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The Decline of American Liberalism (Independent Studies in Political Economy) Paperback – April 3, 2009
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The gist of the matter is that liberalism as originally defined in the 18th century and earlier meant limited government and a maximum of individual liberty for the population of a country to determine its own and individual way of life. As the author states, the apogee of this movement was reached shortly after the American Revolution and began to decline after the Jefferson Presidency. The publisher of this work, the Independent Institute, has published a number of works from the viewpoint of maximizing individual liberty, most notable Eland's book selecting the best presidents by virtue of their governing least and maximizing individual liberty. In line with this thinking, Presidents like Wilson, Roosevelt and Obama rank among the worst as they increase the size of the Federal Government, reduce individual liberty, and move the country towards collectivism.
Today, liberals no longer espouse the liberal philosophy of the 18th century -- libertarians do (as much as possible.) Liberals have sought to maximize social engineering, creating a massive government bureaucracy dedicated to governing the lives of American citizens supposedly for their own good. One of their heroes, Walter Lippmann even adressed the idea that social engineering needed to be extended into procreation in that actions needed to be taken to assure the "best" Americans breed while undesirables do not.Read more ›
While this might be considered a fringe interpretation of history, it is by no means hyperbolic, polemic, distorted or reactionary. By all appearances, and judging by the comments of professional historians, it is impeccably researched and largely dispassionate in its portrayal of events and attitudes. It continuously acknowledges the mainstream view, even if only to manifest the naïveté thereof in some cases.
In fact, I was tempted to put this book down halfway into it, as it had thus far seemed a rather pedestrian rehash of the usual Jeffersonian vs. Hamiltonian and pro-slavery vs. abolitionist historical narrative that I was taught in school. But that all changes beginning with post Civil War reconstruction. The vast degree to which wealth and privilege then began being permanently transferred from individuals to corporations under the guise of new citizen entitlements (which in many cases merely displaced the jurisdiction of states to administer such entitlements, thereby effectively nullifying the individual's previous right to opt out by relocating) is truly astounding, and almost wholly discounted by mainstream history as I know it.
There is still an unacknowledged elephant in the room, however.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a work of great erudition that extensively documents the influence of classical liberal principles and their slow decline in the United States from the Revolutionary era to... Read morePublished on November 9, 2013 by Aaron
Arthur Ekirch, Jr. has written a marvelous book detailing the decline of classical liberal ideals throughout history of the U.S.. Read morePublished on June 21, 2012 by Jon Schipp "Keisterstash"