Progressivism (or Progressive Ideology) is a narrow ideology born in America that puts a heavy emphasis on administration that is centralized, separated from the political process, engages in centralized economic planning, and has the power and expertise to make quick decisions. Progressives are quick to point to their label and proclaim that they stand for "progress", but they do everything they can to hide the fact that where they want to make progress to is a big government that is in control of every aspect of Americans' lives.
Since the 1960s and the New Left Movement, Progressivism has largely been synonymous with Communism. Earlier Progressivism, while staunchly in favor of Big Government, was equally critical of communist and socialist viewpoints.
The first progressive thinkers and the birth of progressive ideology owe its existence to Henry George's book Progress and Poverty. (See section Henry George: Ideological Influence) Early on, supporters of George (sometimes called "Georgists") contrasted themselves as "progressives" (a cue to the book title) with the "moderates" who supported land ownership.
Another book that had far reaching implications for the coming growth of the progressive movement was the publication of Looking Backward, where author Edward Bellamy uses the label of Nationalism to create a movement aiming toward greater state power at the expense of the individual. As "progressive minded" individuals increased in numbers over the decade of 1890, their popularity turned into a movement and became the dominant ideology of an 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. In addition to the aforementioned, other important thinkers of early Progressivism include Herbert Croly, John Dewey, and the pre-presidential writings of Woodrow Wilson. These and other lesser known thinkers put considerable effort into formulating a way to build authoritarian mechanisms into the free society of America, typically disguised as beneficial efforts.
Since the beginnings of progressivism, their leaders have shown a consistent disdain for the American Founding. One author, Walter Weyl, who was a co-founder of The New Republic wrote: "We are profoundly disenchanted with the fruits of a century of independence".
- See also: Idea of Progress
Progressive ideology is marked by a belief in the purity of Public Administration, particularly the concept of the disinterested and impartial administrator. While progressives generally do not agree on how administrative power should be used, that is less important than the fact that administration must exist. By its very nature, administration is necessarily centralized. 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. 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, 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. 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.
Without expressly using the name of "progressivism", Reagan did illustrate the progressives' abuse of regulation and regulatory authority in order to dictate to society, in his speech A Time for Choosing.
Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the - or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.
Between the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the success of conservatism during the Roaring Twenties and the Presidency of Calvin Coolidge, and the failure of an actual progressive party in the 1912 Bull Moose party, progressivism as an ideology was nearly lost. Then, along came Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At his acceptance speech for the Nomination for President on the Democrat ticket, FDR himself is the one who led the way toward renaming the ideology.
During the speech, FDR proclaimed that the party was the party of "real progress, of real justice, of real equality" and that the party should "feel that in everything we do there still lives with us, if not the body, the great indomitable, unquenchable, progressive soul of our Commander-in-Chief, Woodrow Wilson." In addition, FDR made it a point to link progress and liberalism, saying that the Democrat Party "is the bearer of liberalism and of progress", and finally he set the new title in motion:
Yes, the people of this country want a genuine choice this year, not a choice between two names for the same reactionary doctrine. Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens.
Progressivism had actively been renamed. From this moment on, it would be known as liberalism. Reagan spoke of a perversion taking place, and that perversion took place on July 2, 1932. Previously, the word "liberalism" stood for limited government and liberty, but now the word stood for authoritarian control.
This title shift lasted for nearly a century until Howard Dean revived the term progressive as head of the DNC. Since the time of FDR bringing the ideology under the cloak of "liberalism", progressives have done significant damage to the word "liberal", and have seen a need for yet another name change to a word that isn't as damaged. Having left the word "progressive" dormant for all these years, most Americans have forgotten how terrifying progressivism really is, leaving progressives to freely re-use their original label.
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. The title of Progressive is now back in vogue with everybody on the left describing themselves that way, including President Obama.
Understanding Progressive Ideology
The key to understanding progressive ideology is in understanding both sides of the beneficiary equation. The following table, based on the 1912 Progressive Party Platform and the proposal by Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a Second Bill of Rights, illustrates:
|Proposal||Claimed Beneficiary||Actual Beneficiary|
|Amendment of the Constitution||"The People"||Big Government|
|Nation and State (State Autonomy)||National Cohesion||Big Government|
|Corrupt Practices (Campaign Finance Reform)||Electoral Control||Big Government|
|"Living wage"||Wage Earners||Big Government|
|Department of Labor||Labor Unions||Big Government|
|Federal Involvement in Health||"The People"||Big Government|
|National Regulation of Corporations||The "Little Guy"||Big Government|
|Commercial Development (Public/Private Cooperation)||"The People"||Big Government|
|Conservation||Parks, "The Environment"||Big Government|
|Inheritance (The Death Tax)||"The People"||Big Government|
|Income Tax||"The People"||Big Government|
|The Right to a Job||Families||Big Government|
|The Right to Food||Moms||Big Government|
|The Right to Clothing||The Children||Big Government|
|The Right to Leisure||Dads||Big Government|
|The Right to "Fair Income"||Wage Earners||Big Government|
|"Freedom" from "Unfair Competition"||"The Little Guy"||Big Government|
|The Right to a Decent Home||Families||Big Government|
|The Right to Medical Care||"The People"||Big Government|
|The Right to Old Age Pension coverage||The Elderly||Big Government|
|The Right to Good Education||The Children||Big Government|
|Prohibition||Battered wives, the children||Big Government|
Whatever "the issue" of the day is, is not really the issue. "The issue" is a cloak to camouflage both the real means as well as the goal. Growing government is always the issue. Control over the citizens is always the foundational issue underlying everything that motivates progressives.
Ridicule over reasonable debate
In a BloombergView article, Stephen L. Carter wrote about the left:
|“||But the left has work to do, not only on policy and organization but also on attitude. Too many of my progressive friends seem to have forgotten how to make actual arguments, and have become expert instead at condemnation, derision and mockery. On issue after issue, they’re very good at explaining why no one could oppose their policy positions except for the basest of motives. As to those positions themselves, they are too often announced with a zealous solemnity suggesting that their views are Holy Writ -- and those who disagree are cast into the outer political darkness. In short, the left has lately been dripping with hubris, which in classic literature always portends a fall.||”|
Although the secular left is known for ridiculing religion since at least the time of French Revolution (see: Atheism and mockery), the secular left is known for its humorlessness when it comes to others mocking of its ideology (See also: Atheism and humor and Atheism and intolerance and Atheist hypocrisy).
- Atheism, social justice and hypocrisy
- Administrative State
- Central planning
- Constitution 201
- Initiatives and referendums in the United States
- Philip Dru
- Pestritto, Ronald J. Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism. (2005)
- Pestritto, Ronald J. American Progressivism: A Reader. (2008)
- Napolitano, Andrew P. Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom. (2012)
- Rotunda, Ronald D. The Politics of Language: Liberalism as Word and Symbol (1986)
- Woodrow Wilson on Administration
- The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country, John Podesta
- 42a. Roots of the Movement, Progressivism Sweeps the Nation
- Knights of the Golden Rule: The Intellectual as Christian Social Reformer in the 1890s, "Jacob Riis dated the awakening from 1879 specifically because of the publication of George's book."
- Henry George and the Beginnings of Revolutionary Socialism in the United States, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
- The Cyclopedic review of current history, 1893, Quote: "The landlord element style themselves "Moderates," and the tenant element are known as "Progressives." The latter claimed that public improvements should be paid for by the land-owners; and the issue was joined on that as well as other points."
- (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.”
- The New Democracy, p. 1
- Progressivism (Public Administration)
- The Trouble Isn't Liberals. It's Progressives., by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal
- By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
- Reflections on American Progressivism
- 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."
- Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Ten Years of the Claremont Review of Books
- Progressivism and the Administrative State
- The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930
- Constitution 201: The Progressive Rejection of the Founding and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism
- The Trouble Isn't Liberals; It's Progressives, by Nick Sorrentino, Breitbart.com
- The New Republic Can’t Help Its Progressive, Control-Freak Tendencies
- Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, July 2, 1932
- I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Future of Liberalism, Charles R. Kesler, p 112, Quote: "It was still FDR who firmly, enduringly applied the liberal label to his cause and to his party. Why did he make the change? Certainly he wanted to put some daylight between himself and the "Progressivism" of a failed third party. Plus he liked to discomfit his enemies. One advantage of the maneuver was to deprive his opponents of a home, rhetorically speaking."
- 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.
- Obama Says His Critics Haven’t Been Listening, The New York Times, "I am someone who is no doubt progressive"
- What 'progressive' means to Hillary Clinton vs. What 'progressive' means to Bernie Sanders, CNN
- Progressive Party Platform of 1912
- State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944
- President Teddy Roosevelt's New Nationalism Speech, "As for the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic, they deserve honor and recognition such as is paid to no other citizens of the Republic; for to them the republic owes it all; for to them it owes its very existence. It is because of what you and your comrades did in the dark years that we of to-day walk, each of us, head erect, and proud that we belong, not to one of a dozen little squabbling contemptible commonwealths, but to the mightiest nation upon which the sun shines."
- Prohibition, Proponents of Prohibition ... were concerned about alcohol's link to wife beating and child abuse.
- Trump and the Fall of Liberalism by Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView
- Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal
- Marxism. University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”
- James Adair (2007). Christianity. JBE Online Books. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Although the Civil Constitution called for religious liberty, which was extended to Jews as well as Christians, many revolutionaries pushed for the establishment of a new state religion, either the Cult of Reason (atheists) or the Cult of the Supreme Being (Deists). Changes toAlthough the Civil Constitution called for religious liberty, which was extended to Jews as well as Christians, many revolutionaries pushed for the establishment of a new state religion, either the Cult of Reason (atheists) or the Cult of the Supreme Being (Deists). Changes to the calendar eliminated references to Christian holidays, and even the ancient seven-day week, and a ist of officially recognized saints included such famous thinkers such as Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, and Jean-Jacques Rosseau. A period of political persecution, often with religious overtones, broke out, known as the Reign of Teror. Thousands of people were executed by the guillotine, including many of the original leaders of the French Revolution.”
- William Belsham (1801). Memoirs of the reign of George III. to the session of parliament ending A.D. 1793, Volume 5. G.G. & J. Robinson. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Reign of this portentous period, it has been eloquently tenor, and energetically observed, " that the reign of atheism in France was avowed the reign of terror. In the full madness of their career, in the highest climax of their horrors, they shut up the temples of God, abolished His worship, and proclaimed death to be an eternal sleep:-in the very centre of Christendom, Revelation underwent a total eclipse, while atheism, performing on a darkened theatre its strange and fearful tragedy, confounded the first elements of society, blended every age, rank, and sex ,indiscriminate proscription and massacre, and convulsed all Europe to its centre, that the imperishable memorial of these events might teach the last generations of mankind to consider religion as the pillar of society, the parent of social order, and the safe-guard of nations." It is wonderful that, amid the horrors of this dismal period, while "the death dance of democratic revolution" was still in rapid movement, among the tears of affliction, and the cries of despair, "the masque, the song, the theatric scene, the buffoon laughter, went on as regularly as in the gay hour of festive peace."”
- William Kilpatrick (2012). Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. Ignatius Press. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Actually, it's helpful to think in terms of two Enlightenments: the Enlightenment that cut itself off from God. The former led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, and the civil rights movement. The latter led to the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the suppression of church by state, and the godless philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche and their offspring-National Socialism and communism. More recently the abandonment of God has led to the regime of cultural relativism that regards rights as arbitrary constructions. It's this second Enlightenment tradition that Cardinal Ratzinger referred to when he wrote, "The radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its roots ultimately leads it to dispense with man." Actually this transition happened no "ultimately" but almost immediately. The first instance occurred when Enlightenment worship of abstract "reason" and "liberty" degenearated quickly into the mass murders committed during the antireligious Reign of Terror in France. "Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name", said Madam Rolande as she faced the statue of Liberty in the Place de la Revolution movements before her death at the guillotine. She was one of the early victims of a succession of secular systems based on rootless notions of "liberty", "equality", and "reason". As many historians have pointed out, the atheist regimes of modern times are guilty of far more crimes than any committed in the name of religion. Communist governments alone were guilty of more than one hundred million murders, most of them committed against their own people.”