Whenever the so-called progressive mindset is challenged in modern debate, big-government supporters turn to 20th century welfare programs, which they say led to our country’s great success. If anything, these programs and their modern iterations, such as Obamacare, have held back the country—and more importantly, its citizens—from progressing further than we have.

Our nation is now in decline because we are spending more money than we can print on progressive entitlement programs that encourage dependency on government rather than hard work, innovation and discovery. Even our state is struggling to stay afloat because the progressives in state government have convinced us to collect as many federal grants as we can, even if we lose 25 cents on the dollar and get heavy strings attached to the 75 cents we receive.

As of the most recent count, nearly 110 million people—more than a third of our population—received a welfare benefit in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This figure doesn’t include subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or the health insurance premiums in the president’s progressive health insurance law. The latter program will add 25 million people who receive premium subsidies by 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Is this the progress that progressives are working toward? Do they intend for every citizen to depend on the federal government for their care, with the states simply serving as subsidiary organizations? What freedom will citizens have to pursue their own interests when everything is paid for and controlled by the government? What fulfilling charity, paid for and executed by real people, will remain? Will any real human progress result if individuals are compelled to act according to the whims of a centralized government rather than the dictates of their own conscience?

Only liberty lived out by a moral people, which conservatism seeks to preserve, can truly lead to progress. Liberty means government stays out of the way while individuals take risks and even fail—sometimes repeatedly. After all, one lost opportunity creates a new one, and opportunity, properly grasped and cultivated, will always lead to human advancement. These advancements benefit everyone because they generate wealth, which not only allows people to create jobs and opportunities for others to work toward their own well-being, but also provides more people the resources to privately help those less fortunate, which we know is the most humane way to provide for the needs of those most vulnerable in our society.

In traditional America and traditional New Hampshire, which conservatives desire and groups such as the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire seek to restore, government’s job is to make sure no one is taking what doesn’t belong to them, that no one is using coercion to get what they want, and that no one is conspiring to prevent others from trying to improve on what they’ve already done. This limited government allows people to achieve as much as they’re able and keep the fruits of that achievement, which inspires them to achieve more.

Contrary to what so-called progressives will have you believe, these conservative ideas are actually quite revolutionary when put into the context of human history. It is a new idea that common men and women should be able to achieve the good life according to their ability, that they should keep the property they’ve earned and do with it what they wish, and that they should elect their own leaders who are held to the same legal standards to make sure no one person takes advantage of government for their personal benefit. Unfortunately, while a relatively new idea, human liberty has been short lived.

Progressivism has been creeping into America since the day our forefathers signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but it has become most pronounced within the past 100 years—since we lost our ability to trade with real money following the creation of the Federal Reserve bank, allowed for direct federal taxation, and destroyed the delicate state-federal balance via direct election of U.S. Senators. Ever since then, an American ruling class has slowly grown in power as the remaining Americans have slowly lost their wealth, their power and their freedom.

Most governments that we’ve observed since the rise of man have been large and oppressive like ours has become, preserving the good life for a small group of people who hold the rest in mediocrity, dependence, and inevitably, injustice and oppression. This is the oldest system in human history: a type of totalitarianism that shows complete disrespect for human dignity. It is this system that is endemic to the so-called progressive philosophy today.

We seek to conserve and restore what is really a new idea—the ideas of limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility, which once led to the most prosperous people the Earth had ever known.

Carolyn McKinney is the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.