Saturday, December 27, 2008

Teddy Roosevelt, First Steps to Dictatorship

Ronald Pestritto has published a superb editorial in the Wall Street Journal about Teddy Roosevelt (POTUS, 1901-1909). The entire article is well worth a read. He demonstrates clearly with abundant examples Roosevelt's Progressive philosophy — which started the ball rolling on all the ills of the 20th century and which is now reaching a climax. Among other helpful content, he writes:
[T]he national government, in TR's view, was not one of enumerated powers but of general powers, and the purpose of the Constitution was merely to state the narrow exceptions to that rule.

This is a view of government directly opposed by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 84. Hamilton explains there that the fundamental difference between a republican constitution and a monarchic one is that the latter reserves some liberty for the people by stating specific exceptions to the assumed general power of the crown, whereas the former assumes from the beginning that the power of the people is the general rule, and the power of the government the exception.

TR turns this on its head. In his New Nationalism speech he noted how, in aiming to use state power to bring about economic equality, the government should permit a man to earn and keep his property "only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community." The government itself of course would determine what represented a benefit to the community, and whether society would be better off if an individual's wealth was transferred to somebody else.
For anyone interested in learning some of the important factors that have brought us to where we are today, and which are about to be put on steroids, this piece is a great place to start.

[Mr. Pestritto is the Shipley Professor of the American Constitution at Hillsdale College and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. Among his books are "Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).]

No comments: