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Notes from Chapter 12 – Section 5

– General ideas don’t generally float down stream easily and the ideas of Babbitt, More, and Santayana had small circles of following but didn’t capture the general public’s attention

– WW1 didn’t impact Americans and to conservatives’ horror had some negative impacts on social impulses

  1. “The conversion of political power to the ends of a leveling humanitarianism”
  2. “The development of a new and complex Americans imperialism”
  3. “The infection of all segments of society by a gross hedonism”

  1. Power Ends

– Main tool was the income and inheritance tax put in place

– Reformers saw it as a tool to create new humanitarian aims but taxing is ultimately a power to destroy

– The power to tax property created a sharp contrast between what used to be a nation of the rights of men and not a “reformer” nation

  1. Imperialism

– An imperialist appetite grew in the population – one that had consumed the idea of manifest destiny and defeated several Western Hemisphere foes

– The humanitarian imperialist sees the need for American principles – “the final superior product of human ingenuity” to be compelled for the rest of the world to embrace

– This was an economic rather than military imperialism that consumed the Wilsonian Progressive Democrats rather than the Roosevelt Progressive Republicans

– This ambition was not checked by an aristocratic caution

  1. Hedonism

– Religion along with morals suffered a sharp decline in society – Dewey’s educational methods were brought in unchecked, scandals rocked Presidencies, and a general lack of steadfast leaders was seen

– Gone were the “piety of Adams and the simplicity of Jefferson

“The principle of real leadership ignored, the immortal objects of society forgotten, practical conservatism degenerated into mere laudation of ‘private enterprise,’ economic policy almost wholly surrendered to special interests – such a nation was inviting the catastrophes which compel society to re-examine first principles.” (455)

FDR lacked own ideas so was heavily swayed by reformers but forced American conservatives to begin to think

– Liberals found themselves embarrassed at measures needed to win WW2 and the wreckage of centralization at home

Bibliography
  • Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001

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