Progressivism aims to place individuals in unmediated dependency on a government that can proclaim, as Barack Obama does: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Meaning, people depend on government for what they are and have.
Few of today’s progressives are acquainted with their doctrine’s intellectual pedigree or its consistent agenda. Progressivism’s founders, however, considered it essential that the nation make progress, as they understood this, beyond the Founders’ natural rights philosophy, which limits government by saying (in the Declaration of Independence) that it is “instituted” to “secure” these rights.
Hence Woodrow Wilson, a progressive who understood his doctrine’s premises, urged Americans to “not repeat the [Declaration’s] preface.” Progressivism preaches that rights do not preexist government, that they are dispensed and respected by government as it sees fit and to fit its purposes. Those purposes grow unconstrained by the Constitution that progressives construe as a “living” — meaning infinitely elastic — document.