Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Classic liberalism vs. modern progressivism

A long, long time ago, the most common belief was that, if you were a good serf, worked hard for your master, and paid your rents, your master would take care of you. The common belief held that the masters, the upper class, the royalty, knew what was best for the commoners, far better than the commoners did.

Sometime before our Revolutionary War, a minority started looking around themselves and realizing that the upper classes did not give half a damn about what was good for the commoners under their care; rather, the only thing the nobility cared about was its own comfort, privileges, and prerogatives. You know, like the prerogative to be the only owners of property. Or the one that permitted them to take half (or more) of what the commoners produced as rent and/or taxes. Or the one that was typically practiced upon subjugated peoples: the perceived “right” to bed women of lower classes, whether or not the wench was willing.

The nobility did not see that the commoners were equally human, with equal rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of their own happiness.

Our founding fathers thought differently. In the words of one of those very wise men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

What a revolutionary idea! All men are equal! Governments exist to serve the citizenry, not the other way around!

These men were the liberals of their time.

Fast forward some sixty or seventy years. The United States has been a nation for a few decades, and there have been disagreements between the states over whether or not it is right and good for one man to be considered a free citizen who is capable of exercising his rights while another man is considered too foolish to care for himself and his family, and is enslaved “for his own good,” based on nothing more than the color of his skin. Some argue that Thomas Jefferson’s words—“all men are created equal”—do, in fact, count for all men, while others argue that Jefferson was an obvious hypocrite, owning slaves himself, if that was indeed what he meant.

All aspersions of hypocrisy aside, the debate comes down to the upper classes--the nobility, if you will—claiming that they know what’s best for the lower classes, versus the classic liberals who believe that all men are indeed equal, with equal rights and responsibilities in the eyes of God.

Again, a revolutionary idea! Color doesn’t matter any more than class does! The blacks don’t exist simply to serve the whites!

Abolitionists were the liberals of their time, and eventually, the side arguing freedom and equality (and walking the talk) won.

Flash forward about another sixty years, to the start of what’s called the progressive movement. In the early 1900’s, a group decided that all alcohol was bad for people, and tried to convince people to stop drinking.

Needless to say, that didn’t work. So, since people wouldn’t stop drinking voluntarily, the progressiveists decided that they’d simply force people to stop drinking by passing a law. This is the same “we know what’s good for you better than you do” mentality that so defines the nobility, self-styled or otherwise. Thus was born The Noble Experiment of prohibition.

Which failed. Miserably. In fact, it failed so badly that crime skyrocketed, and the amendment forbidding the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages was repealed about thirteen years later.

Again, the nobility forgot to take into account that all men were created equal—and that means that every individual knows what’s best for them. Some choose to care, and to take care of themselves, and some choose to do what feels good at the time, but is destructive to their well-being in the long run.

(I’m really surprised that the progressives advocate promiscuity, ignoring how harmful it is to the bodies, minds, and souls of those who practice it. Not that I really want them poking around in people’s sex lives—it just struck me as an interesting, hypocritical double standard, that likely exists because sex distracts those who pursue it from the encroachments on their liberty.)

Fast forward another ninety years. Today, we see progressives attempting to draw tighter and tighter nooses around our individual liberties, all “for your own good, whether you want it or not.” They’ve succeeded in forcing another type of prohibition upon us, with the losing battle of keeping recreational pharmaceuticals out of people’s hands because of how dangerous they are (thereby making drugs even more dangerous, just as they did bathtub gin in the twenties, and making crime—really vicious, organized crime and other petty crime, both—skyrocket). They want to force everyone onto an absolutely identical insurance plan, one where everyone must be accepted and no one may pay a higher premium than anyone else, regardless of age, health, or lifestyle choices. This will bring about two results: first, the quality of health care will plummet (and since others have gone into why, I won’t bother); and second, our freedoms will be ever-increasingly eroded.

What do I mean by the claim that our freedoms will be eroded? Simple: the government will permit the insurance to raise rates on what the government deems “dangerous lifestyle choices.”

So, what does the government deem a “dangerous lifestyle choice”?

Having a BMI of 26 or higher, whether or not you’re large-framed, you work out, are a professional athlete, have just had a baby and are nursing, or are a regular couch potato. You’ll pay through the nose until you can’t afford it anymore or the government steps in with a live-in nutritionist that strictly rations your calories. You can kiss your steak and potatoes goodbye. They’re not good for you, you know.

Owning firearms. At all. Whether they’re assembled or disassembled, locked away, trigger locked—if you own a gun, you’re going to pay through the nose. Either until you can’t afford it anymore, or until the government bans them as a health risk. Because the law-abiding majority have no need to defend themselves from the lawless minority. And because your gun is just going to jump up and shoot a kid.

Being married. Because being married packs on the pounds, and because being married enslaves women.

(But if you’re gay, you can get married. Oh, heavens forbid the government sanctions anything about the most physically and mentally unhealthy lifestyle choices out there!)

This might not happen immediately. No, the way you boil a frog is you put it in a pan of cold water, and slowly turn up the heat. Frog doesn’t notice if you do it gradually.

Modern progressives have much in common with European nobility during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: though they claim to know what’s best for the “commoners,” all they truly care about is their own gratification. I mean, come on. We see the political Brahmins treating legislative seats as family or party property. We see them lamenting the literacy rates in the public schools while they sabotage any attempt to improve same (because they know that if they don’t, there will likely be a reckoning when better education pays off with the new voters booting their sorry selves out of office). We’ve had progressive presidents who’ve treated women of the non-political “lower classes” the same way the nobility treated their commoners and servants: bedding them wherever, whenever, willing or not. We see no other groups working so hard to force people through legislative fiat to do what they don’t want to do, all “for their own good.”

There are groups that oppose government interfering this much in people’s lives. Those groups—the Libertarians, the tea party activists, the grassroots conservative movements, and militias that the progressives fear so much and label “idiots,” “terrorists” “militias” and the ever-so-popular “teabaggers”—believe that each one of us has the right to make decisions. We, the people, are waking up. We hold these truths to be self evident: that all—men, women, black, white, yellow, red, brown, gay, or straight, rich, or poor—are created equal. Totally equal. With rights given to us by our Creator, not a government we created and consent to being governed by. Those rights include the right to choose our lifestyle, healthy or not, and to choose to buy or not to buy health insurance. We the people believe that we know what’s best for us better than any distant progressivist Brahman political nobility on the East and Left Coasts. We are remembering that they work for us. We are the classical liberals.

And they’re right to fear us.


  1. Excellent commentary! (I suspect that only "5%" of the populous
    will be able to digest it.)

    If you don't mind, I'd like to LINK TO THIS post off my blog.....

  2. Be my guest, and thank you.

    Sadly, you're right about how much of the populous would be able to comprehend this. I'd probably narrow that to maybe 1 or 2 in 50 of my students.

  3. Do you ever mentally classify your students into 'groups'---

    Periodically, the kids from a day care center (ages 4-6) walk over to visit my goats.

    A dozen kids and you can spot the ones that have an obvious intellectual edge over the rest.

  4. Yep. Pretty much. And the really smart ones aren't always the best writers, and visa versa.

  5. Your thoughts and sentiments echo my own. Check out my blog. It is not so much what I write, but the links I have assembled, that are the thrust of the blog.
    I "Rant" too. And some of those may entertain you also.
    Thanks man.
    Wolfgang Sheehy

  6. Thank you, Wolfgang. I took a look at your blog, and you link to a lot of the writers I read regularly (when I'm not grading papers).


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