Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From Reformers to Progressives

The Foundation for Economic Education's publication "The Freeman" has an interesting article titled "The Twisted Tree of Progressivism". This is paragraph two:
One portent of Progressivism is found in the Liberal Republican movement of the 1870s. Prone to Paris Commune panics, distressed by strikes and labor trouble, such reformers as Charles Francis Adams (descended from John Adams), Francis Amasa Walker (Boston laissez-faire economist and Indian manager), and E. L. Godkin (Anglo-Irish editor of The Nation) concluded that efficient, inexpensive bureaucracy was just the ticket. It could manage questions too important to be left to democratic processes, especially those touching on the lately acquired government-bestowed advantages of big business. (“Efficiency” had a great future before it.) This movement was urban, basically eastern, and closely connected with economic elites (Nancy Cohen, Reconstruction of American Liberalism).

This really touches a nerve, it's one of the reasons why the Progressing America project even exists. Yes, I think it's great that they gave us names and a background on the topic, and yes, I think this article is worth reading. But what did Godkin, Walker, and Adams say/write to give this author the impression that they supported inexpensive bureaucracy? When did they write it? Essay or book? Title and page numbers? How about a partial quote so someone can track it down? Could you throw me a bone here? I find that there is a great desire, sometimes even a desperation amongst people who seek to advance the cause of liberty to know more about progressivism. I see it in some of the places I post articles, and I have heard it repeatedly from people I've come in contact with. There is such a deficit of knowledge on the progressives, and articles like this are certainly helpful in illuminating their mindset, but we need to know when, where, and in what words did these people put their ideas out.(and citing Nancy Cohen's book isn't exactly helpful)

But just to be fair, this article does do this in some ways. The third paragraph points out the call for more government, and tells us to go look to the Populist Party Platform of 1892. Now that's what I'm talking about, show us where to look! Context is great, but the details do matter. The important thing that this article does is point out that what ended up becoming progressivism is a convergence of multiple ideals, which all converged because at the very foundation of all their beliefs was the one thing they all held in common. Bigger and bigger government. They could squabble about the details later. For now, we just have to make government bigger. That will solve all the problems.

For anybody who's seen me previously touch upon the topic of 'Reformers' but not really go into much detail, this is why. There's too many non-uniform views amongst all these different groups, to the point to where they're not even the same group of people. It's the birth of progressivism, which rose at about the same time as fabianism in Britain, where you see the uniformity of the view of making progress through bigger government. But it's not socialism. It's just progress, it's social regulation. And even within the progressive movement, it's a mistake for us to look at progressives as a monolith. Outside of making progress with more government, there are a multitude of divergent views of how best to use government, and to whom will it be used against.

No comments:

Post a Comment