Conservatives look to the past as a guide to the future. The past tells them who human beings are, and how they behave, and what is possible. In their approach to the future, conservatives are pragmatic and ground their hopes in experience. When the Founders were drawing up plans for the Republic they looked at the history of past republics and concluded that democracy was the least problematic form of government but that it posed the danger of a populist tyranny. So they instituted a system of checks and balances to guard against tyrannies of the majority and to provide the public with a cooling off period in which their emotion driven agendas could be corrected by reflection.
Progressives, by contrast, look to an imaginary future as a guide to the present and regard the experience of the past as “reactionary” and “backward.” Progressives have in their heads an image of what the future should look like based on emotion (hope and change), and they discount the experience of past and present as products of ignorance, prejudice and selfish interests, which they are determined to overcome.
Their agendas are actually much worse than this would suggest, since progressives imagine a future that is perfect, a new world in which there is no poverty, no bigotry, no irreconcilable conflict — where there is “social justice.” Against this imaginary ideal world nothing that exists can be justified or defended, or in the words of the arch rebel “everything that exists deserves to perish.” These were words were spoken by Goethe’s Mephistopheles, and quoted approvingly by Karl Marx.
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