One of the best philosophical presentations of Progressivism in the mainstream I have ever encountered is given in the following videos of a recent Glenn Beck show. It was aired on January 28, 2010 and is called "Egghead Hour - All You Ever Wanted To Know About Progressives."
It's in plain English and it simply rocks.
Beck interviews his "egghead" panel:
- Ronald Pestritto, author of Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism
- Burton Folsom, author of New Deal or Raw Deal?
- Larry Schweikart, author of A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror (the other author, Michael Patrick Allen, is not interviewed in this show)
Before continuing, let me get this out of the way. At the end of the show, each author was asked to recommend one book for the general public to read (in addition to his own, of course) to learn about the fundamental issues of this topic. Here are the 3 books they respectively recommended:
- A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell
- Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg
- The Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Madison and others
Beck's central idea is an intriguing one, that Progressivism is essentially Marxism by stealth. It's a secret cancer. Whereas Marxism preached revolution for kicking off the business of engineering humans by government, the Progressives preach (and practice) stealth. But the goals are essentially the same.
In terms of philosophical fundamentals, they are, too. Beck is the only mainstream TV host I know of who mentions the fundamental difference in worldview between the Progressives and our Founding Fathers. The issue is the perfectibility of man.
The government shall perfect the human race.
The Progressives (and Marxists) believe that man can be perfected and the Founding Fathers knew better, so they devised a system of checks and balances whereby power is diluted. They knew that power corrupts. The Progressives do not believe it does (at least they think it does not corrupt them).
This is about as metaphysical as it gets with respect to human nature.
As an aside, one of the issues I have with Objectivism is on this very point. It is called "moral perfection" in Objectivist debates. For as much as I analyze this issue, I can't come to any other conclusion than the following and call it truth: So long as human beings have volition, are not omnipotent, and time flows from the past to the future, perfection, moral or otherwise, is impossible. I even equate the fundamentalist Objectivists to the Progressives on this point. They want to "mold" the human personality into a perfect form. (A form they call the shots for, of course. And usually they want to mold your personality--through intimidation--not theirs.) But that is another issue for another time.
Beck mentions, as a distinguishing characteristic, that Progressives want "to progress beyond the Constitution." That is one of their hallmarks and underlies every goal they set and every policy they promote.
In other words, and here comes a political fundamental, they want social structure to be rule by despot, not rule by law. At best, they want rule by an elite class. They loathe the legal constraints the Constitution imposes on the power they can get.
Under Theodore Roosevelt, Progressives were more open about their intent. Beck's idea is that they started going undercover with Woodrow Wilson. He ran a Presidential election campaign based on staying out of WWI. Then he led the USA to enter the war a few months later. In order to gloss over the hypocrisy and keep the Progressives with the aura of high moral ground, the Progressives started billing it as "The War to End All Wars."
Thus started the Progressive double-speak as camouflage.
Here are some of the ideas and insititutions Beck discusses that the Progressives have given to America:
- The Federal Reserve system. Thomas Jefferson is quoted on the show bashing the idea of a Central Bank and Beck outright stated that the Fed was responsible for the greatest financial disaster in USA history--due to continual contraction of the money supply before and during the Great Depression.
- Redistribution of wealth American-style.
- "Progressive" income tax.
- First "nanny state" attempts at governing the personal lives of individuals, especially the Prohibition.
- The League of Nations, which paved the way for the United Nations.
Enjoy the videos, folks. I cannot recommend them highly enough, especially if you think this stuff is boring.
Not by a long shot.
Think about it. President Barack Obama is a Progressive. He says so loud and clear. Don't let his common man roots fool you. He's about as politically elitist as they get.
So this stuff is alive today--very much alive--and it's everything the Tea Party movement isn't. I never thought I would see this level of philosophical clarity in mainstream politics in my lifetime.