Mark Levin links the Progressive movement with all other Utopian movements that preceded it. “Utopianism has long promoted the idea of a paradisiacal existence and advanced concepts of pseudo 'ideal' societies in which a heroic despot, a benevolent sovereign, or an enlightened oligarchy claims the ability and authority to provide for all the needs and fulfill all the wants of the individual – in exchange for his abject servitude.” (Ameritopia pg. xi)
Utopianism is irrational in theory and practice, for it ignores or attempts to control the planned and unplanned complexity of the individual, his nature, and mankind generally. It ignores, rejects, or perverts the teachings and knowledge that have come before – that is, man's historical, cultural, and social experience and development. Indeed, utopianism seeks to break what the hugely influential eighteenth-century British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke argued was the societal continuum “between those who are living and those who are dead and those who are to be born.”
Don't believe Mark? Well here are the writings of Frank Goodnow, The American Conception of Liberty in 1916
The end of the eighteenth century was marked by the formulation and general acceptance by thinking men in Europe of a political philosophy which laid great emphasis on individual private rights. Man was by this philosophy conceived of as endowed at the time of his birth with certain inalienable rights. Thus, Rousseau in his “Social Contract” treated man as primarily an individual and only secondarily as a member of human society. Society itself was regarded as based upon a contract made between the individuals by whose union it was formed. At the time of making this contract these individuals were deemed to have reserved certain rights spoken of as “natural” rights. These rights could neither be taken away nor be limited without the consent of the individual affected.
Such a theory, of course, had no historical justification. There was no record of the making of any such contract as was postulated. It was impossible to assert, as a matter of fact even, that man existed first as an individual and that later he became, as the result of any act of volition on his part, a member of human society. But at a time when truth was sought usually through speculation rather than observation, the absence of proof of the facts which lay at the basis of the theory did not seriously trouble those by whom it was formulated or accepted.
While there was no justification in fact for this social contract theory and this doctrine of natural rights, their acceptance by thinking men did nevertheless have an important influence upon the development of thought and in that way upon the actual conditions of human life. For these theories were not only a philosophical explanation of the organization of society; they were at the same time the result of the then existing social conditions, and like most such theories were also an attempt to justify a course of conduct which was believed to be expedient.
At the end of the eighteenth century a great change was beginning in Western Europe. The enlargement of the field of commercial transactions, due to the discovery and colonization of America and to the contact of Europe with Asia, particularly with India, had opened new spheres of activity to those minded for adventure. The invention of the steam engine and its application to manufacturing were rapidly changing industrial conditions. The factory system was in process of establishment and had already begun to displace domestic industry.
The new possibilities of reward for individual endeavor made men impatient of the restrictions on private initiative incident to an industrial and commercial system which was fast passing away. They therefore welcomed with eagerness a political philosophy which, owing to the emphasis it placed upon private rights, would if acted upon have the effect of freeing them from what they regarded as hampering limitations on individual initiative.
This political philosophy was incorporated into the celebrated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen promulgated in France on the eve of the Revolution. A perusal of this remarkable document reveals the fact, however, that the reformers of France had not altogether emancipated themselves from the influences of their historical development. For almost every clause of the Declaration refers to rights under the law rather than to rights which were natural to and inherent in man.
The subsequent development in Europe of this private rights philosophy is along the lines thus marked out by the Declaration. The rights which men have been recognized as possessing have not been considered to be inherent rights, attaching to man at the time of his birth, so much as rights which find their origin in the law as adopted by that organ of government regarded as representative of the society of which the individual man is a member.
In a word, man is regarded now throughout Europe, contrary to the view expressed by Rousseau, as primarily a member of society and secondarily as an individual. The rights which he possesses are, it is believed, conferred upon him, not by his Creator, but rather by the society to which he belongs. What they are is to be determined by the legislative authority in view of the needs of that society. Social expediency, rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action.
The development of this private rights philosophy has been, however, somewhat different in the United States. The philosophy of Rousseau was accepted in this country probably with even greater enthusiasm than was the case in Europe. The social and economic conditions of the Western World were, in the first place, more favorable than in Europe for its acceptance. There was at the time no well-developed social organization in this country. America was the land of the pioneer, who had to rely for most of his success upon his strong right arm. Such communities as did exist were loosely organized and separated one from another. Roads worthy of the name hardly existed and communication was possible only by rivers which were imperfectly navigable or over a sea which, when account is taken of the vessels then in use, was tempestuous in character.
Furthermore, the religious and moral influences in this country, which owed much to the Protestant Reformation, all favored the development of an extreme individualism. They emphasized personal responsibility and the salvation of the individual soul. It was the fate of the individual rather than that of the social group which appealed to the preacher or aroused the anxiety of the theologian. It was individual rather than social morality which was emphasized by the ethical teacher and received attention in moral codes. Everything, in a word, favored the acceptance of the theory of individual natural rights.
The result was the adoption in this country of a doctrine of unadulterated individualism. Every one had rights. Social duties were hardly recognized, or if recognized little emphasis was laid upon them. It was apparently thought that every one was able and willing to protect his rights, and that as a result of the struggle between men for their rights and of the compromise of what appeared to be conflicting rights would arise an effective social organization....
Discuss. I'll throw in another quote from the Great one and the Progressives later.