Monday, December 21, 2009

Ever heard of this guy? (2)

How did liberalism - the basic ideas of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke that stressed the primacy of individuals who must consent to any government, which in turn will protect their rights to life, liberty, property, etc., (the philosophy upon which our country is based) morph into the current weird dichotomy of the "liberals" who scare conservatives so much and libertarians who tremble at the thought of black helicopters?

Surprisingly, to me, one reason might be an American thinker whom I had never heard of before, but whose socialist writings pre-dated Marx and Engle's "Communist Manifesto" by nearly a decade.

The dude is Orestes Brownson, a fellow who eventually turned to Catholicism but in 1840 published "The Laboring Classes," at book that blamed liberal capitalism for the sufferings of workers and sought economic - not just hollow political (yes, you can vote) freedoms - equality for all. Liberalism be damned, was his point, real equality demanded so much more. Wealth, said Brownson - before Marx, before the Haymarket Square riot, before the Russian Revolution - must be redistributed.

No wonder we haven't heard about this guy.

But folks like him, thinking quite outside the accepted Lockian box, insisted that society's acceptance of haves on the one hand and have-nots on the other is simply wrong.

The year 1840 - and Brownson - languish deep in forgotten history. But his ideas linger, scary to some, progressive to others, almost dead, but not quite. In some new, modern form, acceptable to today's Americans, might they crawl out of their grave?

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