The Genealogy of American Liberal-Progressive Gnosticism

By: Thomas Lindaman

Whence came the deformed conceptions of anti-Constitutional, regulatory government and judicial activism?

American liberal-socialism is the gnostic descendant of the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror. The genealogical connection begins with Henri de Saint-Simon, the French intellectual who codified the doctrine of socialism in the first decades of the 1800s, shortly after the Revolution.

His colleagues and followers, including Auguste Comte, formed a body of disciples known as the Saint-Simonians. They spread the Gnostic gospel to German universities, where it became mixed with the philosophies of Fichte and Hegel.

During the ferment preceding the French Revolution, the same intellectual influences produced the English constitutional radicalism of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism. In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, he published Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, which outlined the Utilitarian doctrine that all political action should be in the form of regulations scientifically calculated to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In this, Americans will recognize the genesis of New Deal regulatory agencies and the liberal-Progressive obsession with controlling every aspect of our daily lives.

At first hearing, the Utilitarian principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” sounds good. The rub is that implementing it necessitates overturning existing social traditions and constitutional principles, just as President Franklin Roosevelt did with his 1930s New Deal.

Of equal importance, Utilitarianism and socialism don’t work effectively. Two centuries of experience demonstrates that no human agency has the capacity to foresee all of the unintended consequences of regulations, which inhibit the freedom of individuals to respond effectively on-the-spot.

Bentham’s conception was based on the French philosophical hypothesis, itself stretching all the way back to the sophists and Epicurean philosophers of ancient Greece, that man, not God, is the measure of all things. It was based also on the hypothesis that in a Godless world all human action arises from purely materialistic forces: the need for water, food, sex, clothing, and shelter. Hence, ultimately, the welfare-state.

In the 1840s and 50s, Karl Marx, beginning as a Hegelian idealist, flipped Hegel’s system to make it into dialectic materialism, borrowing the Saint-Simonian tripartite division of history to support his conviction in the inevitable triumph of world socialism.

Contemporary English intellectuals and leaders, notably John Stuart Mill and Robert Owen, became enamored of Comte’s Religion of Humanity and of pure socialism. Owen, the first officially declared English socialist leader, put those doctrines into practice with his New Lanark textile mills and planned communities. Mill supported Comte’s ideas in On Liberty (1859), Utilitarianism (1861), and his Chapters on Socialism (1879).

In addition to the always strong English influence on American thought, our leading universities in the 1860s fell under the sway of German universities and German philosophies of statist collectivism and socialism. Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 as our first graduate level, research-oriented university, modeled on the German universities. With Harvard in the lead, older universities jumped aboard the bandwagon, abandoning Judeo-Christianity and proudly becoming secular, materialistic institutions by the end of the 19th century.

American students were proselytized and converted in those secular universities, creating our liberal establishment. Franklin Roosevelt and his older cousin Teddy, the New Nationalism, Constitution-be-damned Rough Rider, were Harvard graduates.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776

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