Don Boudreaux expands on a quote from Richard Epstein and the core conflict between the Constitution and Progressivism

Epstein goes on to show that what he calls “a presumption of error” – that is, a wise presumption that individuals exercising the power of the state, even when democratically elected, always exercise such power with limited knowledge and under the strong temptation to enhance their own private welfare at the expense of the public – was discarded as “Progressivism” took hold of Americans’ minds.  The state then came to been seen as, if not the only, certainly the best means of curing whatever ills afflicted (or were thought to afflict) society.  Therefore, the U.S. Constitution’s obstacles to state intervention were regarded by “Progressives” as obstacles to the social and economic progress promised by vigorous government – obstacles to the obvious need for a benevolent government to act energetically, quickly, and with the wide discretion needed for effective social engineering.

In short, the prudent and appropriate fear of state power that animated America’s founding generation was replaced by imprudent impatience for salvation by the state.


As I have similarly stated the meaning of the constitution as a document intentionally designed to limit government to protect individual rights and personal liberty was dramatically changed to become a hindrance to the will of the people, true democracy and an unnecessary hobble to the power of the government to effect necessary change. This is IMO the central political conflict today.