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Progressivism (or Progressive Ideology) puts a heavy emphasis on administration that is centralized, separated from the political process, and has the power and expertise to make quick decisions.[1]


Pre-Progressive Era

The dawn of progressive ideology has been traced back to the publication of Looking Backward,[2] where author Edward Bellamy uses the label of Nationalism to create a movement aiming toward greater state power at the expense of the individual.

Another book that had far reaching implications for the coming birth of progressive ideology was Henry George's book Progress and Poverty.[3]

Progressive Era

For a more detailed treatment, see Progressive Era.

The "Progressive Era" was a time period in American History in which Progressives made their way into segments of academia, media, and government, and were successful at implementing their policies and cultural changes based on their ideology.


Progressive ideology is marked by a belief in the purity of Public Administration,[4] particularly the concept of the disinterested[5][6] and impartial administrator.[7][8] While progressives generally do not agree on how administrative power should be used,[9] that is less important than the fact that administration must exist.[10] By its very nature, administration is necessarily centralized.[11] What becomes de-centralized within the Administrative State are the specific functions, such as energy, environment, transportation, etc. The reason why progressives look past use and focus simply on existence, is because they want the flexibility to be able to move and change as circumstances change.[10] This generally has a negative effect on citizens, who are not always kept apprised of what is happening and are not afforded the opportunity to voice their beliefs.

In this way, when Progressivism is looked upon as Bureaucratic Despotism,[12] the notion is quite apt since despotic governments generally do not care what the citizens want or believe.

Progressivism or Liberalism?

Most of the time, when we think of Liberals what we are actually thinking about are Progressives.[13] During the era leading up to World War I, progressives had been so successful at implementing their ideas and had so frightened the American People, that after the war progressives had to change their title and take over the word liberal. FDR would be the first major progressive who would become known as a liberal,[13] and this title shift lasted for nearly a century, until Howard Dean started using the term progressive again as head of the DNC.[13]

Hillary Clinton would further bring the label of progressive back to the forefront on the national stage at a debate during the 2008 election, when answering a question as to if she would describe herself as a liberal.[14] The title of Progressive is now back in vogue with everybody on the left describing themselves that way, including President Obama.[15]

See also


  1. Woodrow Wilson on Administration
  2. (2008) Liberal Fascism. Random House, 215. “It's hard to fix a specific starting date for the progressive race for the Great Society, but a good guess might be 1888, the year Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward burst on the American scene. One of the most influential works of progressive propaganda ever conceived.” 
  3. Henry George and the Beginnings of Revolutionary Socialism in the United States, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
  4. Progressivism (Public Administration)
  5. The Trouble Isn't Liberals. It's Progressives., by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal
  6. By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
  7. Reflections on American Progressivism
  8. Progressive Democracy, by Herbert Croly, "In almost every case it(the law) depends for its success upon the ability and disinterestedness with which the law is administered."
  9. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Ten Years of the Claremont Review of Books
  10. 10.0 10.1 Progressivism and the Administrative State
  11. The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930
  12. Constitution 201: The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Trouble Isn't Liberals; It's Progressives, by Nick Sorrentino,
  14. YouTube Debate: Hillary - Are You a Liberal?, "You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual,Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head, and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century. I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.
  15. Obama Says His Critics Haven’t Been Listening, The New York Times, "I am someone who is no doubt progressive"

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