Along the Tracks

Wednesday, August 21, 2002


If you feel like toning those mental muscles, it would be hard to beat this paper by John Fonte on the ideological struggle which has been building in the West between liberal democracy and what Fonte calls “transnational progressivism.” My upcoming column in this weekend’s edition of The Bryan Times touches on similar themes, with 9-11 and its aftermath the central focus.

Fonte says Fukuyama’s “end of history” prediction based on democracy’s triumph over communism was premature. I say it misses a fundamental lesson of human history: There will always be ideological movements which seek either to centralize political power within an elite or decentralize political power away from authorities. The extremes - totalitarianism and anarchy - and their proponents will always accompany political debate; movement names may change (indeed, are interchangeable), but their defining concepts of political organization will be a regular refrain.

The magic of the American experiment is its incredible success at finding that “balance” between centralization and decentralization. The founding documents, and our reverence to them, have provided an anchor during tides which pulled power towards Washington and away. The basic concept of individual citizens with defined and inalienable rights within a larger representative government containing both levels and branches with specific powers has proven self-correcting and wildly successful. It provides both a base and a goal for other governments and, yes, nations to achieve.

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