Over at Law & Liberty, Hans Eicholz, a Liberty Fund Senior Fellow, raises an alarm: “Our idea of liberty has simply become confused, even deranged.” The folks at Law & Liberty evidently consider this to be an important discussion of liberty; it was originally posted in 2017, and was republished there this week.
How, you may ask, did this terrible state of confusion about liberty come about? Eicholz tells us it is the direct result of technological change: “What has happened? Technology has happened.”
America once had a national government of limited, enumerated powers, but limited government was swept away by technological progress:
The national government was prohibited from doing what was not enumerated, and was suppose [sic] to deal with national and international relations. That world was what it was because of the state of technology at the time.
According to Eicholz, America once had a national government of enumerated powers because of the state of technology at the time!
Of course, the state of technology was the same in other countries at the time, but none of those countries had anything like America’s federal system with a national government of limited and enumerated powers. America’s system of government was unique because of the founders’ new thinking about government and their success in founding America’s government according to their new thinking.
Eicholz goes even further than the standard Progressive account of what happened to America. According to the Progressives, progress created the political need for political change. According to Eicholz, technological progress itself made the political change.
According to the Progressives, the time for limited government is long gone; progress somehow has made limited government obsolete and unnecessary. Inspired by German political philosophy, over a century ago the Progressives began their arduous political campaign to discredit the Declaration of Independence and dismantle the Constitution. More recently, they have added a full-scale war on the common sense of the American people. The important point, however, is that it was the Progressives’ political campaign to replace limited government with ever more unlimited government that has transformed America.
But in Eicholz’s account, it was technological progress itself that put an end to limited government. The Progressives and human agency are nowhere mentioned in his column.
In addition, Eicholz does not spell out how technological change caused “our idea of liberty” to become confused. It is not even clear who “our” refers to. It cannot be the Liberty Fund scholars, can it? After all, they are there to explain liberty to the rest of us. Perhaps it refers to all Americans. Or does it only refer to those Americans who still defend what he refers to as “the old idea that federalism might serve as a protection to liberty?”
In any case, according to Eicholz, technological change swept away the federal government of limited powers; it also confused, even deranged, our idea of liberty.
In fact, the Progressives—not progress—transformed government in America. And it is the Progressives’ unrelenting attack on the American idea that has left many Americans confused about liberty.
If you are amazed to find an article of this kind given prominence at a site that is considered to be conservative and written by an author who is employed at a think tank considered to be conservative, I have even more troubling news for you. It is easy—all too easy—to find articles by so-called conservatives at sites considered to be on the Right that share the fundamental assumptions of the Progressives, or even, like the column by Eicholz, go further than the Progressives typically do.
I discuss some other examples of this surprising situation here. The examples are taken from a range of sites generally considered to be conservative. To highlight just one: Brad Littlejohn, a senior fellow of the Edmund Burke Foundation, makes the claim at The American Conservative that U.S. conservatives are badly confused about rights—and then proceeds to argue for a fundamental tenet of the Progressives.
Confusion abounds, certainly, and a chorus of voices supposedly on the Right is compounding the confusion. Wittingly or unwittingly, those voices are often advancing the Progressives’ cause instead of truth, justice, and the American way.