A 2015 revision to my paper on the political divide in America

My apologies if you came here looking for something on canoeing.  There is a link if you’re interested to photos of the building of the canoe pictured above — bottom of the column to the right.  However, the main purpose of this site is to connect you to my study of the current political divide in America.  Of course there has always been some division regarding policies and legislative needs, but several things that have happened over the last 25 years or so have widened the gulf between Republicans and Democrats, or more specifically, between conservatives and progressives.

Shortly before the presidential elections in 2000 I undertook a comprehensive study of these two philosophies of government.  I wanted to write something explaining political positions for my grandchildren who were at or approaching college age.  I expected to write 10 – 15 pages.  Well, the more I got into it the more the project grew, but I felt that I had achieved an understanding well beyond my expectations.  So I put it here to share.

It has a lot of links to other sites where I found informative material.  Over time some of these links were no longer valid.  In Feb 2015 I undertook to resolve all broken links and make a few revisions.  Because the paper is pretty long I divided it into 14 parts for easier review via the web.  In answer to one request I added a link to a PDF of the complete document.  That link is at the end of the first section.

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Political History of US

Welcome to my site. Unfortunately the name and description are somewhat misleading. If its cedar strip canoes you are interested in check the links at the bottom of the right column.

After you have finished admiring my canoe, you will find in the column on the right links to a paper I wrote. It was originally titled  A Brief History of Political Evolution in America.  Well, it really wasn’t that brief and I think the new title better describes the content.

My initial intention in writing it was to provide my college age grandchildren with a short historical perspective explaining the development of Conservatism and Progressivism — the dominant political philosophies current in the U.S. I wanted to be objective in my presentation. I didn’t want to indoctrinate; I wanted to provide a clear understanding of both philosophies. As I got into researching I discovered many things I had either forgotten or never learned. So, the paper grew to the length of a short book.

The paper explains the importance of John Locke’s “enlightenment” philosophy of individual liberty to our Founding Fathers. His ideas profoundly affected the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution. It explains why this philosophy quickly went into disfavor among philosophers, and the lengthy quest for an alternative philosophy. The social upheaval of the Industrial Revolution led to a worldwide infatuation with various ideas about socialism, communism, etc. That infatuation cooled, primarily in America, with the advent of World War II and the Cold War, but has gradually seeped back to the surface. There has also been a resurgence of support for the philosophy of the founders, ideas that were called “liberal” in the 1776 and are now called “conservative”. For the first time in many years the ideological divide is sharp and needs to be understood by people on both sides.

I didn’t want to simply chronicle the events, I wanted to understand the thinking that was motivating the key players of history. One of the early influential proponents of Progressivism wrote the following: “For it is very clear that in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members.” He went on to become President. I wanted to understand the thinking behind that statement. To minimize any bias I have included a substantial amount of quoted text by the thinkers on all sides with links to more complete source material.

The end of the first section has a table of contents and a link to a PDF file of the complete document.

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