From Locke versus Rousseau to the Present
Chapter 9: Charles Beard, the Progressives, and Roosevelt’s New Deal
The development of economics as a thoroughly scientific study and the implementation of economic goals as a feature of political ideology is a turn away from the retrieval of the conversation in political economy. In the remaining chapters, we focus on the extent to which the Liberty Narrative and the Equality Narrative are still operative in the twentieth century and the extent to which these narratives will take part in the twenty-first century. The early Progressive era in the United States, for our purposes, runs from 1860 to 1928. Although there are many dimensions to the phenomenon called Progressivism, there are three common threads that stand out. First, there is an ambiguous disposition toward the American past as revealed in the writings of Herbert Croly (1869–1930), Charles Beard (1874–1938), and Frederick Jackson Turner (1861–1932). There is an ambiguity toward the Declaration of Independence (Croly) in the sense that it holds out an egalitarian promise although that promise has been derailed or unfulfilled. There is also an ambiguity toward the Constitution (Beard) in the sense that it is an undemocratic and irrelevant document. In the right hands, churning out the loosest of interpretations of the Constitution and overcoming the impediments of the separation of powers and old-fashioned federalism, that document can be turned into an instrument for Progressive reform.
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