from Jonah Goldberg at National Review, The People We Deserve:
But there are limits. Rousseau was among the first moderns to articulate an “ideal” society — one that laid down the foundations for many totalitarian projects to follow. Nonetheless, he believed that his ideal society could only work in a relatively small society (i.e., roughly the size of his beloved Geneva).
The Founders, likewise, believed that size matters. They didn’t think freedom could work on a mass scale, run by a centralized government. So they created a system that was — to borrow a phrase — antifragile. It inverted the pyramid of power, delegating as much authority as possible to the people and the places where the people actually lived. Their constitutional framework was arguably the greatest melding of realism and idealism in all of human history. The Founders knew men weren’t angels, and so they set up a system that checked ambition with ambition.
The idea of central control of individual freedom is fraught with contradictions and has become our greatest challenge. The Progressive Era is where this came to a head and majoritarian democracy edged priority over individual and minority rights. This battle between Progressive majoritarianism manifested in an activist president and the Constitutional protection of individual rights defines our current political debate.