Ederik Schneider Online

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reason: Opinion: Matt Welch: Progressive Puritans: When Did Progressivism Become Statism?


Reason: Opinion: Matt Welch: Progressive Puritans

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Progressivism, at least as it has been practiced in recent times, has been a political philosophy that is about using government to make society better at supporting people in need, not to run everything for everybody and eliminate economic and personal choices on the assumption that Americans are simply too dumb to manage their own affairs.  The Progressive era began with Teddy Roosevelt and was continued by his cousin Franklin through Harry Truman and up to Lyndon Johnson.

In the mid and late 1960s, the New Left appeared from within the Baby Boom Generation.  This big government movement  believed that the Federal Government needed to go much further, no longer playing its traditional supportive role but now directing people's lives, by force if necessary. It started as  a protest against the Vietnam War.  It evolved to believing that government should move towards the European welfare state to take care of people because capitalism is dangerous.

It presumed to know what is best for you and how you should live.  Parts of it believed that compliance with its recommendations should be required.  "If you don't live this way, Uncle Sam will punish you for your own good."

In 2012, Mayor Mike Bloomberg of NYC pushed a ban of extra large soft drinks through the NYC Council.  It was later overturned in court.  I respect Mayor Bloomberg very much for his honesty and business competence which transformed the NYC Government into a pretty efficient operation, able to respond quickly and effectively to problems facing the city.  When he made those proposals, I, among others,  called him a paternalist and a nanny statist.

This was a new manifestation of the motivation behind  alcohol prohibition in the 1930s and the War on Drugs, from the early 1970s, from which we still suffer. The whole notion that government knows best on drink and drugs and punishment is the best mechanism for ensuring compliance has been proven wrong time and again.

The New Left wants to replace government's supportive role with a guarantee of general welfare.  It would no longer be government's role to protect and support people in need but to direct how they should live. The  means-tested safety net and public assistance are no longer good enough.  We now need a welfare state to take care of everyone because government can do a better job of it than the private sector or individuals, themselves. 

It would be enough for me, as a Liberal, if the New Left were just big government, high tax, socialist welfare statists but it gets worse.  They want to interpret the general welfare clause of the constitution to  support their case that government's role should go beyond economic support to include lifestyle management because personal freedom can be dangerous.  They can't have people deciding for themselves what or how much to eat, drink, or smoke or what to  say in public or to each other.

Gun control is an issue that is still pretty popular with Liberals and Progressives and Independents as well. But to give you an example of how the Left has changed and that now we have a center-left and a far-left some fifty years later give or take, gun control is not good enough doesn't go far enough today with today's so-called Progressives. Who are really the New Left in America and as leftist comedian and political pundit Bill Maher said on his show Real Time with Bill Maher. "Gun control is really a center-right position and the real alternative should be about gun prohibition instead in private hands.

What is the role of the media in this Brave New World?  How does the government employ the media to support and promote its new role?  Fred Jerome addressed this in Salon in January or February of this year.  There's a link to his article on this blog. He makes the case for "democratizing the news," using FOX News as an example.  He argues for  nationalizing FOX News and, perhaps, news in general.  He suggests that Americans should get their news from someone who'll decide what they need to know, which could be the U.S. Government.  This, of course, would violate the First Amendment and our generally accepted concept of freedom of press.  In addition, he envisions a world of a multitude of small circulation journals published by workers unions, community organizations, etc.  He seems oblivious of the possibility that, under a socialist regime, a "Commissar of Truth" could exert control over all such spontaneously occurring news sources.  Modern China is an example.