Jun 14, 2017
Show 1834 Part 9 of 10. Constitution 101. The Meaning and History of the Constitution.
This show was originally published as ACU Show 832 and is here republished.
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Welcome to Week 9
“The Progressive Rejection of the Founding”
Progressivism is the belief that America needs to move or “progress” beyond the principles of the American Founding. Organized politically more than a hundred years ago, Progressivism insists upon flexibility in political forms unbound by fixed and universal principles. Progressives hold that human nature is malleable and that society is perfectible. Affirming the inexorable, positive march of history, Progressives see the need for unelected experts who would supervise a vast administration of government.
Progressivism is rooted in the philosophy of European thinkers, most notably the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. Progressivism takes its name from a faith in “historical progress.” According to the leading lights of Progressivism, including Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Dewey, human nature has evolved beyond the limitations that the Founders identified. Far from fearing man’s capacity for evil, Progressives held that properly enlightened human beings could be entrusted with power and not abuse it.
The Progressive idea of historical progress is tied to the idea of historical contingency, which means that each period of history is guided by different and unique values that change over time. The “self-evident truths” that the Founders upheld in the Declaration of Independence, including natural rights, are no longer applicable. Circumstances, not eternal principles, ultimately dictate justice.
If human nature is improving, and fixed principles do not exist, government must be updated according to the new reality. The Constitution’s arrangement of government, based upon the separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism, only impeded effective government, according to Progressives. The limited government of the Founding is rejected in favor of a “living Constitution.”
About the Lecturer:
Ronald J. Pestritto is the Charles and Lucia Shipley Chair in the American Constitution, Associate Professor of Politics, and Dean of the Graduate School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He is also a senior fellow with the College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship. Dr. Pestritto teaches courses in American politics and political philosophy, with a focus on the political thought of the Progressives.
A senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Dr. Pestritto has served as a visiting scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism and Criminal Law: Punishment and Political Thought in the Origins of America; editor of Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings; and co-editor of American Progressivism: A Reader, as well as a three-book series on American political thought. He has published articles and reviews in the Wall Street Journal and the Claremont Review of Books. He received his B.A. from Claremont
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Related ACU Shows-
Show 821 Part 1 and 2 of 5. Introduction to the Constitution Lecture Series
Show 822 Part 3 and 4 of 5. Introduction to the Constitution Lecture Series
Show 823 Part 5 of 5. Introduction to the Constitution Lecture Series
Related Hillsdale Course- Constitution 201
Hillsdale College Course Catalog
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Introduction to the Constitution—Available Now!
This twelve-lesson course explains the principles underlying the American founding as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and secured by the Constitution. The Founders believed that the principles in these documents were not simply preferences for their own day, but were truths that the sovereign and moral people of America could always rely on as guides in their pursuit of happiness through ordered liberty.
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Taught by the Hillsdale College Politics faculty, this course will introduce you to the meaning and history of the United States Constitution. The course will examine a number of original source documents from the Founding period, including especially the Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers. The course will also consider two significant challenges to the Founders’ Constitution: the institution of slavery and the rise of Progressivism.
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This is a free, ten-week, not-for-credit online course offered by Hillsdale College. With introductory and concluding lectures by Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn, the eight lectures at its core—taught by Gary Wolfram, the William E. Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College—will focus on the foundational principles of the free market. Topics will include the relationship of supply and demand, the “information problem” behind the failure of central planning, the rise of macroeconomics under the influence of John Maynard Keynes, and the 2008 financial crisis.
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Weekly series featuring Hillsdale President Larry Arnn, national radio host Hugh Hewitt, and members of the Hillsdale College faculty.
Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
Imprimis is the free monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College. The content of Imprimis is drawn from speeches delivered to Hillsdale College-hosted events. First published in 1972, Imprimis is one of the most widely circulated opinion publications in the nation with over 3.6 million subscribers.