Human Events Blog

Forward: the “progressive” illusion

 

May Day presents a good occasion for taking stock of the Left.  Their projects are not faring well within the Western world.  The new buzz word is “austerity,” which is what happens when yesterday’s socialists promises prove as hollow as their critics warned. 

The era of austerity dawns with riots in the streets, and warnings from leftist intellectuals that significant cuts to government spending are impossible, because they would cut the feeding tubes to an entirely dependent populace.  Choke off the flow of money from centralized government, and productivity will collapse, while an army of displaced bureaucrats causes unemployment rates to explode. 

The foundations of today’s high-tech world were laid in an era of smaller government and greater liberty, in which citizens were more free to take risks in the pursuit of opportunity, and enjoy the rewards of success… but we are told we can never dream of returning to those times.  The past was a brutal small-government wasteland, and we are smaller and weaker creatures than our grandparents were.

The American Left, having largely given up on the term “liberal” as too poisonous – and laughably inaccurate, given there is nothing “liberal” about the hunger for greater State control – has taken to calling itself progressive.  The term was in vogue a century ago, but modern leftists are confident that few can remember why it went out of favor.  Why let history interfere with the use of such a delightfully loaded word?

Self-described “progressives” are everywhere these days – blocking the construction of Wal-Marts, opposing corporate mergers, serving the interests of labor union bosses, waging class warfare, demanding higher taxes, and advocating increased government regulation of everything from banking and industry to retail sales.  The media never challenges their use of the term, even when progressives are desperately fighting to defend old, failed government programs. 

In fact, the more the Left finds itself struggling to protect the status quo, in the shadow of mounting debt and impending fiscal collapse, the more eagerly it describes itself as “progressive.”  The word has become a magic spell, which raises illusions of achievement to hide a reality of redistributionist squalor, in which the Left will soon run out of wealth to distribute.

True “progress” is an ascent, a series of choices wisely made to build something that endures.  Our bankrupt reality is a downward spiral, which “progressives” assure us cannot be halted.  Right before we run out of money, the Left assures us we have run out of alternatives.  

When the Left made its promises years and decades ago, did it remember to warn that you were making your final choice – that you would never be allowed to correct their mistakes, terminate their failed experiments, or recover the liberty you were told you must surrender?  Did anyone emerge from the back rooms where ObamaCare was born, and remind Americans that its passage would be a permanent change to American life – an iron link in an ever-growing chain that could never be broken, no matter how horrible its “unintended consequences” turned out to be?

This unlovely assumption is built into the basic programming code of “progressive” politics, which are meant to be a one-way journey.  Going “backwards” is bad, no matter how awful “progress” turned out to be!  No matter how steep the cliff before us, the speeding American bus does not have brakes, much less a reverse gear.

The exclusive association of “progress” with a particular agenda is nonsensical.  Every platform involves “progress” toward something.  All motion is progress.  The Titanic made excellent progress toward the iceberg that sank it. 

What “progressives” wish to claim is that only their agenda builds toward a solution to society’s problems… but they never solve anything.  Every social “war” they declare rages on forever.  Their stewardship swells the ranks of destitution, rather than reducing poverty.  Food stamps become the coin of the realm, as the middle class is taught to see itself as poor.

Progressives talk about “fairness” while constructing a massive edifice of government control that treats law-abiding citizens in profoundly unfair ways.  They speak of “unity” while dividing the public into bitter camps of adversaries, presenting the ruling class with political opportunities as they battle each other for the favor of the redistributionist State.  And they relentlessly attack the engine of capitalism – which is, in truth, the only human policy that has ever moved the whole of society forward into a better condition.

The only thing “progressive” politics move us toward is the growth of the State.  Every single “progressive” policy involves making the government larger, which necessarily involves diminishing individual liberty.  Sometimes progressives demand the former, and hope we won’t dwell upon the latter. At other times, they act to diminish liberty, by reducing the moral and economic strength of the public… secure in their confidence that the State will rush forward to fill every void they create.

Deficit spending is the indispensible nutrient of late-stage progressive politics.  The United States is far past the point where our political debates involve the allocation of precious government resources to address its limited duties.  Instead, Congress creates massive unfunded liabilities to bind its successors, spending money it doesn’t have to seize political terrain our children will never be permitted to reclaim.  Today’s promises become tomorrow’s demands.  Choice vanishes beneath the weight of obligation.

No other logic unites “progressive” positions, and they cannot be said to have made progress by any other measure.  The growth of the State is their only undisputed achievement… and even that will not endure, not for much longer.  We can choose a different path, or find ourselves flung upon it.  One way or the other, America’s journey toward the collective is about to end.

The Obama campaign has chosen the slogan “Forward” for the President’s re-election effort.  This happens to be the state motto of Wisconsin, where union bosses are poised to fail in their latest attempt to overturn the 2010 election.  For a pack of self-described “progressives,” they certainly do fight bitter defensive actions to hang on to their spoils!  By any objective measure, Governor Scott Walker’s Wisconsin has made astounding progress away from insolvency… but you’re not supposed to move away from that. 

According to every branch of the Left, history only flows in one direction.  They learned this from someone they generally prefer not to discuss in public.  Not even on May Day.

 


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