For the last three years I have focused my reading on the progressive movement, its origins and development. Since the progressives defined their philosophy in contrast to the natural rights and principles of the constitution, this inquiry led me back to the Constitution and its origins.
George Will new volume, Conservatives Sensibilities, is a culmination of my reading on this topic. I was already familiar with most of his sources, making me feel vindicated on the sources I selected. He still added much to the topic. If you are inclined to dive into this area of politics it is a great resource, and highly recommended. It is destined to be an indispensable resource of modern political philosophy
Reform is seductive: the flaws of the status quo are always visible, but the risks of a new path are yet to be discovered. Evidence is replaced by hope. When reform acquires a religious fervor, a faith in the yet unseen, reason is placed on hold. Ideologies fall victim to success; what has worked is taken for granted.
A century later the flaws of progressivism are now visible. Will addresses its root problem in the rejection of constitutional principles, and the advance of our national government into our social and local action.
The essence of conservatism is the recognition and acceptance of the flaws in human nature, and the need to build a political structure that mitigates it. Once government accepts a mission to improve upon his nature, the moral threat of power is muted. Once democracy is in the hands of unlimited political power, tyranny is almost assured. The founders understood this. Progressives rejected the political nature of man and replaced it with a mythical general will, antithetical to individual rights.
Europe filled mass graves with the result of a general will, historic fatalism, and human perfectibility unhampered by constitutional restraints. When we seek needed reforms, it is important to understand also what is working and why it works. This requires some study and understanding, and our weak historical education has served us poorly. It also requires some optimism; pessimism has little patience and even less gratitude for what brought the magnificent progress we have achieved.