There Is No Progress in Progressivism

by Dave Schuler on August 29, 2014

In Dennis Safran’s remarks at City Journal on contemporary progressivism, I have finally read something written by somebody who gets the remarkable absurdities of contemporary political nomenclature:

As Fred Siegel has noted, contemporary progressivism is an upper-middle-class movement that caters to the social libertarianism of coastal elites, while paying lip service to left-wing economic concerns. Even when modern progressives do support economic development, they often do so in ways that stand traditional progressivism on its head—redistributing wealth upward to favored industries.

We subsidize physicians, lawyers, college professors, bankers, financiers, and a few other rarified professions at the expense of everybody else. There is no progress in that sort of progressivism but it does provide nice incomes to its beneficiaries.

That reminds me of the old Soviet-era wisecrack “There is no truth in Pravda [ed. the Russian word for truth] and no news in Izvyestiya [ed. the Russian word for news]“. You sometimes hear it the other way around but I think it makes much more sense this way. Sounds better, too.

There is no conservation in today’s conservatism and no progress in progressivism. It’s a pretty state of affairs.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Modulo Myself August 29, 2014 at 11:05 am

This would make some sort of sense if any of the groups or people named called themselves progressives. They don’t though, do they? In my experience, progressives work at under-funded non-profits that do actual progressive work, rather than as bankers or television producers. But I guess from a certain mid-American standpoint, everyone who lives in a city and is not a raging bigot is basically the same person.

Dave Schuler August 29, 2014 at 11:14 am

No true progressives, eh?

... August 29, 2014 at 11:27 am

Correction: I think you meant it’s a petty state of affairs at the end.

Also it should be noted that the social libertarianism promoted by the elites is very destructive to the working class and the poor.

... August 29, 2014 at 11:29 am

And there’s Modulo implying middle America is nothing but a bunch of bigots. Again. So typically progressive, lol!

Modulo Myself August 29, 2014 at 11:31 am

Again, these people do not call themselves progressives nor do they actually have anything to do with labor or equality movements or anything that remotely comes off as progressive. So calling them progressives is meaningless, unless you want to convince yourself that everyone is as crooked as everyone else.

... August 29, 2014 at 11:33 am

Social libertarianism- Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

Where have I heard that before?

... August 29, 2014 at 11:38 am

Most of the self identified progressives I knew where in college, as either students or professors. The students typically came out looking for nice professional jobs.

My favorite, though, was a real hard case. One of my wife’s fellow grad students was an avowed communist. He belonged to the party and everything. (I don’t know if he was issued a card.) He also ran a small business on the side. And he bored everyone stiff with his unending stream of complaints about his employees. Everybody, and I mean everybody, but him saw the problems with his various positions.

jan August 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

“Everybody, and I mean everybody, but him saw the problems with his various positions.”

Social progressive ideology seems to be all about presumptuous, condescending, self-serving activism.

PD Shaw August 29, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I’ve always associated “Progressives” with the “New Left,” and have never been sure why the old name was resurrected. I see the early 20th century as the Evangelical wing of the Republican party, supported by the bourgeoisie social class concerned with efficiency and purity and reform. Progress meant uniform standards for screwdrivers, prohibition of alcohol and unsafe foods, running local governments like a business, and managing forests with scientific methods. Wonder Bread was progressive, it was made with machines (science!!!), and pure white — not like that uneven bread that dirty immigrants sold in the wrong part of town.

PD Shaw August 29, 2014 at 12:31 pm

= the early 20th century [Progressives] as the Evangelical wing of the Republican party

steve August 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I think what he really should be saying is that there is a group of upper middle income people who are socially liberal, but have disparate economic views. These may be actually progressive, but may also be fairly conservative. However, they vote for Dems and identify as progressive because they can’t bring themselves to vote for the GOP which has become fairly radicalized on economic issues and remains poor on social ones.

The groups he doesn’t address in his quote are minorities and the poor. (There aren’t enough people in the group he describes to come close to winning an election.) They also tend to vote for Dems. This also includes Asians, which suggests that this is not just about welfare.

Steve

Ben Wolf August 30, 2014 at 4:49 am

Safran hits pretty close to the mark for what’s allowable coversation: today’s progressives or liberals are elitist and elitism is authoritarian, while actual leftism is inherently anti-authoritarian and anti-elitist. Their attitude, like that of modern “conservatives” belongs more in what Rothbard referred to as the Old Order; a society of the few privileged above and the ignorant, unworthy masses below.

“Some people are better than others”, is the rule of the day in America.

Dave Schuler August 30, 2014 at 10:08 am

I think that may be my problem with the New Order, Ben. I always assume I’ll be part of the ignorant, unworthy masses.

jan August 30, 2014 at 8:14 pm

“today’s progressives or liberals are elitist and elitism is authoritarian, while actual leftism is inherently anti-authoritarian and anti-elitist.”

I look at today’s progressives as belonging to the politically correctstaus quo, never allowing others to question authority, unless they want to be tagged by some unworthy adjective or title, via those who consider themselves as the majority opinion-makers.

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