02 June 2017

America's Founding: A Leftist Venture?

I recently read a comment by a historian that stated, in part:

" . . . it’s more accurate to say that America was founded as an 18th century leftist venture than not."

Ummm . . . no.

But you could accurately say this instead:

"It’s more accurate to say that America was founded as an 18th century classical liberal venture than not."

The Founders would certainly recoil from the intrusive nanny-state and soft tyranny that today's leftists/progressives have heartily embraced. It is the absolute opposite of their worldview. The Founders favored free enterprise, free speech, federalism, liberty, private property and freedom of religion. Does that sound anything like a "leftist venture" that toady's leftists would embrace? Certainly not.

The concept of "liberal" (or "liberalism") has changed since FDR and the Democrat Party have embraced state sponsored social programs, wealth redistribution and power being more centralized at the federal level vs. the state level. Classical liberalism has much more in common with today's political philosophies of libertarianism and conservatism. 

Perhaps a bit over-simplified, but a useful observation would be to state that modern liberalism ("leftists") can trace its roots to Jean-Jacques Rousseau while classic liberalism's (conservatives and libertarians) roots run to John Locke; as noted by Dr. Kim Holmes:
For Americans, the state of nature was very real. It was where individuals were endowed by the Creator with natural rights like life and liberty. Looking largely to John Locke, they believed governments should be instituted to protect those rights.
For the French, it was completely different. They imagined a new order in which everyone naturally loved and cared for one another, but only if all the bad laws and customs of the past were completely destroyed.
If you want an 18th century revolution that would better compare to a "leftist venture", look to France, not America.


Brian Lee said...

I've always been of the opinion that the Founding Fathers would be horrified by BOTH sides of the political aisle (aren't we all?), but I also believe that the left would get more of their ire than the right would.

Listening to the commentaries of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, etc. on the 2016 election would've been fun. :)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Brian - you're probably right, though I maintain their ideology was "conservative" using today's standards.

Ernest D'Agrosa Jr. said...

I've always liked Russell Kirk's view that the American Revolution was, "a revolution not made, but prevented."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Ernest. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Kirk's but not so sure I agree with that assessment. I'd like to know more about the context of his statement.