Monday, December 28, 2009
“Progressive” Government Is Still the Problem
It’s remarkable how Ronald Reagan’s words apply today as when he spoke them at his inauguration January 20, 1981, and had previously expressed the same idea in his GOP Convention speech in 1964:
The issue is much the same today as it has been throughout American history, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century: the size and power of the federal government. This encompasses many social and economic issues. As far back as the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist controversies, this issue has been discussed and debated. But even the Federalists, who favored a stronger central government than did the Anti-Federalists, still wanted the government confined to its constitutional limits. They disagreed on the legal mechanisms for accomplishing this.
In the twentieth century, President Woodrow Wilson, an authoritarian ruler, used World War I as an excuse to impose a near-totalitarian administration on America. He was an example of the Progressive movement. Harding and Coolidge represented a much-needed respite from the Wilson tyranny, but soon Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt continued the statist ways, without helping the situation during the state-caused Great Depression.
Liberals today often prefer the term “Progressive,” probably hoping most people won’t know what it means. Historically the Progressives have been in favor of activist government placing “experts” in charge of making decisions for the people that they traditionally have made for themselves. Progressives have been responsible for many developments, some good and some bad.
Progressives attacked the abuses prevalent in some parts of society in business and industry, and strove to improve treatment of people on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. In doing this, they used the press and literature to call attention to outstanding problems, and succeeded in getting many improvements made. They also planted the seeds for the permanent welfare state, eventually creating a permanent dependent underclass that is useful as a source of votes.
Human nature is such that man is prone to yield to temptations to mistreat others and to abuse people and laws for his own benefit. Government had participated in private-sector abuses by passing laws favorable to the robber-baron types. Yet it is a mistake to assume that all wealthy industrialists were equally guilty. From the Progressives’ actions came the growth of labor unions, who soon enough installed abuses of their own when they could get government to side with them.
Progressives in the 1920’s were often admirers of Benito Mussolini, and his seeming success in organizing society through the State. Everyone had to participate in the great fascist program (at the expense of their own self interest) or else. They often also tended to admire the Soviet Union, seeing collectivism as the “wave of the future.” For a discussion of the Progressives’ political similarities with major socialist movements see Jonah Goldberg’s video here, as he discusses his book Liberal Fascism, which I highly recommend.
Progressives also promoted the eugenics movement, hoping to weed out undesirable specimens from society. This they did by getting laws passed to allow involuntary sterilization of individuals deemed less fit. This process appears to have been stopped in the U.S., but has been replaced by the far worse phenomenon of abortion. We haven’t got to forced abortions yet, but there is some pressure in that direction. See eugenics video here.
Today, Progressives are about to get the power to tell every American what kind of medical insurance and care he/she can get and can’t get, how much it will cost, who pays, etc. In addition to the great loss of liberty this would bring, the Right to Life movement is rightly concerned that government will fund abortions and that end-of-life care will contribute to ending lives. Since this happens in other supposedly civilized countries, it is not entirely unlikely to happen here. Most Americans oppose this takeover, but, apparently, raw political power will prevail.
Progressives have also bought into (concocted?) the notion that global warming (or, climate change, if you prefer) is an issue that must be dealt with on a grand scale by government, at great expense. The best and brightest plans that have been suggested will not change the climate to any significant extent, and worldwide cooperation is simply not going to happen. The whole idea is not really related to climate, but rather, is an attempt to shake down wealthier nations, particularly the United States, to transfer wealth to the thugs and tyrants of the third world. It is showing some success in that. Also, it would give the Progressive “experts” more areas of control over citizens’ everyday lives.
Progressivism works politically through defining “victims” and going after people and institutions that have wealth and economic power, using, for example, Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and similar methods that are commonly used by communist agitators, such as demonizing the opponent, repeating a big lie loudly and frequently so that people begin to believe it, and other techniques, for example, suggesting that the opponent is mentally ill or otherwise unsound, or of such character as not to be believed. Debating or otherwise engaging on the issues is to be avoided.
Progressives today also work through community organizers in such groups as ACORN that are not above breaking laws to achieve their goals.
Progressivism is firmly in place in the White House and the Congressional majority. Its appeal consists of promises to “victim” groups of government help in exchange for votes, and, for liberals who are not “victims,” promises of political or bureaucratic jobs to carry out their programs, and thereby feel good about themselves and exercise power. Everyone is entitled to government help, they say. It’s a right, they say. We can see the results of the welfare state economy all around us. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But good intentions are what we’re supposed to evaluate, not results.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and politically and economically, that’s the road we’re currently on. It could be avoided largely by undoing and not doing what Progressives are doing these days.
Photo: Portrait of President Woodrow Wilson