“The war (WWI) shattered the utopian visions of these students of Enlightenment, leading to the change from what we now call Classical Liberalism to its modern incarnation. Barzun describes this transition as the Great Switch; a switch from the idea that the best government is one that governs least to the best government is one that will give us liberty, good and hard. The “deplorables” are not capable of liberty; it must be forced upon them.
At the time, the transition was barely noted, except by authors such as Chesterton and Belloc.
This new liberal now had nothing standing between him and the individual — all intermediating institutions, especially Christianity and the Church, had been stripped of any meaningful role. Each individual was standing naked, to be molded like clay by these progressive, enlightened, “reasonable” intellectuals. Legislation would solve every problem in life. Every need and want would be met, all bestowed via government largesse.
Barzun describes these naked individuals as impotent: the receivers of benefits, victims, lacking room to breathe, oppressed by his fellows and the state alike. This naked individual now had but one objective: the Unconditioned Life — emancipation from the realities of this world; nothing to stand in the way of every wish; expecting no rebuffs. Life with no conditions; anything goes, and you can’t stop me. My pleasure is my highest priority; the highest goal in life is to be happy.”
Book: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life; 1500 to the Present by Barzun, Jacques