Over the years, much criticism has been leveled here at the ideas and political policies that follow the world view or “vision” of contemporary liberals or “progressives”— a designation many now seem to prefer. Such criticism seems difficult to justify. Who could possibly be against something as forward-looking and optimistic as “progress?”
Evidenced by what they advocate, progressives conceive of an earthly Eden where all wrongs are righted, all inequities made fair and all needs and wants satisfied. Along with socialism and other forms of collectivism, its vision is partly reflected in many religious traditions.
Indeed, Dubuque’s archbishop has expressed some of these sentiments as rights, including “productive work, fair wages, food, shelter, education, health care, protection from harm and the ability to emigrate when these things are not accessible in one’s homeland.” Such desires are commendable, but who defines the scope of these “rights” and how they are to be provided for was unaddressed.
Progressivism’s visceral appeal — and the appeal of all forms of collectivism — to justice and compassion is morally, emotionally and politically seductive.
Why, then, oppose the progressive agenda?
Economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell asserts progressives believe human nature is morally perfectible and some (“The Anointed”) “are further along the path of moral development,” elevating them to act as “surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.” This is a heady, even arrogant view.
This is the moral high ground from which Hillary Clinton can declare, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” It’s the exalted position where dissenters can be disdained as racist, sexist and homophobic “deplorables.”
Further, from this lofty, righteous perch, everything is justified in pursuit of what progressives “stand for.” The rule of law is secondary to “doing justice.” Laws incompatible with their vision are ignored. Speech must conform to liberal “codes.” Religious beliefs must comply and submit to their modern, more “enlightened” thinking.
Traditional concepts of family, morality and justice, gleaned from the trial-and-error of millennia of human experience must give way — due to the “complexities” of modern, progressive society — to the directions of the aforementioned “anointed” experts who know better and can “plan” a better society.
Every age has its crusaders who believe, despite the utter failure of their soulmates in every prior generation, they have the answers and moral rectitude to succeed. If only they had the power to implement their open-minded version of equity and justice.
Giving them that power will not end well. The results, however well-intended, will never be satisfactory because equality of process (opportunity) isn’t sufficient. Progressives argue the playing field isn’t level due to historical, institutionalized and systemic biases and injustices.
While true, it takes transcendent hubris to think the injustices of past generations can be rectified in the present. Real — immutable — human nature precludes the requirement for equality of results.
As much as we may wish to provide corporal “rights,” there are limits — limits progressives will never define. Progressivism has abandoned the things that minimize the necessity for social and economic assistance. Their agenda has devastated the traditional family and diminished much of civil society — neighborhood, church and other voluntary associations.
But beyond current political and societal issues, a more serious caution is in order. It behooves us to be wary of progressive schemes. As history — particularly 20th century history — has demonstrated, human beings are chattel to collectivist designs.
Modern Venezuela reveals what happens to “democratic socialism” once collectivist power is consolidated. Soviet and communist Chinese history shows what must happen to those who cannot be “re-educated” to comply with the collectivist vision. They must be eliminated.