Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Progressivism?

Progressivism- what is it? What was it? And what has it done throughout history?

Progressivism is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Progressivism is a political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action.

Wikipedia has a fairly good article, though it missed several areas. It does make some acknowledgement of the particular US form of Progressivism- but oddly equates Teddy and FDR.

Progressivism developed in the late 19th Century as a response to what I would describe as an advent of an American aristocracy- and even in some respects feudalism- that was a result of the Westward Expansion and Industrial Revolutions.

Researching Progressivism gets really difficult, as it's very hard to find objective writing. People polarize rapidly and strongly on this subject.

Two important sources to look at are:

The Heritage Foundation paper

A Georgetown course paper on the early history of Progressivism in the US

I'd also suggest looking at the Wikipedia article on Contemporary Progressivism (and follow the link to cosmopolitanism!)

The Heritage Foundation has an obvious bias, but it's a useful one.

Squaring the HF paper with Teddy Roosevelt is difficult at best- Teddy's Progressivism involved, yes, a strong case for the common (citizenry, through the government) ownership of wilderness. He saw government roles in preventing abuses - whether on the job or through anti-competitive means- of American citizens in the business.

This is a sore point all around our current debates, and stems from the idea that a corporation is a person (usually through application of the 14th Amendment.) I will, briefly, digress enough to state that I do not consider regulation of corporations as necessarily progressive, conservative, or classically liberal- it's a fundamental question of what a corporation is, which I'll explore more in depth later. (I touch on it briefly in this post.)

Accepting that corporations have a reason to be regulated- at least in terms of humane treatment of workers and allowance for fair competition in business, let's move on.

There are several major issues with TR - or "Bull Moose" Progressivism, but as it was corrupted nearly from the beginning and it is impossible to describe the pure form, let us look at Progressivism after the Roosevelt years.

In the Georgetown paper, you see Progressivist reform divided into 4 main areas: Democracy, Efficiency, Regulation of large business, and Social Justice.

The idea of more direct democracy is touchy. It sounds good- every vote, instantly, counts on every subject. The ultimate power of the sovereign franchise!


"The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature
for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. …May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a
pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?"

--Thomas Jefferson

"...All men are Created Equal...."

-- Thomas Jefferson

These wonderfully contrasting phrases are key to the problems inherent in moving away from our founding documents and ideas and towards the Progressive ideal of direct democracy (in some things, not all!) ---- the idea of a natural aristocracy, of a purpose in representation.

An aristocracy based on wealth, birth, and nepotism, according to Jefferson, is different from the natural aristoi. The government by the ideal persons of Jefferson- government by elected representatives- is different because:

1: The people- the common man- get to recognize and elect the leaders.

2: The difference, in Jefferson's philosophy, between the natural aristoi and the common man is a difference in degree, not a difference of type.

Thus, in a representative system, persons who have the patriotic, service, duty, and ability- the "elective spark"- serve, and the common man votes for or against and communicates with, the representatives of government.

In an aristocratic system, the difference of type is predominant- it is assumed that the aristocrat is better, different, born to rule. That a given man, by birth, is inherently different and greater than another man whose circumstances of birth are different.

Thus, the elective leadership, coming from the whole of the sovereign citzenry and not from a specific class.

The direct democracy of the progressive is highly susceptible to the voters limiting their view to immediate (and selfish) interests. It is also, demonstrably, susceptible to corruption (and provably breeds its own artificial aristocracy of professional controllers near instantaneously.)

Now, this isn't all bad- Progressives brought us a broader base of voters- enfranchising ALL citizens. Barring an argument I am philosophically tempted by- the timocracy of military/civil service veterans- I cannot see how a restriction of the franchise is a good thing. Recalls, secret ballots, and direct primaries are also a legacy of early Progressivism.

Yet..... Progressives don't operate on the basis of direct democracy- they push a professional class of persons to take care of real and imagined ills. Politicians, social workers, regulators.... the idea of direct democracy fails when you run into the progressive's non-elected bodies. Social services and the concomitant enforcement, rules, restrictions- the FCC - encroaching federal law enforcement agencies- executive branch councils on numerous industrial and business issues. The list is long, and most of us have been bitten at one time or another by an agency whose authority and management- and regulations- are not voted upon.

(Please note here, that I'm not labelling a particular party. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have at various times been under the influence of greater or lesser degrees of Progressivism. Hell, TR was a Republican!)

Thus, the representative has- in a working local political system- a set of controls based on his electorate, having his views and actions made public, and in having to be constantly reminded of an oath to care for more than his own selfish interests.

In a direct mass democracy, all things are subject to the whim of a mob- including the very legality of my existence as a member any one of several contentious groups. But because of the very nature of the whimsical structure, a "secret" class of oligarchs is necessary for actual operation of the government.


One of the Progressive ideals is an efficient government. Aside from the never ending battles against corruption in any human affair, these efforts follow the primary platforms of centralisation and creating professional classes of actors in government.

I'm not sure where to start with how wrong this is. A government of, for, and by the people cannot be operated by a class of persons who are removed from- in essence are not- the people.

I would, for example, vastly prefer an inefficient government many of whose members come from rural areas (where I live) than a professional, highly urbanized class who will happily regulate my life without having ever washed an egg, butchered their own meat, nor harvested an orchard.

Of course, the definition of efficiency comes into play. Efficient at what, exactly? Efficient at operating government machinery and growing their authority, or efficient at enhancing and enabling my liberties?

Centralization is just another facet- when you take away the power of my county, or district, in favor of some hopefully more rational and efficient central authority- you remove my access to that authority, my supervision of that authority, and the relevance of the office or agency to my particular life.

And, in the end, it's about me. And you. And all the other individual, sovereign, citizens.

Third - and most laudable- in the Progressive dynamics is the regulation of large business.

Due to the acceptance of the idea of "corporate personhood" and the removal of the restrictions and checks on corporations and larger business- said concerns were able to be very abusive. Child labor laws, woman labor laws, the 40 hour work week, minimum wages; these are all a result, a direct result, of messing up with the idea of businesses as having rights in the first place.

I can't argue with the solutions. While they have obvious flaws, some sort of solutions are needful. Had our governments as a whole kept the necessary restriction on business in the first place, they may not have been.

(Then there's modern progressivism, which seems to think that corporate feudalism is okay as long as it's "nice".)

Fourth, and most dangerous, are the ideas of social justice and temperance.

I have no qualm with full and complete application of freedoms, liberties, and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to every person- regardless of color, creed, or identity. In fact I think it is necessary.

On area where the Progressive movement seems to go wrong is with the idea of enforcement, creating governmental systems and professionals to enforce the (current) definition of social justice.

The most infamous example of Progressivism in this arena is the 18th Amendment. Production and consumption of alcohol was outlawed for our own good. (Yes, it was an Amendment, but it's instructive to examine how it came about)

Another primary factor in the area of social justice where the Progressives seem to do more damage- to liberties and freedoms certainly, to social cohesion most probably, and to actual social good possibly- is in the idea that social programs should be removed from churches, foundations, lodges and clubs. Entrusted instead into- again- the professional class of administrators and funded by mandatory taxation.

It is difficult to describe the exact methods of harm in this. But harmful it is. It leads to profiteering by way of governmental contracts, inequalities in service since no centralised authority can be familiar with local needs to the necessary level of granularity. It leads to decisions by government officials- non elective and not removable by nor answerable to the citizenry- of who gets what share, when.

In the modern sense, Progressivism has adopted several socialist and cosmopolitan aspects.

On the surface, the idea of cosmopolitanism sounds good- global equality in resources and prosperity under a shared morality.

Wait. Whose morality? I can't tell, and cannot seem to find a concise, clear statement. The UN Rights of Man isn't it- and the UN is too politically corrupt in its application for that to be trusted. So. Well, What is it?

It appears to NOT be a fundamental protection of rights. It appears to NOT be a fundamental increase in liberty. It is obviously NOT a fundamental increase in the ability of persons to operate independently in free associative groups (as regulation of what is and is not permissible is always a first factor in cosmopolitanism.)

What's the basis of the morality? Christian? Muslim? Hindu? Functionalist? "Anything but WASP?"

A shared morality means that you don't get to choose. Someone else is doing the choosing.

It's a reverse of the approach we adopted in the 18th century in America. You could call it top down- someone will determine what is fair, what you deserve, what is right and wrong.

Our nation was founded on the principles that you should be left to make those decisions- insomuch as it is possible within the bounds of a nation of states- on your own. For yourself. With the utmost in liberty and opportunity to try things for yourself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Am I a conservative?

Short answer- no.

I'm a liberal. But I'm a different kind of liberal. The old, gun toting, voting, liberty based kind.

(My personal view shouldn't influence you in acting on any of my advice and commentary on gettting involved with politics. If you are any sort of basically decent person, disagreeing with me and being active in politics is a far better case, IMO, than disagreeing with me and NOT being active in politics. Go Do Stuff!)

David Koeller writes thus:

In the entry from Wikipedia, you have this:

"Classical liberalism is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets. Classical liberalism developed in the 19th century in Europe, and the United States."

It's worth taking the time here to look through the whole entry. While I find Wikipedia to be slanted in terms of presentation of ideas, it's not a bad read by any means. (For example, the right to defence isn't ever mentioned in Wikipedia.)

The entry from Stanford is also essential reading.

What you see going on here is a shift, in effect a socialist shift- from classical liberalism to new liberalism.

I am not, by any stretch, a socialist.

Yet- I support a healthcare system- not the one we're getting!

How do you square this?

Well, one aspect lies in the role of government, another is technological, and a third is in the idea of what things should be profit based.

For the conservative Republican and the modern "capital L" Libertarian, everything should be permitted to be profit based. All actions, all activities.

Let's look at that some. When our nation was founded, strict limits were placed on corporations- including limited "lives", a necessity of performing a socially beneficial service, and owners & managers were responsible (directly!) for criminal acts.

There's more, of course- looking here and here would be useful.

I don't believe medical corporations should exist in any sense except the most harsh governance under our original charters. Profit from illness is a dangerous thing.

I'm quite happy with the government giving money to universities and university/military/religious hospitals to further improvements in medical technology!

I'm also- while not any sort of catholic or protestant Christian- perfectly happy with religious hospitals.

We are a technologically advanced enough civilization to provide a reasonable amount of healthcare to the entire population at a very low cost in actual resources.

Further, I would class what is going on with private corporations and government funded medical insurance/care as profiteering.

I agree- to an extent- with the classic liberal freedom of markets. I do see a place for governance in the enforcement of freedom. Because diligence and enforcement is required.

In terms of personal liberty- I am absolute. This is why I dislike "California style" direct democracy, where the actions of a majority can restrict the guaranteed rights of a political or social minority.

We were not designed as a direct democracy, and I find the tendencies in that direction quite as disturbing as the progressive tendencies towards a French styled system of professional politicians graduating from the École nationale d'administratio.

I, of course, hold firearms rights dear. This seems like a "conservative" trait- but most conservative groups I'm familiar with only support the rights of the people they care about or approve of.

I'm not much for the "personal defense against muggers" talk- I live in an area where personal defense mostly means keeping coyotes out of the livestock and the regretful job of having to take down an aggressive wild dog now and then.

I am a bit far from town and would feel really idiotic if my family got hurt because I didn't have a firearm, but it's not the forefront of my thinking.

National defense and societal defense are. This is one you either get, or you don't get. No point in trying to explain- but we've been saved as a nation from *actual* invasion, invasion plans, and the possibility of invasion on several occasions due to an armed citizenry.

My ideal of the right to keep and bear arms applies to all persons, all races, all creeds- without let or hindrance, paperwork nor registration. Oh, limiting access to weapons of mass destruction (reasonably defined as something on the order of a 20 pound bomb and items more destructive) - sure. Limiting access to violent felons for a period of years, sure. But that's about it.

And I am, very much, a classical liberal. Which has not a jot of socialism involved.

Where's the Beef?

Where's the Beef?

Or, rather more properly stated- where's the patriotism?

I'm not honestly surprised to see no patriotic impulse in President Obama. That would be like expecting him to know that the National Anthem has 4 verses. He's some form of post-statist (or at least post-America) progressive and patriotism isn't really all that compatible.

That's okay, I understand the impulse to be a global humanist- but it always devolves into a command authority system. "The right people know better. and we're the right people because we say so and those rednecks don't know who to vote properly anyhow." Ask me how I'd solve hunger in Somalia, and you might get a different answer.

I'm a little bit surprised that there's no overt patriotism from any of the major declared republican office seekers in the Presidential Primary race. Greenspon had some, yeah- but he's a Marine. I think his campaign needs a strong dose of professionalism and some help with the idea of being president of a lot of people (you have to listen to)- but at least he's a Marine, yknow?

Hunstsman? Well, when he gets done lovin on the chinese, maybe he'll have some time for the US. Shame, I'd really like the guy if the 12th article of faith had a bit more oomph in his campaign. - The 12th is generally interpreted to mean that a strong patriotism- or civic nationalism - is called for- at least in the LDS churches I grew up in.

Romney, Cain, Perry, etc? Yeah, well. I'm a bit surprised, but not much. Bachmann is a loon, the rest are Machine politicians and patriotism isn't in the mix. Except Perry, where- aside from the scary crusader/spanish inquisition act, you'd expect him to bring some good old fashioned Americanism in.

But what's really getting me is District 2, Nevada.

Amodei, who at least is a veteran, versus Marshall- the Democrat who would "never vote to raise taxes" even if every other state officeholder in the democratic party did/does/will unitedly vote for them. (She can get away with this because as treasurer she never had to vote.)

Amodei's closest approach in orbit:

"I am proud to have served in the United States Army, and even prouder to have a daughter who has recently served in the United States Navy. For the Amodei Family, supporting the men and women of the Armed Services is a way of life."

Okay. It's not front page patriotism- but at least his front page does have the state flag on it. And hey, a veteran is a veteran. Some sense of civic duty and pride are demonstrably present.

Marshall.... Oh, man. Kennedy, Clinton- even Carter would weep. No red, white, or blue on her website, no Nevada logos or symbols. and the closest approach to patriotism is "supporting VA medical care"

In fact, her webpage focus is on multiculturalism and middle class jobs.

I suggest she look at the district she's running to represent.

Enough of that- Patriotism.

"A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. "
George William Curtis

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president."
Teddy Roosevelt

"When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."
Adlai Stevenson

"There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream."
Archibald MacLeish

"National honor is national property of the highest value."
James Monroe, first inaugural address, 4 March 1817

Patriotism is a loyalty to the nation- in the peculiar thing that is America, it is loyalty to the principles and dream of America.

Regardless of where you stand on a specific issue- the government's role in the economy, Medicare funding, corporate taxes, abortion- if you are running for an en elective office, you need to be able to be trusted to hold onto patriotism. And in particular, the peculiar American Patriotism of belief in our founding principles.

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

From the Constitution of the United States:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The blessings of liberty. This stands at the core of our American Patriotism.

Talk to me about taxes, about economic reform, about job creation and foreign relations.

But talk to me about these after convincing me the securing of my Liberty is in your mind at all times.

Candidates- all of you- step up to the plate and take a swing at it. It will take less time than designing yet another attack ad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What to do?

In response to my first post- which originally appeared on google plus- one person commented that it was "too much work."

Well, that may be true. What I ask isn't a complete startup and operation of a local political club. What I'm asking for is 40 hours a year.

One monthly meeting- just attend. even if it's the breakfast social and not the meeting.

At primary time and election time, a few hours here and there- just make yourself available, with cell phone and email (and car if you have one) and hit the phones for a few hours, or grab some snacks, or run an errand- drop off a batch of mailers at the post office.

At election time, go through the local list of registered voters in your party- highlight people you actually know- whatever they are being mailed, add a personal note. "Hey John, this is the current ballot suggestion list, I'm pretty much in favor of it myself and have been helping out with getting the work done over here. Hope you find it acceptable. thanks! Joe."

election day- get it off of work. fill up your gas tank, make sure you have your phone charger- and make yourself available.

that's it. 40 hours a year. If you want more, you'll know it. If you don't, you'll have a fair lock on your local party and you'll know the politics much more deeply. You'll be involved. You will have ways to change things if and when you think they need changing.

And you'll be restoring local politics to the nation- instead of national organization mandated politics.

Take Back Your Government

The timing of this post may seem odd to you- we have a huge amount of
time before the next set of elections (except for district 2
Nevadans!) - yet the races are starting and this is the most important
time for the individual citizen to get involved.

I'd like to recommend a book. It is, I believe, out of print in paper,
but Baen publishing has an ebook version available- without DRM as is
the policy of Baen publishing.

The book was originally written in 1946, and re issued in 1992. It was
re issued specifically to generate more impetus to a particular third
party candidate- but the book itself isn't written along any party
lines. Just about the only American political stance you will see it
stand against is classic political communism- which was and is
dictatorial and repressive.

I would like urge everyone to get, to read, and to enact in some small
way, this book. It's an easy read, written by someone who managed to
make a nearly obscene living off of writing well. So it's easy to get
through. It's also thought provoking- it demonstrates in many ways how
the culture and mechanisms of politics have changed over the decades
since WW2, and offers some pictures of what reforms could look like.

Quoted from the book, the author has 7 beliefs he has listed that are
a result of his working in politics on local through national levels:

"(1) Most people are basically honest, kind, and decent"

I'd like to point out that if you do NOT believe this, if you firmly
believe that people MUST be controlled to force them into decency
(what my childhood religion calls the Luciferian Error)- I will
probably stand against you in every poll. But don't let that stop you,
get this book!

"(2) The American people are wise enough to run their own affairs.
They do not need Fuehrers, Strong Men, Technocrats, Commissars, Silver
Shirts, Theocrats, or any form of dictator."

For reference, a Silver Shirt is a member of the defunct Silver Legion
of America, an openly fascist group founded by William Dudley Pelley,
who hoped to install himself as dictator in the 1930s.

A dictator in reference to the time period when this was written was
anyone who had anything approaching an absolute, or overly
influential, amount of power - "One who dictates". If a president
tries to assume congressional powers, he is attempting to be a
dictator. (I could point to several on both sides of aisle, I'm not
targeting a specific individual here)

The main point of this belief is that American citizens are wise
enough to run their own affairs. There are two aspects to that. One,
which I believe may be key in this election cycle- is that Americans
are wise enough to vote how they vote. We have had far too many
managed elections- and managed ballot lists- over the past several
cycles. Maybe we oughtta take that back.

The other aspect to this is a classically liberal belief that the
individual is wise enough to run his own affairs and governmental
intrusion into such should be limited. In fact, the structure of the
Bill of Rights to the Constitution is a prime example of Classic
Liberal thought.

"(3) Americans have a compatible community of ambitions. Most of them
don't want to be rich but do want enough economic security to permit
them to raise families in decent comfort without fear of the future.
They want the least government necessary to this purpose and don't
greatly mind what the other fellow does as long as it does not
interfere with them living their own lives. As a people we are neither
money mad nor prying; we are easy-going and anarchistic. we may want
to keep up with the Joneses -- but not with the Vanderbilts. We don't
like cops."

Greed is something that appears to me to be attempted to be instilled
in our children and selves by marketing campaigns- both commercial and
scholastic. I could not state absolutely that I agree with the author
at this point, but I can let it slide because most of the people I
know who are honest and decent do not want wealth for the purpose of
removing power from others. Good enough for me.

"The least government necessary to this purpose." - I know that a fair
percentage of the people I'm trying to reach will at this point
disagree with that phrase. The belief that we need government to
ensure fairness, elevate the oppressed, mandate rules and regulations
to prevent people from doing what another believes is harmful- Well,
I'll admit I don't totally disagree with that view. But, to me, the
least government necessary to the purpose of guaranteeing my children
access to healthy food is still the "least government necessary to the
purpose". Think on it.

Cops. It is almost a requirement in my line of work to idolize
policemen on a level equivalent to military veterans. (Since I hold
close to my heart a separation of civilian government and the
military, I have to disagree with this on some levels.) While I
appreciate the risks and service of the job, the point here is that
Americans don't want cops sniffing around everything they do. It has
become institutionalized to the point where I know a LOT of Americans
who won't allow their children to have a conversation with a uniformed
police officer or badged government representative because the
possibility of fishing for a crime is too great- and it is almost
impossible to be guilty of nothing in our current legal landscape. You
can end up being investigated for deprivation if your kid complains
about not ever getting candy, or investigated for neglect if he says he
eats candy all the time! What the author meant, I believe, is that
Americans don't like authoritarian busybodies.

"(4) Democracy is not an automatic condition resulting from laws and
constitutions. It is a living, dynamic process which must be worked at
by you yourself -- or it ceases to be democracy, even if the shell and
form remains."

Any of us, on any side of debate, could point to infringements of the
first, second, fourth, fifth, eighth, and fifteenth amendments in the
past decade once the amendments were pointed out to us. I won't go
talking about vigilant defence- but involvement. Your cell phone
camera may be the democratic sunshine tool of choice for youtube- but
voting and being involved in your party(ies) is much more effective in
the long term. just a letter, a phone call, 4 hours of volunteer work
make a difference.

"(5) One way or another, any government which remains in power is a
representative government. If your city is a crooked machine, then it
is because you and your neighbors prefer it that way -- prefer it to
the effort of running your own affairs...."

(the ellipsis refers to some notes on Hitler which were timely then
but I can safely leave out for the moment.)

I hear an argument from many persons- right and left and center- that
it's pointless to get involved because it doesn't matter. As long as
enough people believe that, it is to some extent true. If you abdicate
your franchise because "all politicians are bad"- you still abdicate
your franchise. Don't do it.

"(6) Democracy is the most efficient form of government ever invented
by the human race. One the record, it has worked better in peace and
war than fascism, communism, or any other form of dictatorship. As for
the mythical yardstick of "benevolent" monarchy or dictatorship --
there ain't no such animal"

Well, look. If you really don't believe this and think that there's
some justification for taking over the government on a NON
representative basis, then elections aren't your game anyway.

"(7) A single citizen, with no political connections and no money, can
be extremely effective in politics."

And that last point is where the book takes off. It's a manual of how
to apply number 7.

Here's what I want you to do, here's why I'm writing this. I want you
to get involved. I don't care if your politics agree with mine- I have
several major disagreements with the platforms of the Republicans, the
Democrats, and at least half the amazing hodge-podge of contradictions
that is the Tea Party (Bachman and Ron Paul in the same bed?!?!?!? how
on Earth?)

Disagree with me. or agree with me. Just do it in a more personal,
more active, more individual political manner.


The book: Take Back Your Government, 1946, 1992 by Robert A Heinlein

Published currently as an e-book by Baen, available here:

No, I have nothing to do with Baen except for some friendships with a
few authors who have published through them.