Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Progressivism: The individualistic point of view halts social development at every point

I've written extensively about The New Republic's two founding members, but what of it's first editor? Walter Weyl was the person tapped for that job, and he has a lot to say about progressive ideology. In his book "The New Democracy", Walter Weyl writes the following: (Page 163)
All the inspiring texts of democracy fall into nonsense or worse when given a strict individualistic interpretation. "Government should rest upon the consent of the governed" is a great political truth, if by "the governed" is meant the whole people, or an effective majority of the people; but if each individual governed retains the right at all times to withhold his consent, government and social union itself become impossible. So, too, the phrase "taxation without representation is tyranny," if interpreted strictly in an individualistic sense, leads to the theory that government should be in the hands of property owners, that they who pay the piper (in taxes) should set the tune, that they who are without "a stake in the country" should not participate, or at least not equally, in a government designed to raise money and to expend it.

In the socialized democracy towards which we are moving, all these conceptions will fall to the ground.

I've made note several times about how the original progressives looked at "individualistic" ideas, these old eighteenth century ideals and sneered down their noses at them. My regular readers will see this and not be surprised at all at this form of arrogance in yet another historical/original progressive text. But Weyl's book is not like most of the others that I've taken time to excerpt, Weyl goes on to make predictions about what will come. (Pages 163-64):

It will be sought to make taxes conform more or less to the ability of each to pay; but the engine of taxation, like all other social engines, will be used to accomplish great social ends, among which will be the more equal distribution of wealth and income. The state will tax to improve education, health, recreation, communication, "to provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare," and from these taxes no social group will be immune because it fails to benefit in proportion to cost. The government of the nation, in the hands of the people, will establish its unquestioned sovereignty over the industry of the nation, so largely in the hands of individuals. The political liberties of the people will be supplemented by other provisions which will safeguard their industrial liberties.

I cannot find a word of this prediction to disagree with.

One of the buzz terms he uses is "social ends", and in order to understand this it would be good for you to understand what "social legislation" is. Another that may be good to look into is the progressive conception of the government's "two heads", that is, "the state as a political entity consists either in operations necessary to the expression of its will, or in operations necessary to the execution of that will." Social legislation is how that will is executed, and social ends are the final product.

Now, Weyl is not done. Once we've recognized the problem of individuality, here's how we can deal with it, perhaps even eliminate it: (Pages 164-165)

In two respects, the democracy towards which we are striving differs from that of to-day. Firstly, the democracy of to-morrow, being a real and not a merely formal democracy, does not content itself with the mere right to vote, with political immunities, and generalizations about the rights of men. Secondly, it is a plenary, socialized democracy, emphasizing social rather than merely individual aims, and carrying over its ideals from the political into the industrial and social fields.

Because of this wideness of its aims, the new spirit, in a curiously cautious, conservative way, is profoundly revolutionary. The mind of the people slowly awakens to the realization of the people's needs; the new social spirit gradually undermines the crust of inherited and promulgated ideas; the rising popular will overflows old barriers and converts former institutions to new uses. It is a deep-lying, potent, swelling movement. It is not noiseless, for rotten iron cracks with a great sound, and clamor accompanies the decay of profit-yielding privileges. It is not uncontested, for men, threatened with the loss of a tithe of their pretensions, sometimes fight harder than the wholly disinherited. It does not proceed everywhere at equal pace; the movement is not uniform nor uninterrupted. And yet, measured by decades, or even by years, the revolution grows.

Again, I can't find a single piece of the prediction to disagree with. This is what America has become. Especially the last part, he says decades. That's how patient these progressives are. They'll gladly wait to see liberty destroyed, even if they themselves are personally not the ones to make the final achievement. As long as the final achievement is steadily fought for. He uses the word "conversion", but that's not accurate enough. This is a perversion. It's totally corrupt and improperly used. At the bottom of page 165, he says:

I use the word "revolution," despite its fringe of misleading suggestion, because no other word so aptly designates the completeness of the transformation now in process.

And finally, after perverting institutions toward the evolutionary end, they can use our own individuality against us via the "normalcy bias". That's how to deal with and eliminate it. Page 166:

A social revolution, in the sense here implied, is a change, however gradual, peaceful, and evolutionary, which has for its cumulative effect a radical displacement of the center of gravity of society. Such a revolution is the substitution of a new for an old social equilibrium; a fundamental re-arrangement of the relations subsisting between conflicting or allied social groups. It is a recrystallization of society on new planes. It is a new chemical union of constituent social molecules. A relatively more rapid growth of a single organ or of a single function of the social organism, a hypertrophy here, an atrophy there, may suffice to bring about a fundamental social overturn, such as we designate by the word "revolution."

This revolution, in the very midst of which we are, while believing that we stand firm on a firm earth, is a revolution; not of blood and iron, but of votes, judicial decisions, and points of view. It does not smell of gunpowder or the bodies of slain men. It does not involve anything sudden, violent, cataclysmic. Like other revolutions, it is simply a quicker turn of the wheel in the direction in which the wheel is already turning. It is a revolution at once magnificent and commonplace. It is a revolution brought about by and through the common run of men, who abjure heroics, who sleep soundly and make merry, who "talk" politics and prize-fights, who obey alarm clocks, time-tables, and a thousand petty but revered social conventions. They do not know that they are revolutionists.

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