrown. It is that ‘backing and filling’ that sprouts branches all over the place. That leads to “Secular Humanism” and “Socialism” and a dozen other ‘isms and ocracies’. We have to mention Theocracy in there too… That’s where it all gets messy.
So we’ll come back to the “messy bits” somewhat later. Suffice it to say that before the USA, the world was largely dominated by Ancient Regimes of Kings and Royals, the occasional odd Empire (such as the Empires in China), and some Theocracies, such as the Muslim Arabs in Africa (only a few centuries prior pushed out of both ends of Europe).
Basically, we can accept as our ‘backdrop’ that there was a long history of domination, starting from when the first individuals were dominated in families by their parents, leading to tribes of families dominated by a Chief or Leader, on to Clans of tribes with selected leadership, eventually culminating in Lords, Barons, Kings and Princes and all the other Riff Raff of “Nobility”. (Who then promptly found it fun to subjugate each other into collections of nations that they could call Empires…) Most of the history of antiquity is entirely one of Domination by some central authority over the free will of others. Only the names change, not the process… (Modulo the sporadic toe dip into Democracy that returned to Dictatorship under the Greeks and the Roman Republic that lasted remarkably long before slipping back into Empire…)
Which brings us back to the U.S.A.
At one point George Washington was asked if he would be King… He turned down the offer… but for such a decision we might have had a very different path. What caused the shift?
A little thing called The Enlightenment.
THAT was the watershed event that lead to the USA as we know it today. At times, some folks assert the USA was a Masonic creation. IMHO, it is more that both Freemasonry and The USA have a common root in The Enlightenment ideals of that era.
Freemasonic lodges originated from English and Scottish stonemasonic guilds in the 17th century. In the 18th century, they expanded into an extremely widespread collection of interconnected (to varying degrees) men’s, and occasionally women’s, associations which Margaret Jacob contends had their own mythologies and special codes of conduct – including a communal understanding of liberty and equality inherited from guild sociability – “liberty, fraternity, and equality” The remarkable similarity between these values, which were generally common in Britain as on the Continent, and the French Revolutionary slogan of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” spawned many conspiracy theories. Notably, Abbé Barruel traced the origins of the Jacobins – and hence the Revolution – to the French freemasons.
Notice that the Freemasons were fairly young as a group having only just formed out of the earlier stone masons guilds. But steeped in the same Enlightenment ideals. We also see how later, after the French King has funded the Americans against King George, the Enlightenment comes to France and forms a Republic there, as well…
But which caused whom? IMHO, the environment lead to the formation of both the Freemasons and the Enlightenment thinking. Both came together when they came. For my purposes, I’m not going to chase back upstream to the questions of the origin of Freemasons (were they the remnant of the Knights Templar? etc.) It is enough to note that they were part of the Enlightenment.
Their “official” start is about 43 years before the independence of the USA. Not a lot of time, but perhaps enough to have had influence; but more likely just driven by common currents of social development and history.
Freemasonry was officially established on the continent of Europe in 1734, when a lodge was set up in The Hague, although the first “fully formed lodge” appears to have met in 1721 in Rotterdam. Similarly, there are records of a Parisian lodge meeting in 1725 or 1726. As Daniel Roche writes, freemasonry was particularly prevalent in France – by 1789, there were perhaps as many as 100,000 French Masons, making Freemasonry the most popular of all Enlightenment associations. Freemasonry does not appear to have been confined to Western Europe, however, as Margaret Jacob writes of lodges in Saxony in 1729 and in Russia in 1731.
Conspiracy theories aside, it is likely that masonic lodges had an effect on society as a whole. Jacob argues that they “reconstituted the polity and established a constitutional form of self-government, complete with constitutions and laws, elections and representatives”. In other words, the micro-society set up within the lodges constituted a normative model for society as a whole. This was especially true on the Continent: when the first lodges began to appear in the 1730s, their embodiment of British values was often seen as threatening by state authorities. For example, the Parisian lodge that met in the mid 1720s was composed of English Jacobite exiles.
Furthermore, freemasons all across Europe made reference to the Enlightenment in general in the 18th century. In French lodges, for example, the line “As the means to be enlightened I search for the enlightened” was a part of their initiation rites. British lodges assigned themselves the duty to “initiate the unenlightened”. This did not necessarily link lodges to the irreligious, but neither did this exclude them from the occasional heresy. In fact, many lodges praised the Grand Architect, the masonic terminology for the divine being who created a scientifically ordered universe.
What matters most to me is just “What is this ‘Enlightenment’ and what does it have to do with the USA?” It was, at it’s core, a movement away from a world driven by a Religious Authority and away from a world driven by a Civil Central Authority (be they Kings or Emperors) and toward a world of free individuals thinking for themselves.
This older world is where we get the terminology of the numbered estates. The “First Estate” was the Church and Clergy. The “Second Estate” was the Royalty and Nobility These folks spoke, and that was law. Truth eternal. What the Enlightenment did was to say “No!” to that. The individual could decide what was truth, and what was law… (The ‘Third Estate’ was everyone else and the peasantry. Folks have sporadically added other numbers, but with less regularity. “Forth Estate” often being news media. Fifth estate having even more variability )
An Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe, that sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and abuses in church and state. Originating about 1650 to 1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), mathematician Isaac Newton (1643–1727), and historian Voltaire (1694–1778). The wide distribution of the printing press, invented in Europe in 1440, made possible the rapid dispersion of knowledge and ideas which precipitated the Enlightenment. Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as Enlightened Despotism. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism’s emphasis on emotion and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force.
That reference to “Romanticism” and the “Counter-Enlightenment” matters; and rather a lot. We will see that from those roots grows most of the current conflict between “Progressive” and “Socialist” movements and the Traditional American Enlightenment. Not directly, and not with a pure note, but with a strong current all the same.
One sidebar: While the Enlightenment tried to curtail the power of Kings and The Church, it was NOT an anti-religious movement. In the USA we see this clearly in the fairly strong presence of religion in The Founders. Congress opened with a prayer. So too the Courts. It was a later twist that turned the “Age of Reason” into “Humanism” and away from religion altogether. That thread reaches back through Renaissance Humanism and eventually ends in something called Secular Humanism. When someone speaks of the “Separation of Church and State” meaning no official state religion (but religion in the Public Square is OK), that is a Renaissance Humanist, headed into the Enlightenment ideals. When they say it instead means “Ban God from school and the public square”, they have moved into Secular Humanism.
From the Secular Link:
Secular Humanism – Excluding God from Schools & Society
Secular Humanism is an attempt to function as a civilized society with the exclusion of God and His moral principles. During the last several decades, Humanists have been very successful in propagating their beliefs. Their primary approach is to target the youth through the public school system. Humanist Charles F. Potter writes, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” (Charles F. Potter, “Humanism: A New Religion,” 1930)
John J. Dunphy, in his award winning essay, The Humanist (1983), illustrates this strategic focus, “The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: A religion of humanity — utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to carry humanist values into wherever they teach. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new — the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.”
Is this what’s happening? John Dewey, remembered for his efforts in establishing America’s current educational systems, was one of the chief signers of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto. It seems the Humanists have been interested in America’s education system for nearly a century. They have been absolutely successful in teaching children that God is imaginary and contrary to “science.”
Note that those dates are all fairly recent. The wiki on Secular Humanism put the date as about the same:
The meaning of the phrase “Secular Humanism” has evolved over time. The phrase has been used since at least the 1930s, and in 1943, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, was reported as warning that the “Christian tradition… was in danger of being undermined by a Secular Humanism which hoped to retain Christian values without Christian faith
Compare that with the earlier Renaissance Humanism:
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval scholastic education, emphasizing practical, pre-professional and -scientific studies. Scholasticism focused on preparing men to be doctors, lawyers or professional theologians, and was taught from approved textbooks in logic, natural philosophy, medicine, law and theology. The main centers of humanism were Florence and Naples.
Rather than train professionals in jargon and strict practice, humanists sought to create a citizenry (sometimes including women) able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity. Thus, they would be capable of better engaging the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions. This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy.
Clearly something changed in “Humanism” between the Renaissance and post Enlightenment…
So that sidebar shows that the Renaissance Humanism lead into the Enlightenment, and there was no issue of with God in the Public Square. That was the context in which America was forged. That is the context in which our constitution was written. A desire to prevent central religious authority from dictating a religion; but not one that forbade the public expression of it. THAT idea came along later. MUCH later, and as part of the anti-Enlightenment.
So, back at being more, rather than less, Enlightened:
The centre of the Enlightenment was France, where it was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopédie (1751–72) edited by Denis Diderot (1713–1784) with contributions by hundreds of leading philosophes (intellectuals) such as Voltaire (1694–1778), Rousseau (1712–1778) and Montesquieu (1689–1755). Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume set were sold, half of them outside France. The new intellectual forces spread to urban centres across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, then jumped the Atlantic into the European colonies, where it influenced Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, and played a major role in the American Revolution. The political ideals influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish–Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791.
So there is the cultural Tap Root Of America. Directly out of The Enlightenment. From the philosophy, to the writers, to the American Revolutionaries who drafted our Constitution and laws.
The fundamental truth that springs from this is that anything that it ANTI-Enlightenment is contrary to The Founders and to the Constitution they wrote. Attempts to re-interpret the Constitution in the dim light of “Secular Humanism” (or other -isms) is simply to lie about the meaning and intent of the words written by our Enlightenment thinkers and Founders.
(This does not prevent us from changing our minds about what government we want to have, but it DOES say that simply redefining away the Enlightenment is a lie, a fraud, and a despicable act. Have a vote on it, as the Constitution directs, but do not simply rewrite the meaning by corrupting the words as written.)
If one looks back to the roots of Humanism, it is hard to see how it could ever be transmuted into “Secular Humanism”
Many humanists were churchmen, most notably Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini), Sixtus IV and Leo X, and there was often patronage of humanists by senior church figures. Much humanist effort went into improving the understanding and translations of Biblical and early Christian texts, both before the Protestant Reformation, on which the work of figures like Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples had a great influence, and afterwards.
Yet the wiki on humanism now can claim things like:
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. According to Greg M. Epstein, “Humanism today can be categorized as a movement, a philosophy of life or worldview, or … [a] lifestance.” In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism.
Secular humanism is a secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics, and justice, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making. Secular humanism contrasts with religious humanism, which is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities. Renaissance humanism is a cultural movement of the Italian Renaissance based on the study of classical works.
Religious and secular humanism arose from a trajectory extending from the deism and anti-clericalism of the Enlightenment, the various secular movements of the 19th century (such as positivism), and the overarching expansion of the scientific project.
Note that the reference to The Enlightenment points out that it was Deist, that is, affirming God, but not so keen on the Church cleric power structure. Something we’ve already seen, but worth repeating.
It is also worth noting just who ends up in the Secular Humanist camp…
After World War II, three prominent Humanists became the first directors of major divisions of the United Nations: Julian Huxley of UNESCO, Brock Chisholm of the World Health Organization, and John Boyd-Orr of the Food and Agricultural Organization.
So we can see that the UN leans, per this kind of roster, directly against The Enlightenment leanings of the USA.
(At this point it’s easy to get lost in a sea of -isms, from materialism to theism to atheism to even more obscure ones like Extropieanism (that thinks we can evolve to live forever, a rather extreme form of optomism -yet another ism… and leads off into comparing pessimism and realism and… that’s a pretty good example of how the ‘ism chains’ seem to multiply rather than converge… One can only wonder how “accidental” that confounding of the language might be… but remember “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity – and Stupid covers a lot of ground in one night…”)
What were the central themes of The Enlightenment?
No brief summary can do justice to the diversity of enlightened thought in 18th-century Europe. Because it was a value system rather than a set of shared beliefs, there are many contradictory trains to follow. As Outram notes, The Enlightenment comprised “many different paths, varying in time and geography, to the common goals of progress, of tolerance, and the removal of abuses in Church and state.”
In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant described it simply as freedom to use one’s own intelligence. More broadly, the Enlightenment period is marked by increasing empiricism, scientific rigor, and reductionism, along with increasing questioning of religious orthodoxy.
Historian Peter Gay asserts the Enlightenment broke through “the sacred circle,” whose dogma had circumscribed thinking. The Sacred Circle is a term he uses to describe the interdependent relationship between the hereditary aristocracy, the leaders of the church and the text of the Bible. This interrelationship manifests itself as kings invoking the doctrine “Divine Right of Kings” to rule. Thus church sanctioned the rule of the king and the king defended the church in return.
Zafirovski, (2010) argues that The Enlightenment is the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy, and reason as primary values of society – as opposed to the divine right of kings or traditions as the ruling authority. This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change. Later critics of The Enlightenment, such as the Romantics of the 19th century, contended that its goals for rationality in human affairs were too ambitious to ever be achieved.
A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, traced their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment.
Here we see the first notes of discord from the Romantics, claiming that it is, in essence, “A Bridge Too Far”. To which I wold say, it is a bridge I’m happy to keep in place for the crossing… Also note that the word “liberalism” in the last line will be subject to some confusion.
Classical Liberalism has little to do with what are called “Liberals” in the USA today. At the end of W.W.II, being a Socialist became a bit of a dirty word and the Progressives had been in favor of much from that point of view, so they re-branded themselves “Liberals”; thus leading to the (deliberate?) confusion where a “liberal” in the UK was almost the exact opposite of an “liberal” in the USA.
The wiki on Liberalism makes a vague reference to this, but doesn’t really try to keep it straight, and certainly does not indicate that “liberal” in the USA today is the exact opposite in many ways of what it was in the beginning. Few could keep a strait face while arguing that the “Tax and Spend and Regulate and Centrally Plan” American Social Liberal was in fact promoting freedom and free markets. Nor can the present “Federal Regulator Regime” be at all rectified with The Enlightenment ideals on which we were founded. I will also note that the complete alienation of Public Square Religion (as typified by Secular Humanism) is in stark contrast with The Enlightenment attitudes of our founders…
This article discusses the ideology of liberalism. Local differences in its meaning are listed in Liberalism worldwide. For other uses, see Liberal (disambiguation).
If you need a disambiguation page for the “differences in meaning” worldwide, you have a substantially useless and corrupted term. But, from the worldwide page, we can find that the corruption is even further spread in Latin America:
In many Latin American countries, liberalism and radicalism have been associated with generally left-of-center political movements such as Colombia’s Liberal Party, historically concerned mostly with effecting government decentralization and regional autonomy (liberals were influential in the total dissolution of at least two defunct countries, the United Provinces of Central America and Gran Colombia) and separation of church and state. At times, the anti-clerical and secularist stances promoted by Latin American liberals have resulted in limitations on the civil rights of clergy or others associated with the Church (as in Mexico, where law still prohibits priests from public office). Liberalism in North America has a different background.
So exactly how does a “liberal” meaning freedom loving philosophy that embraces religious choices end up in bed with radicalism and having a ‘secularist” stance that “prohibits priests from public office”? Sounds a whole lot more “secular humanist” to me…
So, generally, you will find me avoiding the use of the term “Liberal”. I will tend to use “Libertarian” to mean something like what the old Classical Liberal meant – one who embraces liberties for all, including religious liberties. I will tend to use “Progressive” or “Lange Type Socialist” for those American Social Liberals who advocate a ‘democracy lite low religion high social intervention with central planning’ style of government. Or as noted in a prior article:
The classical freedom loving ones are the Classi-Liberals and the American Social Liberals are the ASo-Liberals. As these two are often exact opposites in political desires, we need clear terms to distinguish them. As the ASo-Liberals have chosen to muddy the language, I’m at liberty to un-muddy it…
From the wiki:
Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis) is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, and the free exercise of religion.
Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as nobility, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.
The revolutionaries in the American Revolution and the French Revolution used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of tyrannical rule. The nineteenth century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, Latin America, and North America. Liberal ideas spread even further in the twentieth century, when liberal democracies triumphed in two world wars and survived major ideological challenges from fascism and communism. Today, liberalism in its many forms remains as a political force to varying degrees of power and influence on all major continents.
A twenty-first century development is an emerging new liberalism that is centred on the concept of timeless freedom (ensuring the freedom of future generations through proactive action taken today). This is an idea that has been endorsed by the President of Liberal International Hans van Baalen.
Note that the usage of “liberal” in that quote is Clasi-Liberal. As the wiki on liberal variations points out:
“In the United States, the primary use of the term liberal is at some variance with European and worldwide usage. In the United States today it is most associated with the definition of modern liberalism which is a combination of social liberalism, public welfare and a mixed economy, which is in contrast to classical liberalism.”
As of the moment that Obama bought shares in our banks and bailed out the car companies, he moved the American Liberals into the realm of Lange Type Socialism. (I do not say that as a pejorative. It’s a simple matter of definition. Lange Type Socialism is a mixed economy with the Central Government doing SOME Central Planning and owning SOME of the major industries. Owning a large part of GM and Bank of America qualifies. It also has a primary tenet of “avoidance of bankruptcy” which is exactly what was done with GM. Bond holder property rights were usurped, the ‘value’ given to the Auto Workers Union as a socialism “gift”, and the extant Rule Of Law in the bankruptcy law was ignored. Note that a GM that had gone through bankruptcy would likely still have existed and be making cars today. Most airlines in America have gone through bankruptcy many times…) So how our Socialism Lite Liberals can be in any way related to Classical Liberals is a good question. I think it best to use distinguishing terms, given the rampant confusion otherwise.
And please, don’t toss rocks at me over Obama and Lang Type Socialism. It’s just part of the definition. “Avoidance of Bankruptcy” and “Government ownership of some of the means of production”… Oh, and the massive growth of ‘central regulation’ which is only different from ‘central planning’ in that some Lange Type market forces are allowed to work inside centrally directed boundaries.
OK, so how did we get from an Enlightenment Government to where we are now? One clearly embracing Secular Humanism as it relates to religion, and drifting into other -isms along the way?
Not too long after The Enlightenment swept over America and France, there was a kind of backlash against it. What Marx calls “reactionary” forces. It’s all the same general idea. Whatever happens, once it gets “on top” tends to get lazy and the folks who didn’t like it start to push back. This comes in two parts. The “anti-Enlightenment” and “Romanticism”. We’ll look at each in turn and list a couple of their distinguishing beliefs. The accepted term is “Counter-Enlightenment”, but I think “anti-Enlightenment” is more accurate…
“Counter-Enlightenment” is a term used to refer to a movement that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th century Enlightenment. […] The first known use of the term ‘counter-enlightenment’ in English was in 1949. Berlin published widely about the Enlightenment and its enemies and did much to popularise the concept of a Counter-Enlightenment movement that he characterised as relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist and organic, and which he associated most closely with German Romanticism. Some recent scholarship has challenged this view for focusing too narrowly on Germany and stopping abruptly in the early 19th century, thereby ignoring the Enlightenment’s many subsequent critics, particularly in the 20th century. Some scholars reject the use of the term ‘the Counter-Enlightenment’ on the grounds that there was no single Enlightenment for its alleged enemies to oppose.
OK, here we start to see the “moral relativism” anchor in that ‘relativist’ character. “Anti-rationalist” is not sounding too nice either… “Vitalist and organic” sounds like something from the produce department at Whole Foods… The reality and truth of the term is not far off from the snide remark… Rather than go through them in depth, that will be left for others to explore…
The key point here is just to realize that there was an anti-Enlightenment movement and it lead to much of what we have today. That, then, implies that a refounding back in Enlightenment Principles is the best way to get the nation back to a decent footing and out of the “relativist” and “secular humanist” quagmire.
So what is this anti-Enlightenment like? From what root does it spring?
In his 1996 article for The American Political Science Review (Vol. 90, No. 2), Arthur M. Melzer identifies the origin of the Counter-Enlightenment in the religious writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, showing Rousseau as the man who fired the first major shot in the war between the Enlightenment and its enemies. Graeme Garrard follows Melzer in his “Rousseau’s Counter-Enlightenment” (2003). This contradicts Berlin’s depiction of Rousseau as a philosophe (albeit an erratic one) who shared the basic beliefs of his Enlightenment contemporaries. Also, like McMahon, it traces the beginning of Counter-Enlightenment thought back to France and prior to the German Sturm und Drang movement of the 1770s. Garrard’s book “Counter-Enlightenments” (2006) broadens the term even further, arguing against Berlin that there was no single ‘movement’ called ‘The Counter-Enlightenment’. Rather, there have been many Counter-Enlightenments, from the middle of the 18th century through to 20th century Enlightenment critics among critical theorists, postmodernists and feminists. The Enlightenment has enemies on all points of the ideological compass, from the far left to the far right, and all points in between. Each of the Enlightenment’s enemies depicted it as they saw it or wanted others to see it, resulting in a vast range of portraits, many of which are not only different but incompatible.
OK, so the Enlightenment was not popular with the Old Right (Kings and Clerics) nor is it popular with the New Left (postmodernists, feminists, and various socialists). All the folks grasping after power not liking the idea of individuals able to ignore centers of power. What a surprise… /sarcoff>;…
This argument has been taken a step further by some, like intellectual historian James Schmidt, who question the idea of ‘the Enlightenment’ and therefore of the existence of a movement opposing it. As our conception of ‘the Enlightenment’ has become more complex and difficult to maintain, so too has the idea of ‘the Counter-Enlightenment’. Advances in Enlightenment scholarship in the last quarter century have challenged the stereotypical view of the 18th century as an ‘Age of Reason’,
And here we see the more “modern” style of just erasing from history things that you find inconvenient… So lets just “question” The Enlightenment for a while, then we can later dismiss it out of hand as a fantasy of some past long dead writers… Where have I seen that trick before…
OK, we have a reference to a German Sturm und Drang, so a quote from that link:
Sturm und Drang (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtʊʁm ʊnt ˈdʁaŋ], conventionally translated as “Storm and Stress”) is a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s through the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism imposed by the Enlightenment and associated aesthetic movements.
The philosopher Johann Georg Hamann is considered to be the ideologue of Sturm und Drang, with Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, H. L. Wagner and Friedrich Maximilian Klinger being significant figures too. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was also a notable proponent of the movement, though he and Friedrich Schiller ended their period of association with it by initiating what would become Weimar Classicism.
Which sounds a whole lot more like “spoiled brat” to me than any philosophical movement… but we do find it is part of Romanicism… so guess what our next stop will be? (Oh, and I note in passing that we find a lot of German connection in this middle part, between the largely Anglo-French Enlightenment and the German inspired Socialisms. It also is all taking place during the Cocaine Era and after the Tea and Coffee House era of The Enlightenment. The degree to which the relative recreational drugs of the eras influenced the conclusions will be left for another day… but note that as trends move from country to country different National Characters show up in the conclusions.)
There are many interesting bits of too and fro in the link, but this bit caught my eye:
The philosopher Jacques Barzun argues that Romanticism had its roots in the Enlightenment. It was not anti-rational, but balanced rationality against the competing claims of intuition and the sense of justice.
Which just might be the genesis of some of the present chanting about this-justice and that-justice.. like “social justice” that mostly seems more Sturm und Drang than anything sociable or just… but the wailing and gnashing of teeth is just barely begun at that point:
Shadowing it [The Englightenment] has been a resurgent Counter-Enlightenment literature blaming the 18th century faith in reason for 20th century totalitarianism. The locus classicus of this view is Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment” (1947), which traces the degeneration of the general concept of enlightenment from ancient Greece (epitomised by the cunning ‘bourgeois’ hero Odysseus) to 20th century fascism. (They say little about soviet communism, referring to it as a regressive totalitarianism that “clung all too desperately to the heritage of bourgeois philosophy”).
First off, note that word “dialectic”. That’s a dead giveaway of a Marxist. It is right out of their core philosophy. So here we have the shadows of the Marxist / Socialist attack on The Enlightenment that is today picking up steam. We also have biased terminology like “traces the degeneration of” and the added “Red Flag” code word of “bourgeois” (which I’ve only ever seen in the Socialist / Marxist world view). Next a gratuitous tossing in of fascism. Never mind that fascism is a kind of socialism
(yes, it is… it was only Stalin who called it ‘right wing’ as it tossed out the need for the ‘Class Struggle’ and swapped the ‘international’ for a ‘national’ revolution. So it is ‘to the right’ of Stalinist Communism – but to the left of everything else…)
OK, the general point here is pretty simple:
Socialists are dead set against The Enlightenment.
You can do a pretty decent job of sorting things out just by making a check list of what The Enlightenment advocates and what Marx and the various Socialisms advocate. Just compare those two lists to any “soap” someone is selling and you can pigeon hole it pretty quick into “Classical American Enlightenment” vs “New Socialisms”…
In an amusing twist, the wiki then goes WAAaayyy off the deep end by finding a way to equate The Enlightenment (that most of us know from folks like Newton and Voltaire) to the Marquis de Sade! I have to quote this here just because it is so crazy you won’t believe me otherwise:
While this influential book takes ‘enlightenment’ as its target, this includes its 18th century form – which we now call ‘the Enlightenment’ – epitomised by the Marquis de Sade. Many postmodern writers and some feminists (e.g. Jane Flax) have made similar arguments, likewise seeing the Enlightenment conception of reason as totalitarian, and as not having been enlightened enough since, for Adorno and Horkheimer, though it banishes myth it falls back into a further myth, that of individualism and formal (or mythic) equality under instrumental reason.
Michel Foucault, for example, argued that attitudes towards the “insane” during the late-18th and early 19th centuries show that supposedly enlightened notions of humane treatment were not universally adhered to, but instead, that the Age of Reason had to construct an image of “Unreason” against which to take an opposing stand. Berlin himself, although no postmodernist, argues that the Enlightenment’s legacy in the 20th century has been monism (which he claims favours political authoritarianism), whereas the legacy of the Counter-Enlightenment has been pluralism (something he associates with liberalism). These are two of the ‘strange reversals’ of modern intellectual history.
Then we get a litany of Yet More Isms … ratholes of self mental flagellation to absorb yet more time and brain cells. “Postmodernist” “Pluralism” “Authoritarianism” and the ambiguous “liberalism” returns…
OK, a bit of background. At University I made the mistake of taking a Sociology class on a lark. I sort of expected more of a Cultural Anthropology class. It was, in stead, largely a political indoctrination course in “Hate Whitey, Men Are Evil (and all closet rapists), and Capitalism is just Modern Slavery”. Needless to say, I didn’t do too well. My final exam had been graded one way, then that grade got erased and a lower one written on. When I complained that even with that grade per their published rules, I ought to pass (as they didn’t know how to do the math right…) I ended up at the “appeals desk”… The Administration allowed that I was correct and all my scores did add up to a passing grade, but that the professor could do anything they wanted… OK, the UC system lets you repeat a small number of units and replace (i.e. dump) the first grade. I ended up taking the same class AGAIN. Lucky for me that the size was about 500 students and with a name like Smith, nobody notices…
So I would stare out my dorm window, get 1/2 drunk, and type the most extreme and crazy drivel I could think of. As long as it was “Get Whitey” and “Men are evil rapist bastards” or “Straights are sick” and “The Man is Ageist” and similar crap, I got good grades. I ended up with a B+ overall, IIRC. Oh, and two other things. A fairly deep understanding of “Modern Sociology” along with a fairly deep understanding of how Propaganda and Indoctrination passes as education in the university system…
So I’m pretty good at both spouting the Aso-Liberal party line as well as having the Socialist Agenda Moral Relativism BS detector spot their style a long ways away…
And what that BS detector is hollering at me right now is that much of the “anti-Enlightenment” comes right out of that Agenda…
(Realize that I am not, in fact, against things like women making their own decisions, blacks and Mexicans having equal access to society or any of the rest. I spent about 1/2 my day as a kid in a Mexican household at my best friends home, I have always had a strong advocacy for ANY underdog – having been treated poorly for being a ‘smart kid’ myself, etc. etc. I just strongly resent being told I am the problem when I most certainly am not… To be so stereotyped in a sexist, racist way was incredibly offensive to me… and that no mention was made of Irish Indentured Servitude was also telling…)
OK, back off the soap box: What’s very clear is that the various “Loony Lefty Isms” are anti-Enlightenment – and sometimes vigorously.
As we continue down the list, one note about what IS part of The Enlightenment:
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification” (Lacey 286). In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory “in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive” (Bourke 263). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position “that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge” to the more extreme position that reason is “the unique path to knowledge” (Audi 771). Given a pre-modern understanding of reason, “rationalism” is identical to philosophy, the Socratic life of inquiry, or the zetetic (skeptical) clear interpretation of authority (open to the underlying or essential cause of things as they appear to our sense of certainty). In recent decades, Leo Strauss sought to revive Classical Political Rationalism as a discipline that understands the task of reasoning, not as foundational, but as maieutic. Rationalism should not be confused with rationality, nor with rationalization.
In politics, rationalism is a development of the Enlightenment that emphasizes a “politics of reason” centred upon support of the concepts of rational choice and utilitarianism; this has especially been promoted by liberalism.
Note again that in this context we’re talking Clasi-Liberal, as in “American Libertarian” ideals of liberty.
Liberty. Rationalism. Enlightenment. Religious freedom. Individual empowerment. I think we’re seeing a pattern here in this Enlightenment stuff…
For comparison, the ‘postmodernism’ description sure sounds like double-speak. The most I can get out of it is a vague ‘feel good’ about feminism (but is that the feminism of the Sociology Class with it’s “all men are evil rapists – especially white men” or the feminism of my Celtic Ancestors who were quite comfortable with women as leaders and in battle? Decisions decisions…)
Postmodernism is a concept that encompasses a wide range of ideals, methods and practices. It is more importantly not a philosophical movement in itself, but rather, incorporates a number of philosophical and critical methods that can be considered ‘postmodern’, the most familiar include feminism and post-structuralism. Put another way, postmodernism is not a method of doing philosophy, but rather a way of approaching traditional ideas and practices in non-traditional ways that deviate from pre-established superstructural modes. This has caused difficulties in defining what postmodernism actually means or should mean and therefore remains a complex and controversial concept, which continues to be debated. The idea of the postmodern gained momentum through to the 1950s before dominating literature, art and the intellectual scene of the 1960s. Postmodernism’s origins are generally accepted as having being conceived in art around the end of the nineteenth century as a reaction to the stultifying legacy of modern art and continued to expand into other disciplines during the early twentieth century as a reaction against modernism in general.
If you can get anything out of that beyond some guy half drunk at a typewriter working on a thesis and trying to sound important while saying not much… but being politically correct … then you have a future as a Sociology Professor…
As this is already way too long, I’m going to leave the exploration of Socialism, Communism, and their roots in philosophy for a second posting. I will just leave you with one last -ism. (Well, that, and the realization that a host of ills can be cured in America by refusing to allow a flood of neologism -isms to wash away our Enlightenment Heritage…)
Positivism is philosophy of science based on the view that in the social as well as natural sciences, data derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authentic knowledge. Obtaining and “verifying” data that can be received from the senses is known as empirical evidence. Society operates according to laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected. Though the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought from the Ancient Egyptians to the present day, the concept was developed in the early 19th century by the philosopher and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte. Comte argued that society operates according to its own laws, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other laws of nature.
Sounds all warm and fuzzy and Sciency like… until you realize that it is not the foundation of the ‘hard sciences’, they were already settled on observation in The Enlightenment. This -ism is particularly for the purpose of putting “social” into the “science” category and tossing out humanity and religion. It specifically claims that any gnosis or ‘knowing of God’ and any religious experience is not “authentic knowledge”. Only data from sensory experience matters, even to things like moral judgments. Has a nice “positive” name, though…
Now in the more limited context of application to the traditional sciences in The Enlightenment, the “scientism” approach has much to recommend it, and we find some familiar names listed. BUT it is this idea that there is no place for ‘introspection’ that leads to things like chucking deaf people into gas chambers with Gypsies and Jews… The Nazi Regime went to great lengths to build a ‘science’ of racial purity, just as the Progressives in the rest of Europe and the USA went to great lengths to build a ‘science’ of Eugenics. All neat and logical and tidy. All based on observation and ‘data’. And all horridly immoral to anyone with a moral compass. But a moral compass requires introspection to find truth. To reach that gnosis of good and evil.
So here we find the foundation of some modern Science, such as Popper. But we must also realize that “all” covers way too much turf, and some things are best left to introspection, and perhaps the occasional talk with God…
Positivism asserts that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification. As an approach to the philosophy of science deriving from Enlightenment thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon and Pierre-Simon Laplace, Auguste Comte saw the scientific method as replacing metaphysics in the history of thought, observing the circular dependence of theory and observation in science. Sociological positivism was later reformulated by Émile Durkheim as a foundation to social research. At the turn of the 20th century the first wave of German sociologists, including Max Weber and Georg Simmel, rejected the doctrine, thus founding the antipositivist tradition in sociology. Later antipositivists and critical theorists have associated positivism with “scientism”; science as ideology.
In the early 20th century, logical positivism—a descendant of Comte’s basic thesis but an independent movement— sprang up in Vienna and grew to become one of the dominant schools in Anglo-American philosophy and the analytic tradition. Logical positivists (or ‘neopositivists’) reject metaphysical speculation and attempted to reduce statements and propositions to pure logic. Critiques of this approach by philosophers such as Karl Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine and Thomas Kuhn have been highly influential, and led to the development of postpositivism. In psychology, the positivist movement was influential in the development of behavioralism and operationalism. In economics, practising researchers tend to emulate the methodological assumptions of classical positivism, but only in a de-facto fashion: the majority of economists do not explicitly concern themselves with matters of epistemology. In jurisprudence, “legal positivism” essentially refers to the rejection of natural law, thus its common meaning with philosophical positivism is somewhat attenuated and in recent generations generally emphasizes the authority of human political structures as opposed to a “scientific” view of law.
Gee, I always liked the way Economists could ‘emulate’ enough to avoid tossed rocks while blowing raspberries at the basic idea ;-)
Some -isms can be a very mixed bag and are likely in need of a good housecleaning…
In comparison there is Naturalism
Methodological naturalism is concerned not with claims about what exists but with methods of learning what is nature. It is strictly the idea that all scientific endeavors—all hypotheses and events—are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. The genesis of nature, e.g., by an act of God, is not addressed. This second sense of naturalism seeks only to provide a framework within which to conduct the scientific study of the laws of nature. Methodological naturalism is a way of acquiring knowledge. It is a distinct system of thought concerned with a cognitive approach to reality, and is thus a philosophy of knowledge. Studies by sociologist Elaine Ecklund suggest that religious scientists do in fact apply methodological naturalism. They report that their religious beliefs affect the way they think about the implications, often moral, of their work, but not the way they practice science.
This seems to me to be a much more sound basis. So many of our greatest scientists of history have had a profound belief in God and Religion (from Newton to Einstein) that I would find it difficult to reject their world view out of hand.
It is not possible for the student of Evolution, for example, to be simply studying the METHOD by which a Creator God does His creation? I find the notion of making the spark of life once, then watching all the diversity of it unfold; much more impressive than some watchmaker at the assembly line making a million different watches…
We’ve taken a very broad sweep of the -isms of this world, a few of the -ologies, and even an -ocracy or two.
There are a zillion of them, or so it seems, as folks split ever more fine hairs of difference between one set of Angels on the head of one brand of pin, and a different size Angel on some other size pin.
For the traditional path to America as founded, it is not a very long, nor tortuous path. The Ancient Regime, to The Enlightenment, with perhaps a light seasoning of Naturalism in the sciences.
For the other paths, that lead through oh so many failed experiments of history, there is a broad and deep kaleidescope of names, of -isms, of advocates and ideation. Clarity and success, not so much…
In a second posting, I will explore the philosophical roots of The Socialisms. Not from any profound interest in them. I had to study it as part of my degree. There are some minor good points in some forms, especially Market Socialism – or what I sometimes call Socialism Lite – mostly in that it can solve the problems of the Robber Barons and has a decent shot at improving social equity (less extremes of wealth distribution) while still having an efficient economy with market signals for production management.
But rather we will look at the Socialisms for the practical reason that Lange Type Socialism now dominates the global economies and the USA is rapidly headed in that direction. There are some “issues” in it, especially in the Corporatist forms such as was first tried under Fascism in Italy and the National Socialist Workers Party in Germany (Nazi). The “Third Way” Socialisms tend to over centralized control and poorer decision making. There has also been a very disturbing tendency for Socialisms to fall rapidly into a Dictatorial Regime (be it Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or the present EU Parliament: control moves to the Central Authority and human liberty and freedom abates. That must be a worry…)
For folks not so interested in The Socialisms, but interested in restoring America, I hope this brief survey lets you rapidly focus on what to promote, and to some extent what to avoid. The review of The Socialisms will give a more detailed list of things that have not worked so well… and connections to their philosophical roots.
My bias is to the side of The Enlightenment and Naturalism. I’ve seen little to indicate anything since then has been an improvement… So simply knowing that lets me not be so ‘buffaloed’ if someone starts to spout about “humanist positivism” or the superiority of “moral relativism in the post-modernist reductionist age”. I can simply look at them and calmly state: “I prefer the liberty and humanity of a Naturalist Enlightenment as it works much better.”