Friday, March 2, 2007

What is Progressive Liberty? (#1)

So what is this Progressive Liberty? In this and future posts let's explore the idea.

Progressive Liberty in America necessarily has its roots in the Declaration of Independence, which claims for Americans the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and the Constitution, which protects and guarantees these rights, primarily through the Preamble, the Bill of Rights (emphasis on the Ninth and Tenth Amendments), and the Fourteenth Amendment (emphasis on Sections One and Five). This guarantee of freedom and individual civil liberty form the core principle upon which the nation was founded.

While freedom from untoward government interference in individual affairs (in a word, "Liberty") is at the core, perhaps paradoxically the "progressive" part of Progressive Liberty envisions a vital role for government in providing liberty and justice for all, repudiating the self-seeking ruling class who would hijack the power of government for their own exclusionary purposes. As the inestimable Bill Moyers puts it, the government would be "an active player in the economy at the very least enforcing fair play, and - when necessary - being the friend, the helper, and the agent of the people at large in the contest against entrenched power."

Progressive Liberty is truly a non-partisan concept. Throughout American history politicians across the political spectrum, starting with Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton, have embodied its principles. Standouts thereafter include Democrats like Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy; Republicans like Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Barry Goldwater; and a very short list of non-politicians over many decades would have to include include Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martin Luther King. Later we should explore the contributions of these and others.

By: Michael Anthony Lawrence