This is Chapter 5 of my book-in-progress, “Open Wide And Say Moo! – The Good Citizen’s Guide to Right Thoughts And Right Actions Under Obamacare.” Comments are fervently sought; you can leave them here.
You can read my rationale for undertaking this project, and thus opening myself up to the possibility of public failure, humiliation, derision, disapprobation, and unwanted scrutiny, here.
And here is the up-to-date archive for all the chapters that have been posted so far.
Update – September 1, 2012
Open Wide and Say Moo! is now revised and published!
Now available in the audiobook version!
My goal in Part I of this book has been to describe the sorry state of the American healthcare system pre-Obamacare. Before moving on to Part II – which will attempt to show why “fixing” the problem by instituting Progressive healthcare reforms is exactly the wrong thing to do – it occurs to me that I ought to explain exactly what I mean by “Progressive.”
What I have done so far in this regard – which has consisted of offering unflattering innuendoes, casting negative aspersions, remarking snidely, and quoting from Ayn Rand (who I think was brilliant in characterizing the diagnosis, but whose prescription – unfettered and godless self-interest – I find a little disturbing) – has not exactly constituted an exercise in probity and precision. In this final chapter of Part I it is my intention to remedy this shortcoming.
To really understand where our healthcare system is headed, and for that matter where our society is headed, we need to understand Progressives and the Progressive Program.
I have personally found this understanding hard to come by. This is because Progressives, and especially American Progressives, have always been a bit enigmatic about their real goals. In my view their behavior tends to be persistently, almost defiantly counterproductive to the rights Americans traditionally hold dear, and which the Progressives themselves insist they revere – in particular, our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Even a superficial analysis of the words and deeds of Progressives should reveal that, their protests to the contrary notwithstanding, they never really bought into the “inalienable” thing. It is quite apparent, to anyone who cares to look, that for Progressives such “natural rights” can and must be abridged whenever it is necessary to achieve some higher goal.
Since the behavior of American Progressives is so often inconsistent with the values they (most of them, at least) insist they love as well as any American, I concluded long ago that they must either be prevaricators or self-deluded when it comes to telling us what they are really up to. Either way, if we want to know what they really think, and what their agenda really is, we’ll have to figure it out for ourselves.
And perhaps we’d better do just that, since it is looking a lot like the Progressives are going to be running things around here for a while.
I am not a political scientist. But I am a scientist. And for a scientist, one useful way to learn about any kind of system is first to make as many observations as you can about that system, then devise a theory to fully explain those observations, and then apply that theory to attempt to predict future behaviors of the system. As you observe how your theory is working, you can then go back as needed and readjust it to comport with your new observations. Repeat until done.
When you get to the point where subsequent, otherwise-difficult-to-explain behaviors have become predictable, your theory is reasonably likely to be in the ball park.
And so, I am going to present a theory of Progressivism. It is a theory that I have found useful in explaining many of the otherwise confounding and enigmatic behaviors which Progressives habitually display. I am not claiming that this theory is absolutely correct, merely that it is useful in practice. Since it is a theory whose value you can assess objectively with your own observations, its practical value should not depend on my own character, morals, intelligence, or psychological status, all of which have been impugned by readers of my blog in the way of proving that my theory cannot have any merit. (Simple observation suggests that Progressives generally allow only three possibilities when somebody disagrees with them – you can be crazy, stupid or evil. Their prescribed remedy – therapy, education, or elimination – depends on which of these possibilities they finally settle upon. My theory, obviously, will have to explain this behavior, too.)
You may not like this theory. A lot of people don’t. But the thing about the scientific application of theories is that if you are going to make any, well, progress, you cannot simply write off or ignore theories whose implications you do not happen to like. Whichever theory is currently the best at explaining the known facts necessarily takes precedence, until such time as you can devise a new or adjusted theory that explains those facts even better.
I would welcome hearing about such a theory. In the meantime, here’s mine.
When I began my study of Progressives, I honestly did not know where to begin. So, like Descartes before me, I decided to proceed from the simplest and most irreducible of truths. Namely, that Progressives are really, really smart. We know this because all the best professors in all the best Ivy League schools are Progressives.
From this simple truth we can deduce that, whatever it is that Progressives are actually up to, it must have its roots in the writings of The Philosopher.
And sure enough, it was not at all difficult to discover the roots of Progressivism within the teachings of Aristotle. Aristotle tells us that man is innately a political animal, an animal with an inherent propensity to gather into increasingly complex communities. The essence of man, according to Aristotle, is society.
The formation of complex societies is what defines mankind; it is what differentiates man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Hence, because man is defined by society, society is inherently on a higher plane of importance than the individual. Individuals are entirely beholden to and dependent upon and subservient to the society to which they belong. Indeed, they are defined as individuals by their place and status within that society. Without society, a man is just an ape with better thumbs.
And so the precedence of the collective over the individual is not something we can simply choose to accept or reject; it is the very essence of mankind. It is nature. It is just the way it is.
Aristotle, as we can see, is a great friend to the Progressives.
The general idea that mankind is essentially a creature of society, and that the worth of the individual is defined by his/her worth to their society, is thus a very old idea, and in fact has been the normal way of looking at the relationship between individuals and society throughout most of history.
This really started to change just a few hundred years ago, when humanists began to cautiously explore the radical notion that individuals (rather than the collective) constitute the fundamental unit of humanity. The new humanist heresy – which declared the innate and irreducible worth of the individual and began to celebrate individual “autonomy” – came to be called “liberalism.” Classical liberalism stressed individual freedom of thought and action, the right of private property, individual responsibility, free markets, and the limited power of the state. Classical liberalism reached its zenith a mere two and a half centuries after its painful birth, with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. The formation of a new nation whose government was explicitly established on the grounds of classical liberalism is what I’ve been calling the Great American Experiment.
The Great American Experiment, so far at least, appears to be a once-in-a-species event. So if we’re about to abandon it, I would caution that perhaps we should first really think about it for a while.
In any case, even in America the collective countercurrent never really went away. And it never will, if only due to its extraordinarily deep roots in the history of men. And so, after only a century or so of relatively unfettered capitalism (the natural economic system of classic liberalism), during which the industrial revolution had been whipped to new heights, leading to unimagined progress and economic growth but also, alarmingly, to the creation of a large new underclass of hopelessly poor and horribly oppressed urban dwellers, collectivist thinkers were stirred to new action.
In some countries the “action” consisted of violent revolutions and all the bad stuff that typically follows such things. In the United States, the collectivist movement followed a much more prudent, much more practical, much more gradualistic approach.
Taking its cue from the industrial revolution, which by radically transforming the modern world had graphically introduced the idea of “progress,” and fascinated by the ideas of Darwin (which suggested not only that a system could be steadily and unrelentingly directed toward some state of “perfection,” but also that the very nature of things seemed to dictate that it should be so), the new collectivist movement at the turn of the 20th century adopted the name “Progressive.” To Progressives, classical liberalism has always been an aberration. Despite what America’s founding documents might say, society takes precedence over the individual. It takes this precedence by way of the very essence of mankind, as was taught by The Philosopher, and so it cannot be otherwise.
(Within a couple of decades, “Progressives” had gotten such a bad reputation that they brazenly began referring to themselves as “liberals,” usurping the terminology from a philosophy that was nearly its opposite, as if to convince the public that they actually held to those foundational American precepts of individual liberty, limited government, &c. But true to form, by 2008 they had pretty much trashed the name “liberal” as well, at which time Hillary Clinton famously declined to call herself a liberal any longer, and insisted instead that she was a “Teddy Roosevelt Progressive.” It is therefore in deference to Ms. Clinton’s explicit instructions that I am using that original terminology in this book.)
The Progressives, following unrelentingly their steady, Darwin-inspired evolutionary-not-revolutionary approach, have made astounding strides. Today they are on the verge of rendering their Program irreversible. And taking over the healthcare system will likely lead them to the final victory for which they have striven, so patiently and for so long.
Progressivism is a political movement whose premise is that the society of men can be perfected, and therefore it is the highest duty of any “good” society to constantly strive toward that achievable state of perfection. And so the Progressive Program – the thing that makes Progressives progressive – is to develop the perfect society. This program is not optional; it is dictated by the nature of mankind. It is therefore “right,” and objecting to it is therefore “wrong.”
The perfect society has three fundamental requirements. First, it must meet all the basic needs of the individuals within that society (such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, and health), without which individuals will always be tempted to engage in the counterproductive behavior of striving for things. Second, the social and economic benefits of society must be fairly distributed among all people. Therefore, there must be social justice – there must be no big winners or big losers. Big winners are an especial problem, because the presence of big winners just encourages greed and self-aggrandizement on the part of others, and will discourage citizens from dedicating themselves to the good of the whole. Third, once perfection is finally achieved, the social order must be of such a nature that it can persist, theoretically forever, without fundamental change. Indeed, the very notion of perfection implies that any change, of any type, is bad, since it will necessarily constitute a movement away from perfection. (This means, of course, that once the Progressives reach their goal, they will need to change their name. Of necessity they will become Conservatives.)
The perfect society therefore requires that people be granted “rights” to things – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, &c. These rights obviously do not come from any Creator – so where do they come from? They can only come from a Central Authority – from the sovereign entity within a society that has the ultimate authority (backed by the legal use of violence or the threat thereof) to distribute the fruits of the society in such a manner that all those rights can be realized.
Progressives love to grant new rights to everyone, because each time they do, the Central Authority accrues that much more power over the behavior and the property of individuals.
The perfect society demands social or redistributive justice in all areas of social and economic endeavor, even in areas that have not yet been defined as a formal “right.” Once again, only a strong Central Authority can determine what is fair or not fair, and can have the power to affect the appropriate redistributions it determines are necessary to achieve such fairness. The aforementioned creation of “rights,” of course, will guarantee that such a powerful Central Authority will have been established, so that social justice can progress steadily forward.
The perfect society requires complete stability. This would include (at a minimum) a stable population size, the preservation of natural resources and the earth’s environment (indeed, when one hears the word “sustainability,” one is usually listening to Progressive gospel), the careful management of the economy, and the careful control – if not suppression – of unplanned innovations.
This latter refers both to material (or scientific) innovations, and innovations of thought, either of which will always threaten hard-won societal stability.
Achieving the perfect society being the paramount work of mankind, any method which may help in achieving this perfection is to be embraced; none discounted out of hand. The only considerations one must make in choosing methods of action are: Is this method practicable? And: Is this method more likely to be successful, or counterproductive?
These two questions fully define Progressive ethics.
And finally, the Central Authority exists purely to grant essential rights to the people, to determine what is fair and then act to effect that fairness, and to establish the executive structures needed to achieve and maintain societal stability and sustainability. Therefore, by definition, as long as its actions are directed in these ways, it is an inherently ethical entity and must be regarded as such; and further, resistance to it is (equally inherently) unethical.
That’s it. That’s my theory of the Progressive Program. If you object to it, then, despite whatever personal shortcomings, sins, and wants you may perceive in your humble author, you are obligated (by all that is righteous and good) to postulate your own theory of Progressivism that explains, at least as well as my theory does, all of the following phenomena:
Despite its lip service to the contrary, Progressivism is not egalitarian. It simply cannot be.
For, while Progressivism is not by definition a system of rule by the elite, in practical terms it can only end up this way. Progressive leaders (themselves being quite elite) are never slow to perceive this truth.
It works like this: The duty of mankind is to strive for the perfect society. The chief tool by which mankind is to achieve this program is man’s intellect and logic. It is axiomatic that only a minority of people will have the intellect and logic necessary to direct the Program of mankind.
Therefore, Progressivism ultimately relies on an elite corps of individuals – formally called “experts” – to guide our progress toward the perfect society. The perfect society will not just happen, it must be engineered by those who are expert enough to know what to do, and who are gifted enough to lead.
Those leading experts, the rare individuals without whom we will never achieve our state of perfection, are to be carefully nurtured and valued by society. Because their work is so critical to the essential Program, the elite must be removed from worry over the mundane necessities of life. That is, providing the leadership class with certain luxuries and privileges, and even freedom from having to follow all the rules that apply to the masses, is therefore not hypocrisy, but is an essential good. It redounds to the benefit of the Program, and therefore, to everyone.
This is why Progressive leaders habitually accept special privileges and perquisites that would make the King of Siam blush, and they do so with an air of matter-of-factness and entitlement that is impressive to behold.
Just as it is the sacred duty of those who have been blessed with the intellectual tools to lead us toward the Promised Land, it is no less the sacred duty of the rest of us – we in the unwashed masses – to do whatever it is that the experts determine is best. The determinations and directives which the experts hand down may apply to all people, or they may be specifically directed toward you or me (which indeed would be a very great honor for us, would it not?) Either way, it is our duty to comply with all central directives, for the greater good of the whole.
This explains why Progressives express such indignant wrath over the Tea Party. Tea Party enthusiasts insist that their own individual autonomy must remain paramount, and utterly deny that they have any duty to comply with the Progressive Program. This attitude, of course, makes members of the Tea Party stupid, crazy or evil. And, because the Progressive-in-Chief happens to be an African American who is acting within the prescribed range of behaviors for African Americans, it also makes them racist. (More on this latter point shortly.)
Progressives (capital P), as I use the term, are the thought leaders of Progressivism. They are the experts, the leadership class. They are the political leaders, the academics, the authors, the bureaucats, and the pundits and spokespersons who set the agenda, make the decisions, form and transmit the message, and pass the judgments that make the Progressive engine run. They are the ones who know the way to the perfect society, and are driving us to it.
On the other hand, progressives (the “small-p-progressive,” the rank and file, one-of-us progressives who spend their lives toiling away within the general population), who form the large majority of American progressives, are basically just nice people. For the most part progressives honestly believe that their political philosophy is the right philosophy, the fairest philosophy, and innately the kindest and most humane political philosophy there can be. They are not trying to drive society toward perfection as much as they are merely aiming for more fairness in the distribution of the good things that come from being in a society in the first place.
Small-p-progressives do indeed tend to look at non-Progressives, and especially Conservatives, as being driven chiefly by vice – usually selfishness and greed – and so are subject to being induced to states of great indignation and anger (by Progressives) against specific non-Progressives, and can often be mobilized to action against same.
So, within the great unwashed masses, progressives are seen by Progressives as the ones who bathe at least weekly.
The fundamental flaw of Progressivism is the same as the fundamental flaw of all collectivist political systems. Namely, Progressivism ultimately relies on all members of society to subsume their own individual needs to the needs of the collective. That is, the Progressive Program requires a fundamental change in human nature. And alas! This change will never be forthcoming.
All ideal political and economic systems – including capitalism – eventually founder on the shoals of human nature if certain adjustments are not made. However, collectivist systems are especially vulnerable to human nature. Unlike capitalism (which incorporates, utilizes and makes the best of the individual’s innate self-centered nature), collectivist systems require the complete suppression of man’s natural impulses (again, unless you are lucky enough to be amongst the leadership class). So collectivist systems are rapidly and deeply challenged by human nature. It is their fundamental flaw.
This fundamental flaw will almost always lead to great frustration on the part of the leadership of any collectivist system, dooms their attempts at societal perfection, and finally results in tyranny or anarchy. This is why, while collectivist systems often sound quite attractive to the inexperienced youth or their unaware elders, collectivism always tends to end badly.
So, despite their frequent hymns of praise to the worthiness of the common man, Progressives invariably develop an underlying contempt toward the unwashed masses. It is not difficult to spot this contempt if you are alert to it.
Instead of surrendering to the inevitabilities of human nature, Progressives will instead try to “manage” the unwashed masses.
Now, for your typical American progressive, getting people to go along with the Progressive Program will be a simple matter of education. The Progressive Program is so obviously Right, and anything else so obviously Wrong, that anyone can see it with a minimum of instruction. These progressives believe this because it is how they themselves were won over.
But the Progressives – the elite class of leaders, who have probably been to Harvard – understand that education (i.e., indoctrinating the public to the great benefits of the Progressive agenda), only goes so far. It does indeed get you a substantial number of believers (probably 20 – 25% of the population), but it still leaves you with a very large proportion of the people who will only go along to the extent that they themselves benefit.
And so Progressives attempt to control the unwashed masses by means of pacification (i.e., attempting to meet all their basic needs, so as to eliminate their impulse to strive). This helps quite a bit – in fact, it is one of the main strategies of the Progressives for controlling the people.
Unfortunately, even this does not work in a substantial number of people. Some people, no matter what kind of indoctrination you provide for them, or what benefits and entitlements you may offer them, will simply refuse to place the needs of the collective above their own.
In other collectivist systems we have seen around the world, the utter frustration that develops on the part of political leaders because of this innate human recalcitrance seems nearly inevitably to lead to coercion, intimidation, peer-pressure, and, ultimately, violence*. When the expediency of violence is finally reached, you inevitably end up with the tyranny or anarchy I mentioned earlier.
* According to R.J. Rummel in his book Death by Government, during the 20th century the world’s governments killed four times as many of their own people, on purpose, as were killed in all wars combined.
In the United States, while the frustration of our Progressive leaders with us folks is often palpable, and while their growing contempt for us occasionally breaks through the surface, so far wholescale violence has been avoided. I think this is at least partially because of a unique invention of American Progressives – Diversity.
“Diversity” was once merely a pleasant feature of some population or group, a nice-to-have, a quality that implied a certain open-mindedness, an acceptance of different kinds of people, or thoughts, or music preferences. In recent years, however, Diversity has been transformed into the Uber-Virtue, the highest virtue of all, the virtue from which all the other subsidiary (formerly cardinal) virtues must necessarily spring. Today, when planning any new endeavor, no matter of what type or for what purpose, your chief and overarching consideration must be – can only be – to achieve Diversity.
How did it get to be this way?
It all comes from the Progressive Program, which, again, is to create the perfect society. The Progressive elite know just how to do this, of course, but individuals within every population throughout human history have insisted upon acting in their own self-interest, which is counterproductive to the collective goal. In many places which have made similar efforts to perfect human societies, such individual recalcitrance has been dealt with by means of concentration camps and pogroms and the like.
“Diversity” is a much kinder and very much gentler approach to curing the problem of individualism. With a critically important goal like that, Diversity has naturally assumed a primary place in our society.
Specifically, the doctrine of Diversity defines the range of permissible behaviors and thoughts – Right Actions and Right Thoughts – for a given group of people within a society. Diversity informs you of how to be a legitimate and accepted member of your group.
The numerous celebrations of Diversity we see all around us invariably turn out to be strategies to reinforce those allowable ranges of thought and behavior. In this way, members of a particular group can be individually celebrated as embodying the characteristics assigned to the group. Conversely, those who begin behaving and thinking outside the allowable range can be quickly identified and dealt with, either through correction (which brings them back into the group), or through vilification (which completely marginalizes and devalues them within society). So, for instance, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are celebrated individuals, whose accomplishments nicely reflect their assigned group identities. In contrast, Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell are not celebrated by Progressives, and indeed are castigated as abominations, because their individual accomplishments do not reflect their assigned group identities.
This concept, I believe, also helps us to understand what Progressives mean by “racism.” Racism is when you criticize a person, for any reason, who is acting entirely within the expected range of behaviors of their assigned group. On the other hand, it is not racism – and indeed, it is strongly encouraged – to criticize a person who is acting outside of his/her allowable range of behaviors. So criticizing Louis Farrakahn for calling Jews devils is racist. Saying anything nasty about Thomas Sowell, for any reason whatsoever, is perfectly acceptable.
Similarly, the concept of Diversity helps us to understand why it is laudable for Progressive commentators to say extraordinarily vile things about Ms. Palin and Ms. Bachman (and their children); but it is the height of sexism (sexism being a mortal sin) for Conservative commentators to say equally vile things about Sandra Fluck (the Georgetown law student who voluntarily testified before a Congressional subcommittee in early 2012 to ask for free contraceptives). I was raised in an era when it was unacceptable to say such horrible things about any woman, and believe Mahar, Letterman and Limbaugh all ought to be ashamed of themselves. But by the lights of Progressivism, since those Conservative women are acting well outside the bounds of acceptable behavior for their group (i.e., Women), making defamatory statements about them (and theirs) is no less than they deserve. Ms. Fluck, needless to say, was acting in precisely the prescribed manner, and so any negative statements (vile or not) about her are entirely verboten.
I want to emphasize the beauty of this formulation. It allows Progressives to make passionate and heart-felt – but highly selective – charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, &c. against their adversaries, while engaging in precisely the same behavior themselves, and without being in the least bit hypocritical. Hypocrisy is when one espouses certain principles, but then acts in a way that violates those principles. But the actions of Progressives in making charges of racism &c. are entirely consistent with their Diversity dogma, right down the line, and hence do not constitute hypocrisy.
To a great extent the potential worth of an individual in society is pre-determined by the group to which the individual belongs. People belonging to White Male, for instance, appear to have lesser intrinsic value to the ultimate goal of societal perfection than people belonging to Hispanic Female, even if they are particularly exemplary members of the White Male group.
Therefore, while individuals within Progressive societies can achieve a certain level of importance, individual importance is merely of tertiary concern, rather than primary or even secondary concern. Individuals can become officially “important” only if their importance reflects the essence of their assigned group; and the importance of the assigned group (the secondary concern), in turn, is proportional to its ability to advance the Progressive Program in general (which, of course, is the primary concern).
In summary, Diversity is critical to Progressivism because group identity is the best available mechanism by which the Progressive leadership can attempt to control and direct individual behaviors without resorting to violence. It is, in fact, a brilliant invention.
I know it is easy to become confused about this, since classically “diversity” means something other than “conformity.” You may find it helpful to remember a general rule about Progressives: If you want to know what Progressives are really up to, listen to what they say and then look to see if their deeds are actually working toward the opposite thing. Frequently you will find that they are.
Progressives have a natural aversity to organized religion. This is for three reasons. First, most major religions find a higher authority than the enlightened leadership the Progressives propose to create for us. Second, most religions are too concerned with some sort of afterlife, and insufficiently concerned with creating paradise right here on earth. And third, the major religions stress individual conscience and individual salvation over collective priorities.
Apparently realizing that abolishing religion is far too difficult a task, Progressives have adopted the long-term strategy of infiltrating and co-opting religious establishments, and by means of introducing new ideas – such as “group salvation,” and the concept of social justice as a religious imperative – rendering religion, this “opiate of the masses,” less incompatible with the Progressive Program.
Progressives do find certain religions more acceptable than others at various times. Such partiality certainly does not appear to depend in any way on the precepts or beliefs of any particular religion, but rather, on whether temporarily showing sympathy for it might in some manner advance their Program.
In a similar vein, Progressive intellectuals are known for asserting that there are no absolutes, and so there is no such thing as inherent good or inherent evil, or inherent right or wrong. So, for instance, being against gay marriage because you believe it is “wrong” on religious grounds simply does not signify.
This general attitude toward good and evil is easily explained by the simple fact that true Progressives deny any authority, any arbiter of values, that is above their own enlightened leadership. Saying that something is intrinsically “good” or intrinsically “evil” clearly implies such a higher authority, and so, such statements must be delegitimized.
In general, this kind of moral relativism in Progressive thought holds up quite nicely, except in one area. That is the area of Progressivism itself. Because the Progressive Program is the innate agenda for mankind, there indeed exists a standard by which one can (and must) determine good and evil.
“Good” is anything which advances the Progressive Program; and “evil” is anything which threatens it.
Anyone who doubts the existence of good and evil within the Progressive Program need only observe the scores of behaviors and figures of speech which are condemned as unrelentingly evil by Progressives, with all the wild-eyed fervor of a Jonathan Edwards.
Accordingly, individuals who hinder the Progressive Program are a danger to mankind’s very essence. They are evil, and must be rehabilitated or eliminated.
Radical environmentalism and the Progressive Program are not perfectly compatible with one another. But they are close.
Radical environmentalists believe that humanity is a plague upon Planet Earth. Everything man has done since the day he first learned to cultivate crops (and thus for the first time became a different kind of animal) has been bad. And anything which delays, halts or reverses the sins mankind has perpetrated upon sacred Gaia, since that day he first departed from Nature, is a good thing. So the radical environmentalists tend to favor strong central governments which (with the help of their Progressive allies) they can influence to control the destructive behaviors of individuals.
Progressives are certainly on board with controlling man’s effect on the environment, but (in most cases) they are not in favor of returning mankind to a hunter/gatherer condition (since most Progressives do not view this condition as the embodiment of a perfect society). Rather, they view the environmental movement – in particular, the Global Warming Theory – as a good way to get the populace to grant sweeping new powers to the Central Authority, which they can then use to carry out their Progressive Program. So Progressives have completely embraced the Global Warming Theory, chiefly as a means to their own political ends. Accordingly they have awarded it the status of Progressive Dogma, pronouncing man-made global warming to be “settled science.” They suppress any efforts to study it further, and declare anyone who dares question it to be the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier.
This is really too bad. I suspect that global warming is occurring, and I will even concede that human behavior may be playing a role. So I am saddened that this scientific question has been declared off limits, and has been absorbed into the Progressive Program in such a way that we are not allowed to find out what’s really going on. It leaves people like me (who think the Progressive Program is deadly) little choice but to oppose the environmentalist and global warming agenda.
Progressivism by definition values the individual primarily (and often, solely) as a function of their value to society. True Progressives do not impart any real, intrinsic value to human life itself.
Most Progressives are reluctant to say so publicly, and it is likely that most small-p-progressives value human life as much as anyone else. But it does indeed appear to be a regular and recurrent theme of the Progressive Program to devalue human life.
Progressives will justify their belief that late-term abortion, near infanticide (killing babies who are born alive after a botched abortion), frank infanticide (proposals to allow parents to kill their recently born children if they decide they would rather not have them*), or performing involuntary euthanasia on sick people, are reasonable options by the simple expediency of re-defining what it is to be “human.” If you are truly “human,” they will say, then of course they sanctify human life. It’s just that they reserve the right to determine who is and who is not truly human, based on arbitrary and moveable criteria.
*Giubilini A, Minerva F. After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live? Journal of Medical Ethics. March, 2012.
The most visible example of the Progressive attitude toward the sanctity of human life is seen by their support of eugenics. Since World War II, openly espousing eugenics has become unfashionable, for obvious reasons. But eugenics, historically, has been inherently bound to Progressivism. The idea is easy to understand when you consider that, one way or another, a perfect society will require far more perfect citizens than we have today. Indeed, the seething contempt with which Progressives regard the current genetic pool that comprises the unwashed masses is often difficult for them to suppress.
To a large extent, modern Progressivism was born as an offshoot of Darwinism. The idea that society could be perfected, and the idea that mankind could be perfected, were two sides of the same coin. And early Progressives unabashedly embraced both of these ideas, such that the idea of “culling the herd” became extraordinarily attractive to them – and they said so. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Bertrand Russell, H. G. Wells, and Margaret Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood) are only the most well-known Progressives who publicly extolled the idea of eugenics.
One can argue, of course, whether the recent Progressive support of such activities as late-term abortions, or creating human embryos for experimentation, are partially aimed at desensitizing the public for future efforts to “guide” a more favorable genetic makeup for the population. Either way, I believe it will be useful for us to keep in mind the historic propensities of Progressivism in this regard.
It is the Progressives, after all, who, in our new healthcare system, will be determining who gets what, when and how.
This one, I’ll admit, has been a puzzle to me. How can the same people who celebrate the right to late-term (or even post-term) “abortion” become so very exercised at the thought of mistreating a dog, or using cute bunnies for medical research, or the death of a snail darter?
I have come to the conclusion that it’s related not so much to a desire to elevate animals to the status of humans, but rather, the opposite – to help finish the job of reducing the status of individual people to that of any other animal. Again, such a diminished view of human life will come in handy as Progressives are deciding how to distribute healthcare resources.
Under the Progressive Program, as Aristotle says, mankind is essentially a political animal. In fact, the Progressive Program (in general) can only be achieved by political action. This means that politics – and to be clearer, political control – is the fundamental work of Progressives. Without politics, without political control, there is nothing. To lose political power is oblivion.
Not all Progressives, of course, run for elective office. Many more of them go into “public service,” wherein they spend their entire careers becoming deeply imbedded into the multitudinous governmental bureaucracies, in all three branches, and at all levels.
For Progressives, politics is everything, the essence of human behavior. And it is worth any cost, any desperate measure, to maintain political control. Indeed, to fail to lie, cheat and steal in order to keep political control would be unethical. This is why they think any proposal that would limit their ability to commit what most Americans would consider election fraud is immoral, and must be indignantly put down.
This attitude toward politics is in stark contrast to the attitude of non-Progressives, and especially of Conservatives, for whom government (and therefore politics) is merely a necessary evil, with which one must occasionally contend when it cannot be avoided. For most Conservatives politics is an afterthought.
What this means of course is that Progressivism has progressed continuously, for over a century, despite the fact that a majority of Americans still appear not to subscribe to their Program. Even in those intervals where Conservatives roust themselves into action, and take temporary control of the Presidency or a house or two of Congress, the deeply-imbedded Progressives are still there, busily gumming up the system at every level, until such time as their leaders again are in the ascendancy.
Unlike any other nation in the history of mankind, the United States was not founded because of geography, race, religion or ethnicity. It was founded on an idea. It was founded on the still-radical idea that individual autonomy – the individual’s God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – is the chief Fact of humankind, and that the only legitimate role of government is to create an environment in which individuals can enjoy those rights to the fullest extent possible.
One can see immediately that the Great American Experiment – which awards primacy to individual autonomy – is fundamentally incompatible with Progressivism. But because a majority of Americans still like the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Progressives need to play their cards close to their chests. They need to proceed carefully – but relentlessly.
By slowly re-interpreting the Constitution, and slowly addicting a critical mass of Americans to an array of government programs, Progressives are certain they will ultimately prevail. They have been at it for over 100 years, and have come a long way.
I personally cannot tell whether or not we have already passed the Event Horizon, the point beyond which restoring the Great American Experiment will become impossible. But we are at least very close.
In fact, one plausible theory for President Obama’s headlong pursuit of healthcare reform (and other policies which tend to anger the majority of Americans), is that he sees America as being at the very cusp of that Event Horizon. One, last, great push – Obamacare – will sufficiently expand government control – and government dependency – to render the Progressive Program irreversible, whatever might happen in the next election or two.
In any case, whether the President’s gamble pays off or not, the Progressive assault on the Great American Experiment has at least placed it in mortal jeopardy, and mankind’s one (and possibly only) shot at creating a society in which individual rights are paramount is in grave danger of oblivion.
To this point I have avoided directly comparing or contrasting Progressivism to the more commonly discussed economic and political systems of Socialism, Communism, or Fascism. And actually, I would have preferred to leave it this way. As I have said, I am not a political scientist, and so I am not as interested in relating Progressivism to these other -isms, as much as I am in simply characterizing the behavior of the people who will actually be running my life, and the lives of my family and loved ones.
But I know from experience that if I do not directly address this topic, readers with a certain frame of mind will be dissatisfied with my theory of Progressivism, no matter how well it predicts the behavior of Progressives.
So I will do my best, very briefly, to place Progressivism into its proper place relative to these other major political/economic systems.
Progressivism falls into the larger category of collectivist systems. That is, it is a political system in which individual rights and individual freedom of action are subservient to the needs of the collective, and whose chief goal is to run things for the optimal benefit of the collective whole.
Also within the category of collectivist systems are Communism, Socialism, and (some authorities maintain) Fascism.
Communism (the kind that has actually existed in various countries, not the impossible kind which Marx described) is a system in which all property is owned by the state, which in theory acts as a proxy for the “people”. The job of the state is to arrange things so as to achieve a reasonably high and reasonably equal level of “good” for everyone.
Socialism is a much broader and much less restrictive form of collectivism, since, while the state may own all or much of the property, socialism is also fine with a certain species of private ownership. Under socialism, individuals or private organizations may own even large amounts of property, but their control over that property – what they are permitted to do with it, or how they may dispose of it – is largely controlled (or “regulated”) by the state. The state also reserves the right to decide when somebody owns too much property, and has the authority to “redistribute” some or all of it, to further the goals of collective fairness (i.e., social justice).
Under Fascism, individual freedoms are also subservient to the collective goals, and the state has the right to confiscate private property any time it deems it desirable to do so. This (and the fact that Nazis referred to themselves as socialists) causes many authorities to classify Fascism as a collectivist system. But Fascism differs greatly from Communism and “real” Socialism in that the overarching goal of the latter two systems is to achieve a reasonably high and reasonably equal level of good for everyone, whereas the overarching goal of Fascism is to establish a certain faction of the population (an ethnic group, or the party) as a master race, and anyone else who is suffered to continue living as subservient peoples. So Fascism is collectivist only in the narrow sense that by the “collective” you are referring only to the favored group.
Given these constructs, Progressivism is a species of Socialism. As I have just defined Progressivism, it is in fact a fairly uniquely American form of Socialism. It is a harder-edged, more muscular form of Socialism than, say, European Socialism.
European Socialism has been the most successful form of collectivism to date. In particular, unlike other collectivist systems we have seen around the world, it has not led to violent suppression of the people by the Central Authorities. I believe this is largely because of the history of Europe – centuries of monarchies and non-mobile societies in which status was related to birthright, culminating in two extraordinarily destructive wars that deeply and directly affected virtually every member of society. This history rendered the idea of socialism (subsuming individual freedom – which had never amounted to all that much anyway – for the promise of stability and security) quite attractive to most Europeans. When Western European countries adopted Socialism, their leaders could afford to be open an honest about what they were attempting to do. And Socialism was broadly embraced by the people, to a large extent, with open arms and a sense of relief. Even today, with the European debt crisis (which is the other end-result of collectivism) threatening to wreck the entire system, most Europeans still love their brand of Socialism, and the relative (though temporary) security it has brought them.
In contrast, American Progressives have the difficult task of having to upend – as surreptitiously as possible – a foundational philosophy that is the polar opposite of collectivism; a system founded on the inalienable rights of the individual, in which the chief job of the government is to provide national security and a reasonably level playing field on which individuals can compete – and otherwise stay out of the way. It is a system that most Americans still like, and do not want to end. So the Progressives’ task has been monumentally difficult. They have had to carry out their Program without being able to say openly what their Program is really all about. Even now, when they are on the verge of success, their success relies largely on the fact that most Americans don’t realize what is about to be taken away from them.
Having to operate in the milieu of the Great American Experiment has made American Progressives – the ones who are really running things, not the large majority of progressives – hard-edged and realistic. They are not immersed in the usual bright-eyed idealism that characterizes most Socialists who first ascend to political victory. American Progressives don’t expect things to go smoothly. They have had, of necessity, to be cagy about what they were doing. They had to prevaricate. And they realize that most Americans are only slowly awakening to the realities of Progressivism. Progressive leaders know they will have to use coercion, cajoling, bribery, threats, selective prosecution, intimidation, and lots and lots of smooth talk to maintain their newly-won positions. American Progressives know what they are up against, and promise to be relatively ruthless, relatively merciless, in consolidating their authority. They have worked long and hard for this opportunity and will be ready for it, and they will be very formidable indeed.
I realize that this synthesis of Progressivism will be highly objectionable to many progressives, who honestly believe that their political philosophy is simply the fairest one there can be. To these, some of whom I have counted among my closest friends, I beg only three things. First, please take an objective look at the history of collectivist systems in the world during the last hundred years. Second, try to articulate, with an equally objective view, exactly how my synthesis is mistaken, and specifically, how it fails to explain the actual behavior we see from American Progressives. And third, ask yourself whether you are really prepared to assist in scuttling the Great American Experiment.
In any case, if there is going to be a fight to slow the march of Progressivism, it will have to be on the battleground they themselves have chosen, and on which their forces already have been fully arrayed. That battleground is our healthcare system.