Friday, September 27, 2013

The Progressive Legacy

The Progressive Legacy
Robert A. Hall

The term “progressive” is steadily replacing “liberal,” because the pernicious effects of liberal policies became associated in the public mind with the name, much as “liberal” replaced progressive in an earlier age for the same reason. They might better, though more awkwardly be called “transnational progressives,” because of their general commitment to one world government, the absurd principle that all cultures are equally valid, and opposition to “outmoded” concepts like American exceptionalism and national sovereignty in the face of UN encroachments. Their ideal is the collapsing European Union, which they think we should beg to join.

“Liberal” is, in any case, confusing to scholars, because the classic liberalism of an earlier period was associated with limited government controlled by the popular will, respect for individual rights and responsibilities, freedom, property rights, free markets, self-reliance, and many values called conservative today. Thus the term “liberal democracy” which refers to the kind of democracy envision by Thomas Jefferson, whose memory progressives revere as much as they despise his principles. Classical liberalism is anathema to progressives, and always has been. It does not fit well with the collectivist mind.

Progressives are not much on limited government. The checks and balanced between the federal government and the states and between the three branches have been pretty well destroyed because they prevented them from forcing people to do what they knew was best for them. They aren’t much on the “popular will” either, so the public’s opposition to Obamacare, or big government, or late term abortion, or support of the Keystone pipeline, means nothing.

Nor are they much on free speech, pious claims to the contrary notwithstanding. People who say things they don’t like must be stopped through hate speech codes and restricting criticism of Islamic terror by outlawing blasphemy. They would have you forget the Alien and Sedition type laws pushed by Progressive Saint Woodrow Wilson, as well as his support for segregation and opposition to women’s suffrage, which passed with more GOP votes than Democrat ones.

The essence of progressivism is coercion, as people must be coerced to do things they don’t want to do or don’t think are in their interests, to serve “the greater good,” as defined by the progressive elites.

Haters on both sides of the political divide fall into the trap of believing their opponents evil, stupid or both. I have a very frustrated progressive relative who, since on the evidence he cannot easily put me in either category, apparently thinks I’m just being, in the lovely British phrase, “bloody minded.” Thus his communications even on jokes take on a vicious political tone. Conservatives calling progressives names, such as “libtard,” is, in my view, offensive, ethically wrong and counter productive, because insults are hardly the way to get either the opposition or the uncommitted to consider your viewpoint with an open mind. Thankfully, the left has at least as many unreasonably and vicious haters as the right. My bias tells me they have many more.

I believe that Dr. Jon Haidt is correct in his excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion that progressives and conservatives think differently about issues because they hold different values, not because one side or the other is evil. Haidt, it should be noted, is an intellectually-honest leftwing academic who strongly supported both John Kerry and Barack Obama. But his book is based on solid research, and should be well received by anyone with an open mind. He has, by the way, ongoing research into values which you can participate in by responding to surveys on line.

I think, however, that it is even more important to look at the results of policies than the values that led to them. The ends can only justify the means if you take into account all of the ends, or results, and the balance and trade offs inherent in those outcomes. And the results of progressive policies have been brutal to societies and the majority of people—and they are shortly going to be far worse.

But this begs the question, why are progressives and their policies flourishing, indeed, seemingly in control of the destiny of a collapsing western civilization? Why do so many people go along with them as they push us towards the cliff? Why cannot they even consider, never mind take responsibility for, all the results of their policies?

I believe that progressives are so wrapped up in their good intentions, so busy trying to think well of themselves for fighting for the right things, that they cannot notice the unintended consequences. It’s like a squirrel runs in front of their car, and they jerk the wheel over, swerving onto the sidewalk and killing a small girl. They are so busy congratulating themselves over saving the squirrel, and imaging the award they will get from PETA, that the dead child never registers. And as Dr. Thomas Sowell says in his fine book Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond State One, too many people cannot think to the next step that will result from a decision or course of action. And not just progressives. But progressive intentions are good and their policies sound good to the majority who cannot think beyond state one.

Progressive literally cannot look at the results of their policies, lest that be an act of un-faith, just as the divines reportedly (but perhaps apocryphally) refused to look into Galileo’s telescope. So progressives cannot even note that the 2009 $1.2 trillion stimulus failed to fulfill Obama’s promise that it would bring unemployment under 5%, just as conservative economists had predicted. Noticing that inconvenient fact would be an act of apostasy.
But the more people who can see what progressive policies have done, not just to our country but to the world, and far worse, what they will shortly do to all of us, the better are our admittedly-slim chances of turning things around, thus preserving the country we love and civilization itself.

Therefore, this detailing of the Progressive Legacy:

Progressives have virtually destroyed higher education. Our universities, once bastions of independent thought, have become centers of politically correct group think, where students are not taught how to think, but what to think. The prevailing ideology is rigidly enforced, and every diversity is celebrated expect the one that really matters—diversity of thought. A conservative has little chance of being hired, and if so can only hope for tenure or promotion by hiding his or her opinions.

John Leo, in “Professors: Just As Liberal, Or More Moderate?” reports that a study “by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the voice of liberal academia, found that Liberals outnumber conservatives by 11-1 among social scientists and 13-1 among humanities professors. 25.5 percent of those who teach sociology identify themselves as Marxist. Self-identified radicals accounted for 19 percent of humanities professors and 24 percent of social scientists.”

Worse, they are educating generations of high school and elementary teachers that indoctrination of students in progressive principles is the right way to teach. You only have to read the weekly stories of outrages on common sense by public school teachers to know their efforts have born fruit.

Progressives created the drug epidemic. When I was in high school, we might (and when I could, I did) indulge in alcohol, but drugs were something only the street bums over in Philadelphia did. I couldn’t have told you the difference between a reefer and heroin. Then came the sixties and the leftwing glorifying of drugs al la Timothy Leary and “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.” Hundreds of thousands did, tens of thousands died, thousands of families were ripped apart and lives ruined, crime soared, and prostitution to support drug habits flourished. And the spiking market for drugs created in the US and other western counties by the new, progressive culture has destroyed Mexico as well, with 80,000 drug murders and rampant corruption, while also funding global terrorism. I want my culture back.

Progressives destroyed the family. If it feels good, do it: sex without responsibility and children without marriage were the result. Thanks to this cultural change, 70% of black babies today are non-marital births, with whites and Hispanics not that far behind. This increases poverty, trapping generations, increases dysfunction children, and sets them on the path to crime, government dependency and single parenthood for themselves.

Progressives supported abortion. With the US birthrate having fallen well below the replacement rate of 2.1 live births per woman, we are likely going to miss those 50 to 100 million aborted children, especially as progressives try to redeem their entitlement promised with a shrinking younger working population supporting a growing population of us geezers. Blacks make up 13% of the population, but have 40% of the abortions, so Planned Parenthood Founder and progressive saint Margaret Sanger’s goal of preventing more of what she called “the unfit” from being born is “mission accomplished.” If conservatives had killed this many black babies, they’d be shooting us in the street for racial genocide.

Progressives are grinding the poor. In order to feel good about their good intentions for saving the environment, progressives support energy policies that are and will continue to drive energy costs much higher for the poorest segments of society. They claim to care about the poor, but when it comes to spending billions of dollars in money extracted from the poor so they can feel good about lowering the Earth’s temperature less than a degree in a hundred years, the poor will just have to suffer or starve so the progressives can enjoy feeling all green and fuzzy, like bad meat. So the war on coal, the war on fracking, the war on drilling, the war on the Keystone Pipeline goes forward, and the poor and working classes pay for them. Progressives get to feel good and the poor can, well, eat cake.

Progressives destroyed our cities. Detroit is not an accident. They have encouraged black thug culture in the cities that drove out the white and black middleclass, the taxpayers and job creators. In his great essay, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” Dr. Thomas Sowell postulates that inner city black culture, with its touchy honor, violence, promiscuity and limited work ethic,  is an inheritance they picked up from poor southern white rednecks after the civil war and brought north. Now, ironically it’s defended as black culture, not subject to criticism.

But progressive policies have abetted the destruction. Vote buying from public employee unions has created debt and unfunded liabilities that can never be redeemed. They cannot now ask their union allies and welfare dependent voter base to taker a haircut—that would create riots. So they will continue to turn the screws on the productive, who will continue to flee the cities, feeding the death spiral. Welfare giveaway programs and political corruption have only fed the flames of what is now an unavoidable approaching fiscal disaster. And the more they disarm decent citizens, the more murder they get in their “gun free zones.” In ten years, Chicago will be Detroit. Soon whole states like Illinois and California will follow the cities into the abyss.

Progressives are destroying the country through fiscal fecklessness. Vote buying by progressives in both parties has created an unfunded liability and debt that, like the cities, though far vaster, can never be paid. As I say in The Coming Collapse of the American Republic, I do not see how we can avoid fiscal collapse, followed by economic, social and political collapse, hyper-inflation, chaos, starvation, riots, violence and widespread death. But you cannot touch one of the entitlement programs in even a minor way, (Social Security, Disability Insurance, Food Stamps, Medicare, Public Employee Pensions, Medicaid and now Obamacare) without howls of outrage. Google “The West and the Tyranny of Public Debt,” an excellent Newsweek article from 2010 that details the impact uncontrolled debt has had on other societies. With an acknowledged debt of $16T and unfunded liabilities estimated from $87T to triple that, your grandkids will not live in the United States, though perhaps in a rump dictatorship incorporating that name.

It’s not just our country. Progressives have had a worldwide pernicious impact through their policies.

Vietnam: Progressives foamed at the mouth over US support for the Republic of Vietnam, the government in the south. They worked hard, often secretly guided by the communists we now know, and finally elected a post-Watergate congress that reneged on our treaty obligations to the south. Without supplies, spare parts and ammo, the south was soon overwhelmed by a communist North that was well supplied by China and the USSR—they invaded South Vietnam with more tanks than the Germans invaded France with in 1940.

While the Republic of Vietnam was admittedly no Jeffersonian democracy, it did allow multiple political parties, some press freedom and religious freedom. None of these are available to the people of Vietnam today under the communists. Christians are suppressed. The Cambodian reds murdered a quarter of the population. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese died in re-education camps or trying to escape as “boat people.” The hill people, who supported us, are steadily being exterminated. Reports claim that twice as many people were murdered by the communists in the first two years after they won as died in the entire war. It’s hard to verify, because today’s Vietnam is a completely closed society.

And the response from the left? With the notable exception of Joan Baez, crickets. One leftist, asked about the mass murders, said he didn’t believe in criticizing socialist states. You see, to acknowledge the oppression and death brought on the Vietnamese people by the communist victory would mean they owned it. It might jeopardize their ability to feel good about themselves for opposing the evil Republic of Vietnam. Far more comfortable not to notice the suffering they created, because, after all, their intentions were good.

DDT: Progressives all read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and sprang into action to ban DDT, to “save the birds.” They never thought about what other results might follow. The major result was that Malaria, which had been in a world wide decline, spiked back up. Millions died, many of them black, brown and yellow kids in the third world. And they go on dying today. I consider Carson the fourth most successful mass murderer of the twentieth century, behind, in order, Mao, Stalin and Hitler. But she’s gaining. (A minor result is the bedbug and West Nile Virus epidemics in the US.)

Leftists can’t bear to notice these deaths from Malaria, because to do so would hurt their entitlement to feel good about themselves for saving the birds. Ironically, they now support eagle-chopper wind farms that slaughter thousands of these same birds, so they can feel good about fighting global warming.

Iran: Progressives looked at the repressive Shah of Iran, and mounted a campaign to force him out. They take no responsibility that the success of their campaign put in place a far more repressive theocracy that hangs gays, stones women for adultery, oppresses women, started a war with Iraq in which a million died, including young boys the mullahs used as human mine-clearing devices, supports terrorism around the world, and is developing atomic weapons. If we lose New York City in an atomic blast, they will still be so busy feeling good about opposing the Shah they won’t notice. Except for those living close enough to die of radiation sickness or starvation, but not incinerated instantly in the blast.

Zimbabwe: Progressives hated the oppressive white rule in then-Rhodesia. So they launched a campaign for black rule. They are too busy celebrating to notice that Zimbabwe, which once exported food, is now starving, as the appropriation of white-owned farms for black supporters of the thugocracy failed to expropriate their work ethic or knowledge of farming. That the result of black rule was to drop black life expectancy from about 63 to about 36 didn’t bother them at all. (It has recovered a bit into the 40s, I’ve read.) Nor did the destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy by the rule of greedy and incompetent thugs, with hyper-inflation destroying everyone’s hope of prosperity—except those with the guns—bother them. You can buy billions of dollars in Zimbabwean currency on eBay for a few bucks, getting in on the progressive utopia.

South Africa: All right-thinking progressives opposed apartheid and white rule, and black rule leaves South Africa not far behind Zimbabwe. A 2009 article in Newsweek expressed surprise to find that “… 800,000 out of a total white population of 4 million have left since 1995, by one count. But they're hardly alone. Blacks, coloreds (as people of mixed race are known in South Africa) and Indians are also expressing the desire to leave. In the last 12 years, the number of blacks graduating in South Africa with advanced degrees has grown from 361,000 to 1.4 million a year. But in that time the number of those expressing high hopes to emigrate has doubled.” It’s really no surprise, as crime and corruption under black rule has soared, and regardless of color, those with the education or finances to thrive elsewhere are fleeing, leaving the country without the knowledge and skills to operate government, business or industry, creatig an eventual death spiral.

A 2010 article in the Times Live of Johannesburg, “South Africa’s Black Brain Drain” by Subashni Naidoo notes that “Almost half of South Africa’s middle-class black teenagers plan to flee the country for greener pastures. … Reflecting views similar to their white and Indian counterparts, 71% of black youth felt it was impossible to get employment in South Africa; 58% said crime made them want to live in another country, and 73% felt government was not living up to its promises.”

According to the Genocide Watch website, “… there is a coordinated campaign of genocide being conducted against white farmers, known as Boers.” I have read that many countries won’t take immigrants from South Africa because it’s better they stay there and die than flee and contribute to the destruction through the brain drain. But with this flight, South Africa cannot be far behind Zimbabwe as the next progressive paradise.

Why all this unnoticed suffering and death following progressive policies?

It is not because progressives are evil, but that they are so wrapped up in feeling good about their good intentions that they cannot allow the unintended evil results to intrude on their euphoria. They perfectly fit my favorite quote from T. S. Eliot: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

So you would be wrong to hate progressives. But if you care about the results for real people and the lives of the non-elite struggling in this world, or about future generations whose hope of freedom and prosperity is being destroyed, you have a moral obligation to oppose progressive policies with every fiber of your being. You must notice the suffering progressives ignore—and do what you can to stop them from making it worse.


Permission to forward or re-post, with credit to the author, is granted. Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam Veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts Senate. For a free pdf of his book, The Coming Collapse of the American Republic e-mail him at tartanmarine(at) All royalties go to help wounded vets. Books by Robert A. Hall:

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