Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Attractiveness of Progressivism

Eric Englund writes:

 Having lived in the Portland, OR area for over twelve years, I am surrounded by progressives. Such individuals are deeply concerned about the environment, speak with perfect political correctness, are rabidly egalitarian, believe gun owners are stupid rednecks, and are statists to the core. Progressives are cocksure they are correct about everything when they are merely the kings and queens of received opinion. The attractiveness of progressivism is that it relieves people from having to think for themselves while making them believe they are intellectuals. Is there really such a being as a know-nothing intellectual? Yes, it’s called a progressive.

To gain a better understanding of progressivism, I highly recommend reading  James Ostrowski’s masterful book Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America. In this book, Ostrowski hits a bullseye describing progressivism:
The progressive offers no plausible argument for his position. He does not and cannot proffer empirical data to support his view. And no amount of contrary evidence will change his mind! Why? Because progressivism, unlike liberalism, is not grounded in philosophy, logic, political science or economic theory. Rather, it springs from emotion or magical thinking. Just as a baby thinks he will disappear if he covers his eyes, the progressive thinks state force will improve life and believes this without evidence or logic and in the face of all contrary and obvious evidence of the failure of this approach.

For these reasons, some have called progressivism a mental illness. I prefer to view progressivism as a form of self-help therapy. The “illness” that progressive therapy seeks to cure is not necessarily a mental illness in the classic sense, but the pain and anxiety of living in a difficult, unpredictable and often hostile world where resources are scarce compared to human wants and needs and where the individual often feels powerless over events beyond his control. Woodrow Wilson himself described the goal of progressivism as helping the individual to deal with forces he “cannot alter, control or singly cope with.” 



  1. If progressive ideas always sound good to the ignorant, what methods can we use to counteract progressivism with people who are intellectually lazy and have short attention spans?

  2. Of course they stole the labels liberal, democrat, and progressive all from classical liberals, but we have to call them something. Of course if they're progressive their opponents must be regressive right? Ugh

  3. " the pain and anxiety of living in a difficult, unpredictable and often hostile world " I agree completely. I have encountered this fear many times in both republican and democratic party meetings as well as many civic organizations. It is quite disarming to be engaged in an intellectual discussion with another person who suddenly gives up the argument but pleads emotionally for more regulation, control, police action, etc. because they fear the "masses, the environment, the religionists, the businessmen..." And you look them in the eyes and see this fear and you have no answer. You can not ease their fear. There is no " counteract" this source of progressivism. You look around the room and realize they are not alone in their fear...they far out number you. Don't waste your time on these people, stay focused on friends and family and take advantage of the freedom that is available to you.

  4. 1. Mr. Ostrowski’s book is indeed excellent. The book is even more excellent because he understands that the Republican/Neocon/War-Vangelical base is also "progressive". The dispute with the left is merely about where the magical Mary Poppins governmental powers should be aimed.

    2. I am ashamed to have assumed for years that the Republican base actually had some common sense. After reading the Bionic Mosquito’s excellent piece on Paris:

    it is quite distressing to be exposed to that great philosopher Larry Gatlin and his magical thinking on the same topic:

  5. I grew up in Sonoma County, which is as hippie-dippie as it gets. The first time I got into a fight in grade school, the other guy's dad was in The Grateful Dead. Progressives cannot be reasoned out of their positions because they did not reach them through reason. No progressive has ever been converted to libertarianism by telling him he believes in magic and needs to grow up. Libertarians need to learn to understand "being progressive" as the progressives themselves experience it.

    It is perfectly analogous to the republican who joins the military: the world consists of wolves, sheep and sheepdogs. The progressives, like the soldiers, fancy themselves the sheepdogs while they are in fact the dupes of the wolfpack. Why can't they see the distinction?

    I think it all starts in school. When I think about the top 10% of my highschool class, they were all avid democrats (circa 2002). Since kindergarten they were told how smart and clever they were. 12 years of being coddled and told how great you are in an academic environment and inoculate you against too much self-examination. In junior high the class government starts. The more ambitious brighter kids become class president or whatever, now they get a tiny taste of some institutional privilege even if it's just 15 minutes once a week where they leave class to have a student government meeting. As they become politically aware, what they see on tv is slick, well-spoken, well educated academic progressives arguing with angry backwards FoxNewsesque republicans. Throw in a trip or two to Africa to build houses for poor people all while being told how compassionate and wonderful you are, and by the time they're 18 the image of themselves as an enlightened, stalwart defender of the downtrodden, forever seeking to thwart the avarice of the pillaging white male is firmly in place. It simply never occurs to them that they are dancing on someone else's strings. They're too smart for that. It's like Jodie Foster's character in Taxi Driver not wanting to accept that her boyfriend is really her pimp.

    Progressives aren't born crazy, they're trained crazy.