President Woodrow Wilson's Positive Freedom In The Progressive Era

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By 1914, the Progressive Era had instilled a healthy dose of positive liberty into American domestic policy, resulting in many important educational, labor, and economic reforms that continue to affect American legislature today. But following WWI, President Woodrow Wilson took the concept of positive liberty to an even more influential level by proposing a new approach to foreign policy that essentially advocated for internationalism. In doing so, he was challenging the American tradition of isolationism that had more or less stood unchanged since the presidency of George Washington himself. Because of its perceived radicalism, Wilson’s proposed policy was initially rejected by Congress. But in the years that followed, WWII and the publication …show more content…
Progressives were dissatisfied with the social and economic vices they saw among the upper and working classes; they believed that in order to protect and maintain their own virtuous family lives, they needed to reform the vices of the other classes. In a total rejection of negative liberty ideals, progressives argued that “individualism means tyranny” and that societies cannot prevail which “endure on a purely individualistic basis” (McGerr 158). The Progressives quickly gained enough political influence to pass a series of reforms involving prohibition, education, labor law, and economic law. But in doing so, they set aside the long held American belief in self-determination and freedom from coercion, favoring instead the ideals of positive liberty, which is defined by the idea that a person will ultimately be more free if they make better choices (Madsen 119). The idea behind the Progressive Reformation was that by allowing the government to regulate some choices, the people would ultimately have more choices and abilities in the long run. The success and influence of these various reform efforts can be interpreted in many ways, but the significant question that this period produced was this: “Was government intervention merely a natural and inevitable development, the price of living in a highly complex society, or was it …show more content…
In an effort to create solidarity in the war against fascism, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt issued The Atlantic Charter in 1941. Much like Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech, The Atlantic Charter clearly stated that it was formed on the basis of “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live” (Churchill & Roosevelt 169). That obviously negative liberty ideal being established, the declaration then goes on to outline programs based on positive liberty like disarmament and equal trade. It is very evident that while the negative liberty concept of self-determination was at the heart of this foreign policy statement, Churchill and Roosevelt believed that actions driven by positive liberty would be necessary to protect that self-determination in the long

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