For almost five decades I have been fascinated with the origins of ideas, particularly ideologies and cosmologies, both religious and secular. It is a theme I have elaborated upon numerous times at LRC (e.g. here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). And while I have had numerous guides in my quest through this linguistic labyrinth, perhaps the most insightful has been Murray N. Rothbard.
In the last decades of Rothbard’s life, he developed an important interpretative framework in understanding American history. This was prodded on by his careful study of the emerging “new political history” which was reinterpreting the dynamics of the ebb and flow of ethnocultural and ethnoreligious groups. This bold synthesis became the central focus of some of his greatest scholarly endeavors, particularly when it came to understanding progressivism as a secularized version of this postmillennial religious zeal.
In his brilliant book, The Progressive Era, (which I believe to be his greatest work) Rothbard provided the Rosetta Stone to understanding the origins of the welfare state in America: the role of postmillennial Protestant pietistic intellectuals and activists born in the crucial decade surrounding the Civil War who, because of the seductive allure and influence of the evolutionary naturalism of Darwinism, came of age increasingly secularized, but who did not forsake their faith in statism and elitist social control.
Interested LRC readers should further delve into the excellent authoritative text, Gnostic America: A Reading of Contemporary American Culture & Religion according to Christianity’s Oldest Heresy, by Peter M. Burfeind. The subject of gnosticism is one of the most important and impactful areas of study in world history, with tremendous consequences both ancient and modern few non-initiates can fathom. It has fascinated a wide range of dedicated scholars with which LRC readers are familiar such as Eric Voegelin, James Billington, Michael Burleigh, Murray N. Rothbard, Henri de Lubac, Thomas Molnar, John Gray, Terry Melanson, and F. A. Hayek.12:21 am on January 27, 2019