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Why Progressives are wrong

October 19, 2009

The current crop of leftist socialists claim to be Progressives.  In a word, they’re not.  They know the American people are wary of socialism so they’re searched to find another term that American like better.  But even if there were Progressives, they’d still be wrong.

A good understanding of Progressivism can be had from American Progressivism, ed by Ronald J. Pestritto and William J. Atto.  It’s a collection of the writings of early 20th century Progressives–I’ve briefly reviewed it and highly recommend it.

It seems to me that progressivism is really composed of different strains.  One theme was about making parties and politicians more responsive to the people.  Ideas such as the caucus, the initiative, the referendum, and direct election of senators are progressive ones.  The Constitution is silent on parties (“faction” as they were then known) and these reforms have generally been good.

Another strain believed in progress itself–that society is always improving.  That idea is as American as apple pie.  As it applies to government, however, it begins to diverge.  Progressives thought that if you got the right experts together you could solve any problem.  That’s American, too, isn’t it?

In the free market of ideas it works.  Who’s to say your experts are better than mine?  Competition does.  The market decides who’s got the best mousetrap.  The market is each of us acting in the way we think best.  It’s a familiar economic argument and it works.

James Suroweicki, in The Wisdom of Crowds, goes one step further.  He writes convincingly that the crowd, collectively, is smarter than the experts.  From counting jelly beans in a jar to managing traffic patterns, experts can’t match the inherent wisdom of large groups of people.

The implication for the progressive or socialist theories of government are damning.  The government-appointed “experts” will never come up with the best solution.  Worse, they will use the coercive power of government to enforce that solution.

And as night follows day, there goes liberty.

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