Classic Liberalism V.S. Progressivism.

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Intense, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Intense
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    Intense Senior Member

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    According to R.J. Pestritto, author of American Progressivism, “America’s original Progressives were also its original, big-government liberals.” They set the stage for the New Deal principles of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who cited the progressives – especially Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – as the major influences on his ideas about government. The progressives, Pestritto says, wanted “a thorough transformation in America’s principles of government, from a government permanently dedicated to securing individual liberty to one whose ends and scope would change to take on any and all social and economic ills.”

    In the progressive worldview, the proper role of government was not to confine itself to regulating a limited range of human activities as the founders had stipulated, but rather to inject itself into whatever realms the times seemed to demand. The progressives reasoned that although America's founders had felt it necessary to limit the power of government because of their experience with King George III, government, as a result of historical evolution, was no longer the menace it once had been; rather, they believed government had become capable of solving an ever-greater array of societal problems -- problems the founders could never have envisioned. Consequently, the progressives called for a more activist government whose regulation of people's lives was properly determined not by the outdated words of an anachronistic Constitution, but by whatever the American people seemed to need at any given time.

    This perspective dovetailed with the progressives' notion of an “evolving” or “living” government, which, like all living beings, could rightfully be expected to grow and to adapt to changing circumstances. Similarly, progressives also coined the term “living Constitution,” connoting the idea that the U.S. Constitution is a malleable document with no permanent guiding principles -- a document that must, of necessity, change with the times.

    R.J. Pestritto writes that the Progressives “detested the Declaration of Independence, which enshrines the protection of individual natural rights (like property) as the unchangeable purpose of government; and they detested the Constitution, which places permanent limits on the scope of government and is structured in a way that makes the extension of national power beyond its original purpose very difficult.” Given their contempt for those documents, the progressives' mission was to progress, or move beyond, the principles laid out by the founders.

    In 1913, the progressive historian Charles Beard published An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, which offered a Marxist view of history and smeared the captains of industry. It also portrayed America's founding fathers as basically selfish men who had established a form of government that they thought would benefit them, and only them, financially. From Beard's premise, it was a short logical leap to discredit the Constitution itself as “essentially an economic document” unworthy of the lasting reverence of legislators, judges, or ordinary citizens.

    Woodrow Wilson likewise gave voice to the progressive antipathy for America's founding documents when he said that “if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface” – i.e. that part of the Declaration which states that the only legitimate purpose of government, regardless of time or place, is to secure the natural rights of the individual. By Wilson's calculus, the truly vital portion of the Declaration was the latter part, where it enumerates a litany of time-specific grievances against George III. Wilson suggested that "we are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence," and that the Fourth of July, rather than celebrate the Declaration's timeless principles, should instead "be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness."

    Whereas classical liberalism saw government as a necessary evil whose involvement in social and private affairs needed to be limited wherever practicable, progressivism saw the state as the rightful overseer and regulator of significant portions of American social and economic life. To compensate for the inequities of capitalism in industrial-age America, Progressives favored a government empowered to redistribute private property under the banner of social justice. R.J. Pestritto compares and contrasts progressivism and socialism:

    "Since the Progressives had such a limitless view of state power, and since they wanted to downplay the founders’ emphasis on individual rights, it is only natural to ask if they subscribed to socialism....

    "[We must] bear in mind that there was an actual socialist movement during the Progressive Era, and prominent progressives such as Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were critics of it. In fact, Wilson and Roosevelt both ran against a socialist candidate in the 1912 election (Eugene Debs). The progressives were ambivalent about the socialist movement of their day not so much because they disagreed with it in principle, but because the American socialist movement was a movement of the lower classes. The progressives were elitists; they looked down their noses at the socialists, considering them a kind of rabble.

    "Keeping these points in mind, it is, nonetheless, the case that the progressive conception of government closely coincided with the socialist conception. Both progressivism and socialism champion the prerogatives of the state over the prerogatives of the individual. Wilson himself made this connection very plain in a revealing essay he wrote in 1887 called 'Socialism and Democracy.' Wilson’s begins this essay by defining socialism, explaining that it stands for unfettered state power, which trumps any notion of individual rights. It 'proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view,' Wilson wrote, and 'that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will.' After laying out this definition of socialism, Wilson explains that he finds nothing wrong with it in principle, since it was merely the logical extension of genuine democratic theory."


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    Check out the Link. There is allot of background on the Site. What is your assessment? Legitimate or Hype? Why? Is the distinction between Classic Liberalism Fair? Accurate?
     
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    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  2. syrenn
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    My brain hurts now...lol.
     
  3. Intense
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    Intense Senior Member

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    Yeah. Mine too. You got 3 hours on me. :)

    Seeing that, helps explain the disconnect, the rift from where we were at then, and where we are now. I sort of see the Tea Party, as the closest representation to Classic Liberal Thinking. Funny how that goes. Funny how Progressivism, Socialism, and Fascism tie in too, when you take away class distinction and elitism.
     
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  4. syrenn
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    Everything changes.... just as there is the argument about the democrats and republicans....who they are and what they stand for. The classical versions and the now versions. Its rather fun to point out that abraham lincoln was a republican... not a democrat.



     
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  5. Jroc
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    Jroc יעקב כהן Supporting Member

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    The liberal's favorite phrase "Social Justice" I hate that stupid phrase more than anything they say. What does that mean? Liberals get to decide what it means, and then they can impose it on all of us through the all-powerful federal government. The evil of liberalism =big government tyranny
     
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  6. Political Junky
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    Political Junky Gold Member

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    The republican party bears little or no resemblance to what they were, either.
     
  7. Ropey
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    Ropey To Life! Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Social Justice = Give the havenots what the haves built because the havenots have not been able to do it themselves.

    Capitalism is not socialism. :)
     
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  8. syrenn
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    That is rather the point.... none of them do. They all take on aspects of others.
     
  9. Intense
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    Intense Senior Member

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    Yet The Tea Party so much like the Founders support those very Classic Liberal Values and Ideals. Madison, Jefferson, Thoreau. Lions and Tigers and Bears.

    The Progressives who worked to get us Sealed Ballots in Voting, now want to eliminate them in Union Elections. The Progressives did some good in history, I see that, it's just not the stuff they would want to take credit for now. The Progressive View that Modern Government is not the exact Threat that Our Founders warned us about, thinking somehow that they would not be subject to the same corruption that we fought against in the Revolution, is delusional, it also contradicts our Founding Principles. The corruption is deep rooted. It is a total denial of Limited Power and the Government existing to Serve the Society. The rule here is that Society Must bend to What Government dictates, and Only Government can gets to decide. Piss them off and you are toast.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 29, 2011
  10. C_Clayton_Jones
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    Understandably, as with most conservatives, Pestritto fails to understand that progressivism is fundamentally anti-dogmatic; that there is a static component of pragmatism which allows progressives the ability to adapt and change as society changes.

    Progressives are opposed to reactionaryism and advocate embracing change rather than futilely resisting it, as is common with most conservatives.

    This is the basic reason why conservatives hate progressives: it has nothing to do with the positions progressives take on the issues per se, but the fact that progressives, unlike conservatives, don’t adhere blindly to sanctioned dogma.

    The intrinsic pragmatic nature of progressivism, therefore, renders false the accusation that progressives advocate a ‘one size fits all’ government approach to addressing national issues. In fact, this hasn’t been a staple of progressive thought for over 50 years.

    By the end of the 20th Century, progressivism had evolved into a synthesis of pragmatic doctrine representing ‘beliefs’ from across the political spectrum. Progressives are advocates of free markets, for example, but also realize that some government regulation is necessary.

    In essence, progressives believe that no idea or solution should be rejected out of hand simply because that idea or solution comes from the ‘wrong’ political camp, as practiced by conservatives. Solutions should be based on the facts and evidence, indicating what will work, regardless its political origin.
     
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