The history of Progressives shows that they thought mankind was making huge “progress” in terms of character improvement and, therefore, it was no longer dangerous to trust men who had unlimited government power. Given their improved nature, said Progressives, powerful men would use that power solely for the benefit of society.
By contrast, it was the Founding Fathers who worried that mankind was selfish and uncharitable. James Madison wrote that “self love,” by which he meant self-interest, was and always would be the primary motivating factor in human behavior. Therefore, the problem with entrusting men with power, while necessary to run a government, was dangerous.
That is why the Founders made sure there are so many checks on that power. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” Madison wrote. The Progressives seemed to think men could indeed become angels. Madison and the other Founders thought differently.
BRUCE G. KAUFFMANN