chapter  XIV
XIV Progressivism and the New Nationalism
Pages 30

By the beginning of the twentieth century the distrust of public regulation that drove laissez-faire constitutionalism began to change as a wave of optimism and confi dence about the future swept the nation. An enthusiasm for reform took hold and within two decades transformed attitudes about government and society. The progressives, as the reformers were called, argued forcefully that government can and should be a force for social improvement. The public agenda should include more than the tasks of a village constable concerned only with maintaining law and order. Progressives rejected the Darwinian notion subscribed to by some that all progress is random and beyond human control. Although that might be true in nature, society is different. Society is an alternative to the state of nature, and people in society do not have to live by the law of the jungle. The problems of society have nothing to do with those of nature, because as human problems they are susceptible of human solutions. Progressivism was a grassroots movement without central direction, but its unifying theme was that most of society’s ills have political remedies.