America was founded on the timeless classical liberal tenets of liberty and equality. Our founding fathers, who were influenced by likes of Locke, Montesquieu, and Hobbes among others, knew instinctively that replacing one monarchy with another potentially despotic system of governance would have failed to set Americans truly free; hence our glorious constitutional republic anchored on a set of founding principles consistent with classical liberalism was established. Yet, our founders also recognized that the road we were to travel on had its share of natural, man-made pitfalls. As Madison in Federalist 51 said:
“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
Human nature, itself, would be the undoing of liberty and equality. And Madison was right. The explosive combination of man’s greed and desire for security would eventually start undoing the constitutional republic by weakening its original purpose.
The transition away from our constitutional republic hastened in earnest starting with the Progressive Era under Theodore Roosevelt. The next 100 years would witness a slew of laws and court decisions that left our original intent in shreds. But, if we are to accept that along with security needs people also have a yearning to be free, what were the underlying dynamics behind this fundamental transition?
There are many dynamics involved but perhaps the most relevant is mis-education, or the lack of proper perspective students get in their primary and secondary education. As mentioned above, in order to truly comprehend our raison d'être, an individual must understand the philosophy, logic as its natural extension, and history behind it – something the education establishment completely ignores. Reasons behind this ignorance – or as I call it, academic malpractice – are not all evolutionary in nature. Forces like cultural Marxism, advanced by progressive collectivist teacher unions, have played a major role in killing off the critical thinking capability of the recent generations. As insidious as it sounds, the reality is that individualism is in an existential struggle with collectivism, and the individualists are losing by most standards of measure, whether we accept that or not.
The existential struggle we are engaged in can only have one victor. Collectivism does not, and cannot, tolerate non-participation because it is the fruits of the productive class – usually the individualists – that must feed the beast. The question, therefore, is what we can do about it – if anything!
In order for us constitutionalists to regain our republic, the legislative damage done to our constitutional republic must eventually be reversed, which in turn requires we first ensure that a critical mass of our citizens learn to appreciate America as envisioned by our founding fathers. For that, we must simply undo the damage done by the educational establishment. Until we can take over PTAs and school boards – potentially a goal with a long time horizon – we must strive to educate Americans on what it really means to be an American. I still believe that the average American yearns for freedom, but for him to realize that, he must have a thorough understanding of the philosophical moorings of our nation and learn to think critically. The challenges that await us are immense but hopefully not insurmountable.