Best thing I read all year decided to tackle that question with "Where Did It All Go Wrong" in a slightly tongue in cheek manner. Please read it as it plays out like a great parody of an old college professor constantly reaching father and farther back in time to come up with some statement on what is the true start for degeneracy and liberalism.
There is a great section, and it is why I consider it the best thing I have read all year. It is a reminder to not look at history in a simple form...
Reactionaries must be, rather, good judges of both past and present: we know that most mutations are deleterious and that innovation is not an unalloyed good, but also that mutation is the engine of evolution and that even our oldest, fondest traditions were once innovations far back in forgotten time.
As I’ve written before, reaction is also not a celebration of stasis; reactionary order is organic harmony, adaptation, and civilization. Stasis is in conflict with the God or Nature of the world and therefore disordered, just as surely as pessimism is. So we do not long for fixed, historical, perfect Golden Age societies, only aspirational, mythical ones or ones that we’re willing to acknowledge had foundations destined to crumble. If we model the myths after our ancestors—well, we remember how to love what is best in our fathers without denying their faults.
In the meantime, we have no illusions that history is either endless progress, endless decay, or an endless cycle. It is not just a long rise followed by a recent fall. And God forbid we satisfy ourselves, instead, with a sophomoric spiral! The histories of civilizations and institutions show progress, decay, stagnation, and cycles, but also branching, collision, annihilation, hybridization, and much more. There are more dimensions, edges, and twists to history than there are grains of sand on the beaches of Normandy, Hispaniola, and Lake Kinneret.
We study history, we learn from it, we judge the good and bad. And when there is degeneration, we condemn it, but when there is glory, we praise that also.
It is not stagnation or turning back the clock that we seek. We want to set up an order that works and flows with God and the natural way of doing things.
That really is a key to reading Carlyle, and I recommend doing so. There is a natural order to doing things and one must respect that natural way or fail miserably. Carlyle often goes to the idea of one can sail a boat however they like and subsequently crash on the rocks or one can sail per the natural winds and make it around the cape. Nature has its laws for survival, and no matter all the bickering, arguing or rationalizations, nature's path is the true path.
Please read "Where Did It All Go Wrong".