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The American "Progressives" were the first Fascists of the 20th century

By John Ray (M.A.;Ph.D.)

Quote:"Hayek's challenge was to argue that German Nazism was not an aberrant "right-wing" perversion growing out of the "contradictions" of capitalism. Instead, the Nazi movement had developed out of the "enlightened" and "progressive" socialist and collectivist ideas of the pre-World War I era, which many intellectuals in England and the United States had praised and propagandized for in their own countries."

This article aims to give a brief review of the ideas that Hayek was referring to in the above quotation. Note also these words: "Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal". What Ronald Reagan was referring to in 1976 when he said that will become very clear below.

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"Fascism" is a term that was originally coined by the Italian dictator Mussolini to describe his adaptation of Marxism to the conditions of Italy after World War I. Lenin in Russia made somewhat different adaptations of Marxism to the conditions in Russia during the same period and his adaptations came to be called Marxism/Leninism. Mussolini stayed closer to Marx in that he felt that Italy had to go through a capitalist stage before it could reach socialism whereas Lenin attempted to push Russia straight from semi-feudalism into socialism. Mussolini's principal modification of Marxism was his rejection of the notion of class war, something that put him decisively at odds with Lenin's "Reds".

If the term "Fascism" means anything of itself it means "Groupism" -- as the fasci of Italy at the time were simply groups of political activists. The fasces of ancient Roman times were of course the bundles of rods carried by the lictors to symbolize the great strength of the organized Roman people. The idea again was that people were stronger in groups than as individuals.

Mussolini's ideas and system were very influential and he had many imitators -- not the least of which was Adolf Hitler -- and some even survived World War II -- such as Peron and Chiang Kai Shek. I have set out at length elsewhere what Mussolini's Italian Fascism was all about so I will simply summarize here by saying that Fascism was a nationalist form of extreme socialism whereas Trotskyism was/is a internationalist form of extreme socialism -- with Leninism being somewhere in between.

So was Mussolini a totally original thinker? Not at all. Students of ancient history see Sparta as the first Fascist State and students of Marx identify Fascism with "Bonapartism" (See Appendix 3 below) -- the type of regime devised by Napoleon Bonaparte and revived by his nephew Napoleon III. But Mussolini was quite intellectual and his thinking was in fact much more up-to-date than that would suggest. He was certainly influenced by Marx and the ancient world but he had a whole range of ideas that extended beyond that. And where did he turn for up-to-date ideas? To America, of course! And the American ideas that influenced him were in fact hard to miss. They were the ideas of the American "Progressives". And who was the best known Progressive in the world at that time? None other than the President of the United States -- Woodrow Wilson -- the man who was most responsible for the postwar order in Europe. So Mussolini had to do little more than read his newspapers to hear at least some things about the ideas of the very influential American Progressives. And who were the Progressives? Here is one summary of them:

Quote:"Originally, progressive reformers sought to regulate irresponsible corporate monopoly, safeguarding consumers and labor from the excesses of the profit motive. Furthermore, they desired to correct the evils and inequities created by rapid and uncontrolled urbanization. Progressivism ..... asserted that the social order could and must be improved..... Some historians, like Richard Hofstadter and George Mowry, have argued that the progressive movement attempted to return America to an older, more simple, agrarian lifestyle. For a few progressives, this certainly was true. But for most, a humanitarian doctrine of social progress motivated the reforming spirit"

The summary of Progressivism above is from De Corte (1978). Against all his own evidence, De Corte also claims that the Progressives were "conservative". Why? Because there was something else about the Progressives that profoundly embarrasses both De Corte and all modern Leftists: The Progressives were keen eugenicists. So DeCorte tries to evade that. See here and also Pickens (1968) for the Leftist committment to eugenics prior to World War II.

Here is a brief summary of the "Progressive" era from a non-Leftist perspective:

Quote:"The Progressive Era is a period of one big lie after another, crafted upon the false belief that modern government somehow could replace a free market, private property order and create an economy marked both by prosperity and "fairness." From "scientific" management to "enlightened" religion (called theological liberalism and, later, secularism) to Prohibition to "objective" journalism, the belief was that modern society had found the key to "onward and upward" progress."

And a scholarly summary can be found here in a book review of David W. Southern's book on the Progressive era. The following may be a useful excerpt:

Quote:The Progressive movement swept America from roughly the early 1890s through the early 1920s, producing a broad popular consensus that government should be the primary agent of social change. To that end, legions of idealistic young crusaders, operating at the local, state, and federal levels, seized and wielded sweeping new powers and enacted a mountain of new legislation, including minimum wage and maximum hour laws, antitrust statutes, restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol, appropriations for hundreds of miles of roads and highways, assistance to new immigrants and the poor, women's suffrage, and electoral reform, among much else....

Yet the Progressive Era was also a time of vicious, state-sponsored racism. In fact, from the standpoint of African-American history, the Progressive Era qualifies as arguably the single worst period since Emancipation. The wholesale disfranchisement of Southern black voters occurred during these years, as did the rise and triumph of Jim Crow. Furthermore, as the Westminster College historian David W. Southern notes in his recent book, The Progressive Era and Race: Reform and Reaction, 1900-1917, the very worst of it-disfranchisement, segregation, race baiting, lynching-"went hand-in-hand with the most advanced forms of southern progressivism." Racism was the norm, not the exception, among the very crusaders romanticized by today's activist left.

At the heart of Southern's flawed but useful study is a deceptively simple question: How did reformers infused with lofty ideals embrace such abominable bigotry? His answer begins with the race-based pseudoscience that dominated educated opinion at the turn of the 20th century. "At college," Southern notes, "budding progressives not only read exposes of capitalistic barons and attacks on laissez-faire economics by muckraking journalists, they also read racist tracts that drew on the latest anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, eugenics, and medical science."

And as this article shows, the American "Progressives" of the late 19th and early 20th century were not only Leftists but they were also war-glorifying militarists. Hitler got not only his eugenic ideas from American Leftists but even his ideas about war being a purification of the national spirit etc. And who was it who said this?

Quote:"Conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty."

Was it Adolf? It sounds very much like either Adolf or Mussolini at the height of their powers but it was in fact said while both Hitler and Mussolini were still in the trenches of World War I and it was said by the President of the United States, the arch-Progressive Woodrow Wilson. See here for that and many other ways (including book-burning) in which Adolf learnt from American leftists. History can be very surprising. Loberfeld's short history of progressivism has more on its militaristic aspects.

Wilson even foreshadowed Hitler's racism. Note this quote about his actions in 1912:

Quote:"Upon taking power in Washington, Wilson and the many other Southerners he brought into his cabinet were disturbed at the way the federal government went about its own business. One legacy of post-Civil War Republican ascendancy was that Washington's large black populace had access to federal jobs, and worked with whites in largely integrated circumstances. Wilson's cabinet put an end to that, bringing Jim Crow to Washington. Wilson allowed various officials to segregate the toilets, cafeterias, and work areas of their departments".

So Wilson actually reversed more tolerant policies put in place by Republicans. Racism was very LEFTIST in Hitler's day. Leftists like to portray Wilson as a visionary. They neglect to mention that the future he envisioned was a racially segregated one.

Jonah Goldberg has a good summary of the Wilson administration too:

Quote:Under Woodrow Wilson, the first American president to embrace the new cult of pragmatism and power that had overtaken "enlightened" thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic (and the first American president to openly disdain the U.S. Constitution), the progressives unleashed a crackdown on freedom that makes the supposed fascism of the McCarthy era and the Bush years seem like a teach-in at Smith College. Wilson established the American Protective League, a group of domestic fascisti charged with crushing dissent, beating "slackers," and intimidating average Americans. Wilson's Committee for Public Information was the first modern propaganda ministry. Indeed, according to the late sociologist and intellectual historian Robert Nisbet, the "West's first real experience with totalitarianism" political absolutism extended into every possible area of culture and society, education, religion, industry, the arts, local community and family included, with a kind of terror always waiting in the wings" came with the American war state under Wilson."

And I suppose it is very crass and inconsiderate of me to point out that Wilson began his book: The State. Elements of Historical and Practical Politics: A sketch of institutional History and Administration with a study of Aryan politics. Woody's book does not appear to be available anywhere online so I have reproduced in an Appendix to this article some extracts from it about Aryans and such matters.

At the risk of appearing to flog a dead horse, I might also point to Koenigsberg's demonstration,
that Hitler saw Germany as a living organism that was severely threatened. And where did Hitler get the idea of Germany as a biological organism? He could have got it from various sources but one of the most prominent sources of such thinking was again the very anti-business Woodrow Wilson -- who justified his wish to scrap the checks and balances of the American constitution on the grounds that the U.S. government was "not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life... No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live". And American Leftists still often characterize the constitution as a "living" thing to this day. Like Wilson, they use such language as an excuse for escaping the constraint of law that does not suit them. Hitler would have seen that as perfectly proper!

In fact, the more one reads about the American "Progressives" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the more parallels one finds between them and the Fascists. For instance, particularly prominent on the American Left were the Bellamys. Edward and Francis Bellamy actively promoted what they called "military socialism" and, largely under their influence, loyalty oaths, flag ceremonies, racist preaching and even the straight-armed salute were all common in America long before they were adopted by Mussolini and the Nazis. See here for some details, including remarkable photographs from the period concerned.

And the now notorious Ku Klux Klan was another of those parallels. It was once quite respectable in "Progressive" circles. There is a very good article here spelling out how much the prewar KKK had in common with the "Progressives" of that era. Many of the things that the KKK stood for don't sound Leftist today but they were Leftist in the heyday of the Klan. As already mentioned, even overt racism was "progressive" in the first half of the 20th century. Excerpt:

Quote:"In fact, the 1924 election indicates the extent to which the Klan was entangled with the progressives. For that was the year of the Democrats' infamous "klanbake" convention, when Klansmen participated heavily as delegates and blocked a platform plank that would have condemned their order. They also entered the presidential race ... they endorsed the Californian William McAdoo, son-in-law to the late President Wilson...... What were the man's most notable accomplishments? He had been one of the architects of Wilson's war collectivism, helping create the Council of National Defense and serving as head of the Railroad Administration. And as secretary of the treasury, he had been instrumental in creating one of the Progressive Era's most substantial new interventions in the economy: the Federal Reserve system".

And are feminists conservative? Hardly. And feminists are hardly a new phenomenon either. Feminism too was part of "Progressive" thinking. In the person of Margaret Sanger and others, feminists were very active in the USA in first half of the 20th century, advocating (for instance) abortion. And Margaret Sanger was warmly praised by Hitler for her energetic championship of eugenics. And the American eugenicists were very racist. They shared Hitler's view that Jews were genetically inferior and opposed moves to allow into the USA Jews fleeing from Hitler (See here and Richmond, 1998). So if Hitler's eugenics and racial theories were loathsome, it should be acknowledged that his vigorous supporters in the matter at that time were Leftists and feminists, rather than conservatives.

And another thing that identifies Hitler more with the American Left than the Right of his day: Jim Lindgren has extracted some data from a U.S. Gallup poll taken in 1938. It showed that the support for an anti-Jewish campaign was quite low in America but that Democrat voters were 50% more likely to support such a campaign than were Republicans (14.7% versus 9.8%). Again we see that Hitler's friends in America were primarily on the Left.

The relatively low level of antisemitism among Americans at that time was not the fault of the outspoken Leftists of the day, however. For instance, we read of the populist and influential Father Coughlin:

Quote:As the Great Depression dragged toward the end of its first decade in 1938, Father Charles Coughlin released the latest issue of his newspaper Social Justice. It reprinted that most notorious and persistent of anti-Semitic tracts, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Coughlin's decision to disseminate the spurious conspiracy tale to his millions of followers was not just the same old Jew-hatred, even if part of his financing came from Henry Ford. It marked Coughlin's transformation from an ardent New Dealer, who had coined the phrase "Roosevelt or Ruin," to a divisive demagogue. The through-line from Coughlin the social democrat to Coughlin the biased provocateur was populism. The same ideology that had led him earlier in his public career to attack corporate power and unmediated capitalism, to champion labor unions and activist government, also enabled him to search for a scapegoat.

The above was written by a modern-day Leftist and so pretends that antisemitism was a departure from the Leftist "New Deal" ideas of FDR but we will see to the contrary below. Coughlin did fall out with FDR but only because FDR was not Leftist enough for him!

But to return to Mussolini for a moment: Where do you think he got these ideas in a speech he made in 1933?

Quote:"If we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good".

It's mainstream Fascism, isn't it? Totally submerging the individual into an army that works only for the common good rather than individual good. The trouble is that it was not a speech made by Mussolini. It is an excerpt from the First Inaugural Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- great hero of the American Left to this day. So the ideas of the "Progressives" were also the ideas of FDR's "New Deal". Leftism has gone under many names but the basic desire to reduce people to an antlike status remains. Read the above quote again if you doubt it. Or read Hegel for that matter (see Appendix 2 below). And see Trifkovic for more detail on the affinities between FDR and Mussolini.

And, like Wilson, FDR did nothing to disappoint the racists of his day. Note this quote showing that FDR too was a typical (racist) Leftist of his era:

Quote:"For an excellent illustration of just how little FDR cared for the desperate plight of southern blacks, you can study what happened to the Scottsboro Boys, eight young black men unjustly accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama. Even the more level-headed Southerners eventually came to see that no rapes had occurred and that the accused were innocent. But given the region's fierce pride, untangling the legal mess created by their conviction took many years. FDR could have waved it all away with a single signature on a federal pardon, knowing that the party's southern leadership would see that it never became a political issue. Instead, he did nothing."

And it was of course FDR who sent the desperate German Jewish refugees aboard the "St. Louis" back to Germany in 1939 -- despite the low level of antisemitism in America at that time.

And that is not the end of the affinities between F.D. Roosevelt and the European Fascists. As Hornberger reminds us:

Quote:"Were Hitler's economic policies in the 1930s, however, significantly different from those of Roosevelt, his counterpart in the United States? On the contrary, there was a striking similarity between FDR's New Deal and the methods that Hitler used to get Germany out of the Depression. Both FDR and Hitler instituted massive government spending campaigns, including public-works programs, to bring full employment to their countries. In the United States, for example, there was the Hoover Dam. In Germany, there was the national autobahn system.

The Nazis also imposed an extensive system of governmental control over German businesses. Was Roosevelt's approach any different? Consider FDR's pride and joy, his National Recovery Act, which was characterized by the infamous Blue Eagle. With the NRA, the U.S. government required entire industries to combine into government-protected cartels, and directed them to fix wages and prices in their respective industries. If a businessman refused to go along, he faced prosecution and punishment, not to mention protest demonstrations from Blue Eagle supporters. (The Supreme Court ultimately declared the NRA unconstitutional.)

Let's also not forget the important paternalistic elements of Hitler's national socialism: Social Security, national health care, public schooling, and unemployment compensation. Sound familiar?

Hitler himself showed keen insight into this matter. In his biography Adolf Hitler, John Toland writes, "Hitler had genuine admiration for the decisive manner in which the President had taken over the reins of government. 'I have sympathy for Mr. Roosevelt,' he told a correspondent for the New York Times two months later, 'because he marches straight toward his objectives over Congress, lobbies and bureaucracy.' Hitler went on to note that he was the sole leader in Europe who expressed 'understanding of the methods and motives of President Roosevelt.'"

So again we see European Fascists learning from and admiring the dominant American Leftists of their day. They were brothers in arms, just as Hitler and Stalin were later literally brothers in arms. That brothers sometimes fall out should not prevent us from noting the brotherhood concerned.

FDR is a tempting topic to continue with, so widely is he misrepresented and beatified, so I will say just a little more about the history of his times. That history is well encapsulated in the book Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939. By Wolfgang Schivelbusch. Some excerpts from a review of the book:

Quote:"Critics of Roosevelt's New Deal often liken it to fascism. Roosevelt's numerous defenders dismiss this charge as reactionary propaganda; but as Wolfgang Schivelbusch makes clear, it is perfectly true. Moreover, it was recognized to be true during the 1930s, by the New Deal's supporters as well as its opponents.....

The Nazi press enthusiastically hailed the early New Deal measures: America, like the Reich, had decisively broken with the "uninhibited frenzy of market speculation." The Nazi Party newspaper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, "stressed 'Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies,' praising the president's style of leadership as being compatible with Hitler's own dictatorial Fuehrerprinzip" (p. 190).

Nor was Hitler himself lacking in praise for his American counterpart. He "told American ambassador William Dodd that he was 'in accord with the President in the view that the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people. These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan "The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual"'" (pp. 19-20). A New Order in both countries had replaced an antiquated emphasis on rights.

Mussolini, who did not allow his work as dictator to interrupt his prolific journalism, wrote a glowing review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward. He found "reminiscent of fascism … the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices"; and, in another review, this time of Henry Wallace's New Frontiers, Il Duce found the Secretary of Agriculture's program similar to his own corporativism (pp. 23-24).

If what I have so far written has not totally demolished the FDR myth, see here, here, and here.

And I can hardly leave the subject without mentioning FDR's imprisonment of almost all people of Japanese descent living in the USA after the attack on Pearl Harbour by the Empire of Japan. This totally Fascistic contempt for individual liberties is well-known and fortunately still attracts some controversy. But there was little opposition to it at the time. "Progressive" thinking was very dominant in American politics in the first half of the 20th. century. One State governor salvages some self-respect for America over it, however: Colorado governor Carr:

Quote:"On Feb. 19, 1942, then-Gov. Carr was fuming. He yelled at his staff even though they were not the object of his scorn, but since he did not have direct access to the White House and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they'd have to do. Clutching Executive Order 9066 in his hand, he paced and shouted, "What kind of a man would put this out?"

The president's order allowed for the de facto declaration of martial law on the West Coast with one not-so-veiled purpose: to remove anyone of Japanese descent. It was soon after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed thousands of Americans. The Japanese were called "yellow devils" on the front page of papers like The Denver Post. People clamored for them to be locked up, sent to work camps, or - in the words of one Colorado farmer - "just killed." No one distinguished between non-citizen and citizen. No one talked about constitutional rights. No one except for Ralph Carr.

"Now, that's wrong," Carr told his staff. "Some of these Japanese are citizens of the United States. They're American citizens." And yet, nearly 120,000 people of Japanese descent, many of them American citizens, would spend the war years in internment camps, including Camp Amache, located near Granada in southeast Colorado. Barbed wire lined their boundaries and military police guarded their exits.

Carr would share his message with Colorado. He said we must protect the Constitution's principles for "every man or we shall not have it to protect any man." Further, he said, if we imprison American citizens without evidence or trial, what's to say six months from now, we wouldn't follow them into that same prison without evidence or trial? The Constitution, he said, starts with, " 'We the people of the United States.' It doesn't say, 'We the people, who are descendants of the English or the Scandinavians or the French.'"

Governor Carr was a Republican.

A remaining issue is the nationalistic and imperialistic nature of Mussolini's Fascism and Hitler's Nazism. Was that prefigured in the American Progressives too? Yes. Unlike the American Leftists of today, the Progressives were in fact thoroughly patriotic, and Croly -- arguably the leading light of Progressivism -- was certainly explicitly nationalist. And one of Croly's disciples was both vastly influential and a remarkably exact model for Mussolini's imperialistic nationalism. The disciple concerned? Yet another American President: Theodore Roosevelt. To know anything of American history of the early 20th century is to know of TR's strident American nationalism and militarism and his key role in the conquest of the Spanish empire in Cuba and the Philippines on quite shallow pretexts.

TR did of course start out as a Republican but he later broke with the Republicans and formed -- wait for it: The Progressive party (better known by its nickname: The Bull Moose Party). From very early-on, however, he was reform-minded and anti-big-business. And even whilst a Republican President he was notable for his worker-welfare and environmentalist initiatives -- setting up national parks in particular. And in good Progressive fashion he stretched his Presidential authority to the limit in some of those initiatives. At the risk of stating the obvious, it must be noted that it is only in very recent times that the two major American political parties have become clearly delineated as Leftist and Rightist and so the Progressives were an influence that could and did operate within both major parties of that time. And before his break with the Republicans it was the progressive wing of the Republican party that TR was identified with. But certainly in war-glorifying, militaristic, nationalistic, action-worshipping and big-government ideas TR very strongly anticipated Mussolini. And TR, of course, "entirely" agreed that as a race negroes are "altogether inferior to the whites." There is a good article on Progressivism generally which shows how profoundly Leftist TR was here.

And the following description of American Progressivism in the early 20th century could just as well have been a description of Fascism:[/size]

Quote:"Progressive policies embodied an underlying philosophy repugnant to Jeffersonianism. As Ekirch describes this philosophy, "Society in the future would have to be based more and more on an explicit subordination of the individual to a collectivist, or nationalized, political and social order. This change, generally explained as one of progress and reform, was of course also highly important in building up nationalistic sentiment. At the same time, the rising authority and prestige of the state served to weaken the vestiges of internationalism and cosmopolitanism and to intensify the growing imperialistic rivalries." In their statist cause the progressives, who were now appropriating the name "liberal," enlisted Social Darwinism, economic determinism, and relativism.

So 20th century Fascism was in fact an American invention, or more precisely an invention of the American Left. Like many American ideas to this day, however, it proved immensely popular in Europe and it was only in Europe that it was put fully into practice. As it does today, American conservatism kept the American Left in some check in the first half of the 20th century so it was only in Europe that their ideas could come into full bloom.

And when those ideas did come into full bloom, America's "progressive" intelligentsia warmly welcomed them of course. And that great present-day friend of Leftist extremism -- Harvard University -- was in the lead. Below is just one small extract from the history of the times:

Quote:"The Harvard University administration during the 1930s, led by President James Conant, ignored numerous opportunities to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime and the antisemitic outrages it perpetrated, and contributed to Nazi Germany's efforts to improve its image in the West. The administration's lack of concern about Nazi antisemitism was shared by many influential Harvard alumni and students. A faculty panel that supervised a mock trial of Hitler in 1934 ruled that Hitler's anti-Jewish actions were "irrelevant" to the debate. Nazi leaders were warmly welcomed to the Harvard campus and invited to prestigious social events, as the Harvard administration strove to build friendly relations with thoroughly Nazified universities in Germany. By doing so, Harvard's administration and many of its student leaders offered important encouragement to the Hitler regime as it intensified its persecution of the Jews and strengthened its armed forces.....

Prominent Harvard alumni, student leaders, and some faculty assumed a major role in the friendly welcome accorded the Nazi warship Karlsruhe when it visited Boston in 1934, flying the swastika flag. Boston's Jewish community protested vociferously. President Conant remained silent. Officers and crewmen from the warship were entertained at Harvard, and professors attended a gala reception in Boston where the warship's captain enthusiastically praised Hitler.

That year, the Harvard administration welcomed a top Nazi official, Ernst Hanfstangl, who was Hitler's foreign press chief as well as a virulent antisemite, to the campus for his 25th class reunion. The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, editorialized that the university should award Hanfstangl an honorary degree "as a mark of honor appropriate to his high position in the government of a friendly country." The joyous reception Hanfstangl received on campus was interrupted when a local rabbi confronted him and demanded to know what Hanfstangl had meant when he recently remarked that "everything would soon be settled for the Jews in Germany." The rabbi cried out, "My people want to know . . . does it mean extermination?" Hanfstangl replied that he "[could] not discuss that. I am on vacation. I am with my old friends." The Nazi official proceeded to President Conant's house for tea.

Anti-Nazi activists opposed Hanfstangl's visit. Some put up posters in Harvard Yard, only to have the Harvard police tear them down. Others held a rally in Harvard Square. Seven demonstrators who tried to speak at the rally were arrested, and sentenced to six months at hard labor. Conant called the demonstration "very ridiculous."

So where did the Progressives get their ideas? Did they invent their ideas out of the blue? Of course not. Right up until World War I it was popular and even fashionable for American intellectuals to study in Germany -- where the thought of Hegel was very influential. And many of the Progressives were included in that movement. Let us look at a few quotes from some of the Hegelian thinkers of 19th century Germany:

Quote:"Among all the nations and sub-nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and are still capable of life -- the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm.... This remnant of a nation that was, as Hegel says, suppressed and held in bondage in the course of history, this human trash, becomes every time -- and remains so until their complete obliteration or loss of national identity -- the fanatical carriers of counter-revolution, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution.... Such, in Austria, are the pan-Slavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but the human trash of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years of development.... The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is progress"

"By the same right under which France took Flanders, Lorraine and Alsace, and will sooner or later take Belgium -- by that same right Germany takes over Schleswig; it is the right of civilization as against barbarism, of progress as against stability. Even if the agreements were in Denmark's favor -- which is very doubtful-this right carries more weight than all the agreements, for it is the right of historical evolution"

"Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its contradiction and revolutionized in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be annihilated in theory and in practice."

"The French Revolution was the rise of democracy in Europe. Democracy is, as I take all forms of government to be, a contradiction in itself, an untruth, nothing but hypocrisy (theology, as we Germans call it), at the bottom. Political liberty is sham-liberty, the worst possible sort of slavery; the appearance of liberty, and therefore the worst servitude. Just so also is political equality for me; therefore democracy, as well as every other form of government, must ultimately break to pieces"

"True, it is a fixed idea with the French that the Rhine is their property, but to this arrogant demand the only reply worthy of the German nation is Arndt's: "Give back Alsace and Lorraine". For I am of the opinion, perhaps in contrast to many whose standpoint I share in other respects, that the reconquest of the German-speaking left bank of the Rhine is a matter of national honour, and that the Germanisation of a disloyal Holland and of Belgium is a political necessity for us. Shall we let the German nationality be completely suppressed in these countries, while the Slavs are rising ever more powerfully in the East?"

"Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew -- not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Jewry, would be the self-emancipation of our time.... We recognize in Jewry, therefore, a general present-time-oriented anti-social element, an element which through historical development -- to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed -- has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily dissolve itself. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Jewry".

The similarities to Hitler's thought stand out, do they not? So who wrote the above quotes? All of them are from either Karl Marx or Friedrich Engels. See Marx & Friends. So although the American Progressives developed most of the thought that we would recognize as Fascist today, their immediate predecessors were undisputably German. So while Mussolini got his basic ideas from Marx and Marx got them from Hegel, the work of developing those ideas and adapting them to the early 20th century had mostly already been done for him by the Americans. I say something about Hegel himself in an Appendix to this article.

And let's look at the views of a great Marxist hero -- one who is, like Castro, much admired and defended by most American "liberals" to this day:

Quote:"Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile who was killed during a CIA-backed coup in 1973, was an anti-Semite who held fascist ideas in his youth, says a new book which has split Chile. The book, Salvador Allende: Antisemitism and Euthanasia, will shock those around the world who revere the late president as a socialist martyr..... The disclosures come from Allende's 1933 doctoral dissertation which had been kept secret. In it he asserts that Jews have a disposition to crime, and calls for compulsory sterilisation of the mentally ill and alcoholics. Victor Farias, the book's Chilean-born author, said Allende quotes approvingly a "cure" for homosexuality, which was then a crime: "It could be corrected with surgery - small holes would be made in the stomach, into which small pieces of testicle would be inserted. This would make the person heterosexual.""

Charming chap!

So however you look at it, the connection of Fascism to Leftism is quite seamless. Its origins were in the intellectuals of the 19th century German Left, it was developed and made politically influential by the American Left around the beginning of the 20th century and it reached its full implementation in the hands of one section of the European Left in the 1920s and 1930's -- i.e. Hitler & Mussolini. And both Hitler and Mussolini campaigned as socialists and never ceased advocating socialism. See here and here for more on the latter point.

Because they are so embarrassing to the Left of today, there are always attempts to deny that the American Progressives of a century ago were Leftists. Attempts are made to treat them as somehow outside the normal flow of history -- as a strange aberration that somehow exists all by itself. This is absurd on two grounds: 1). Far from being a marginal group the Progressives were in the mainstream of American intellectual life at the time -- with only the courts and the conservative wings of the political parties standing against them. 2). Although the militarism, imperialism, racism and stress on discipline may seem abhorrent to the American Left of today, such ideas were perfectly at home even within the thought of Marx and Engels. And if Marx and Engels are not Leftists, who would be?

For deep background on the American Progressives see this essay on Croly, one of the leading lights of Progressivism. Note the agony caused to Croly by the need to keep within democracy. And for full coverage of the "forgotten" fact that it was up until recently the Democratic party that was America's fountainhead of racism, see Wrong on Race by Bruce Bartlett.


Pickens, D. (1968) Eugenics and the Progressives. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press
Richmond, M. (1998) Margaret Sanger's eugenics. See here or here.



Despite all the similarities between American and European Fascism outlined above there is one way in which the two differed markedly. And -- most amusingly -- they differed in exactly the opposite way to what is most usually claimed. The normal claim by Marxists in particular is that Fascism was "middle class". And it clearly was -- but in America only. "Progressivism" in America was very definitely the ruling ideology among American intellectuals of the early 20th century. But that was not true in Europe. In both Italy and Germany it was a mass movement as strongly rooted in the working class as anywhere else.

For a summary of the evidence about the alleged class-basis of German Nazism and Italian Fascism, see here

(2). HEGEL: Intellectual father of Marx, Engels, Hitler, Wilson etc.

Marx, Engels and Hitler were all Hegel devotees, the former two most particularly so. Hegel is VERY heavy going but he seems to have had practically all of the many second-rate 19th century German and American thinkers enraptured so it seems important to get at least some idea of what he was on about. The excerpt below is from an essay called "The Nature of Spirit". And I have highlighted in red what I think are the most significant phrases:

Quote:"We have considered subjective volition where it has an object which is the truth and essence of a reality, viz. where it constitutes a great world-historical passion. As a subjective will, occupied with limited passions, it is dependent, and can gratify its desires only within the limits of this dependence. But the subjective will has also a substantial life -- a reality, -- in which it moves in the region of essential being, and has the essential itself as the object of its existence. This essential being is the union of the subjective with the rational will: it is the moral whole, the state, which is that form of reality in which the individual has and enjoys his freedom; but on the condition of his recognizing, believing in and willing that which is common to the whole. And this must not be understood as if the subjective will of the social unit attained its gratification and enjoyment through that common will; as if this were a means provided for its benefit; as if the individual, in his relations to other individuals, thus limited his freedom, in order that this universal limitation -- the mutual constraint of all -- might secure a small space of liberty for each. Rather, we affirm, are law, morality, government, and they alone, the positive reality and completion of freedom. Freedom of a low and limited order, is mere caprice; which finds its exercise in the sphere of particular and limited desires.

Aaaargh! Is that what you are saying? I don't blame you. Anyone used to Anglo-Saxon ideals of making things clear should gag on that lot. I hope the red bits helped, anyway. So let me try to sum up in plain words what Hegel is on about. Very cheeky of me to think I can do that in just a few paragraphs but we Anglo-Saxon analytical philosophers are a disrespectful lot.

Hegel's basic idea -- and the idea that absolutely GRABBED Marx, Engels and Hitler -- was that history is ORDERLY -- rather than just repeating itself, it is actually a progression towards an endpoint of perfection. And that perfect end is freedom -- but not freedom as we would know it. And history somehow also has a spirit -- in a way that makes sense only to German philosophers as far as I can see. So M, E & H all thought they saw the perfection of human history gradually unfolding before their eyes and wanted to give it a kick along. And they were greatly motivated by Hegel's view that some people and events are of "world-historical" significance. Anybody reading my MarxWords blog will have noticed that phrase cropping up in the writings of Marx and Engels and, as you can see from the excerpt above, the phrase comes from Hegel. In other words, some people and events are major influences in giving history a kick along in its journey towards its ultimate end. And guess who wanted to be counted among those "world-historical" figures? Our old friends M, E and H, of course. Being a world-historical figure would have to be the ultimate ego-trip.

So you also see where Marx's theory of historical stages comes from. It is just an attempt to firm up Hegel's basic idea.

And you also note what an Orwellian view of freedom Hegel had. THE STATE is the essential reality and embodies all of human progress. And we are free only when we are all merged into a common will within the State. So the ultimate freedom is the freedom of the ant -- freedom to march happily and voluntarily in lockstep with everybody else. Any other freedom is "of a low and limited order" and "mere caprice".

Horrific? Maybe to most people reading this but the political Left of today still seems to have that ideal. That is where the political correctness movement seems to be marching off towards -- a total uniformity of thought and speech where nobody is "offended" and everybody lives by "enlightened" rules.

And you can also see the foundation for the ideas that Hitler, Mussolini and Lenin had about the supremacy of the State over the individual. And hopefully, seeing how those particular States ended up warns us of how dangerous Hegel's seemingly obscure ideas in fact are.

And the revered Woodrow Wilson was an Hegelian too. As we read in this summary of a very large study of Wilson's writings:

Quote:"Wilson set forth his theory of government in numerous academic writings (compiled by Pestritto in his companion volume), in which his debt to foreign thinkers is clearly evident, not only in his use of sources but in the arguments themselves. Pestritto's discussion of these philosophical themes is lucid and helpful. Here one finds traces of both Hegel and the social Darwinism that suffused so many of the writings of that period. Wilson accepts the Hegelian notion that progress occurs through struggle and conflict, and shifts seamlessly into a social Darwinian discourse about superior races. (Although Pestritto rejects the usual interpretation that Wilson was "merely" a Southern racist, preferring to attribute his racism to more heady sources, it is not clear why Wilson's prejudice against blacks must be an either/or matter.)

Again following Hegel, Wilson rejected social compact theory as too abstract, despite the evidence that this was in fact how the American republic was established (and, we can add, the prevailing model of what constitutes legitimacy in today's world). Nor did he show any sympathy for the idea that the so-called state of nature reflects an insight about the moral primacy of the individual or the legitimate purposes of government. For Wilson, it was not the rights-bearing individual who matters but the society as a whole. Accordingly, he rejected the founders' idea that free government must seek to enlist the interests and passions, as well as the opinions, of each individual. For Wilson, the appeal to self-interest clearly marked a more primitive era, which history had left behind. Disinterestedness, directed toward the common good, was now the higher moral calling, and individual rights should no longer be permitted to serve as a barrier to the achievement of the ethical state. This was true especially for property rights, which Wilson regarded as historically contingent. He dismissed the founders' claim that in a popular government, majority tyranny remains a permanent danger. History, acting through the great cataclysm of the Civil War, had brought forth a single nation out of a divided confederation and united it in one will. (Pestritto shrewdly wonders why two parties should remain if there is one will.) In Wilson's reading, the Civil War did not vindicate the principles of the founding but moved decisively beyond them, to attain a higher unity of will....

In true Hegelian fashion, Wilson divided American history into separate epochs, each of which marked an advance upon the previous era. He regarded Madison and Hamilton as essentially British (though they failed to recognize that the British constitution was evolving, and clung instead to permanent principles). More surprisingly, in his essay "A Calendar of Great Americans" Wilson declared Jefferson "not a thorough American because of the strain of French philosophy that permeated and weakened all his thought." Overall, Wilson adopted the moderate Progressive line that the founders were good for their time, but that their primitive individualism was now completely outdated. A decidedly odd Democrat, he criticized Andrew Jackson (as he had Jefferson) for supporting decentralization and strict construction. Moreover, he blamed Jackson for having introduced the spoils system, which rewarded cronies and allowed "special interests" to corrupt politics. Wilson judged the Civil War to be necessary in a world-historical sense, because it brought about national unity. In his reading, Reconstruction (once the North removed federal troops from the South and allowed the superior white race to regain control) moved America forward, beyond narrow constitutionalism, toward a growing realization that mere forms and formalities should not impede the will of the nation.

(3). NAPOLEON BONAPARTE: The first Fascist of modern history

Napoleon Bonaparte was the child and heir of the very first Leftist revolution, the French revolution, and he is to this day lauded as the man who took the "ideals" of the French revolution to the rest of Europe. Like all Leftist dictators, he preached the central Leftist myth of equality -- but did not practice it -- and built up around himself a cult of the leader that was very much the same as that built up around themselves by Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung etc.

And, again like other Fascists, he took French nationalism and love of gloire to new heights. During his rule -- police state though it was -- he made the French feel that they were the greatest nation on earth. And the French died in their droves in furtherance of that myth -- just as Germans later died in their droves for Hitler. Mussolini may have invented the term but it was really Napoleon who was the first Fascist in modern European history. Arthur Silber (Post of Nov. 13, 2002) has put up some excerpts from the biography of Napoleon by Paul Johnson that show how very Fascist Napoleon indeed was:

Quote:"The [French] Revolution was a lesson in the power of "disgusting" to replace idealism, and Bonaparte was its ideal pupil. Moreover, the Revolution left behind itself a huge engine: administrative and legal machinery to repress the individual such as the monarchs of the ancien regime never dreamed of; a centralized power to organize national resources that no previous state had ever possessed; an absolute concentration of authority, first in a parliament, then in a committee, finally in a single tyrant, that had never been known before; and a universal teaching that such concentration expressed the general will of a united people, as laid down in due constitutional form, approved by referendum. In effect, then, the Revolution created the modern totalitarian state, in all essentials, if on an experimental basis, more than a century before it came to its full and horrible fruition in the twentieth century. It also became, as Professor Herbert Butterfield has put it, 'the mother of modern war...[heralding] the age when peoples, woefully ignorant of one another, bitterly uncomprehending, lie in uneasy juxtaposition, watching one another's sins with hysteria and indignation. It heralds Armageddon, the giant conflict for justice and right between angered populations, each of which thinks it is the righteous one. So a new kind of warfare is born--the modern counterpart of the old conflicts of religion.'"

And another of Bonaparte's policies shows him as a forerunner even in the racist aspects of Fascism:

Quote:"In Le Crime de Napoleon the historian Claude Ribbe recalls that the emperor brought back slavery in the French empire in 1802, a decade after it had been abolished by the Revolution. The decision led to brutal fighting in France's Caribbean colonies in which thousands died. Less well known, according to the book, is his imposition of racial laws in metropolitan France, which led to the internment of blacks and the forced break-up of inter-racial marriages".

Since Napoleon is still a French national hero, it is no wonder that the Germans found it relatively easy to get the French to "collaborate" in World War II.

And Napoleon's ideas too have of course always remained alive in France -- even to this day. And that was part of what was behind the various diatribes by Marx and Lenin against "Bonapartism". "Bonapartism" was a rival revolutionary doctrine to Marxism long before the era of Hitler and Mussolini. The Bonapartist that Marx particularly objected to was in fact Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of the original Napoleon) -- one of whose campaign slogans was: "There is one name which is the symbol of order, of glory, of patriotism; and it is borne today by one who has won the confidence and affection of the people." So, like the original Napoleon himself, the Bonapartists were both very nationalist and saw themselves as heirs to the French revolution. So it was very grievous for most communists when, in his later writings, the ultra-Marxist Trotsky identified not only Fascism but also the Soviet State as "Bonapartist". That was one judgment in which Trotsky was undoubtedly correct, however!

(4). WOODROW WILSON explains

Some excerpts about Aryans and such folk from Woody's book: The State. Elements of Historical and Practical Politics (1897). At least Woody is miles easier to follow than Hegel:



1. Nature of the Question
. --- The probable origin of government is a question of fact, to be settled not by conjecture, but by history. Its answer is to be sought amidst such traces as remain to us of the history of primitive societies. Facts have come down to us from that early time in fragments, many of them having been revealed only by inference, and having been built together by the sagacious ingenuity of scholars much as complete skeletons have been reared by inspired naturalists in the light of the meagre suggestions of only a fossil joint or two. As those fragments of primitive animals have been kept for us sealed up in the earth's rocks, so fragments of primitive institutions have been preserved, embedded in the rocks of surviving law or custom, mixed up with the rubbish of accumulated tradition, crystallized in the organization of still savage tribes, or kept curiously in the museum of fact and rumor swept together by some ancient historian. Limited and perplexing as such means of reconstructing history may be, they repay patient comparison and analysis as richly as do the materials of the archaeologist and the philologian. The facts as to the origin and early history of government are at least as available as the facts concerning the growth and kinship of languages or the genesis and development of the arts and sciences. At any rate, such light as we can get from the knowledge of the infancy of society thus meagerly afforded us is better than that which might be derived from any a priori speculations founded upon our acquantance with our modern selves, or from any fancies, how learnedly soever constructed, that we could weave as to the way in which history might plausibly be read backwards.

2. Races to be studied: the Aryans. --- For purposes of widest comparison in tracing the development of government it would of course be desirable to include in a study of early society not only those Aryans and Semitic races which have played the chief parts in the history of the world, but also every primitive tribe, whether Hottentot or Iriquois, Finn or Turk, of whose institutions and development we know anything at all. Such a world-view survey would be necessary to any institution which should claim to trace government in all its forms to a common archetype. But, practically, no such sweeping together of incongruous savage usage and tradition is


Here's an extended list of reading links on Fascism, and Progressivism.

The American Roots of Fascism:

Progressivism: How Many Steps Forward This Time?

Great article - but we need attention placed on the Progressive era after 1964. This is when the GOP pushed through the Civil Rights Bills, and also when Democrats evoked their strategy of "We changed - now they are us and we are them." That allowed a KKK Grand Kleagal to maintain his seat in the Senate and for the Democrats to draw the Black voter to their bosom. It allowed the Democrats to invent a "Southern Strategy" supposedly run by Nixon and Reagan to corroborate their claims as the Party of "Goodness and Light."
Bill, copying these articles to Jane, requires a good deal of time, wrestling with all the "html" and double checking, etc, etc. I am attempting to add to the list but can only do so much.

Perhaps you can rustle up what you want to be added?

Another nice article on Progressivism today, and how far it will continue forcing itself upon us.

Quote:Progressivism: How Many Steps Forward This Time?

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7 October 2009 74 views

by Victor Morawski

When English philosopher John Locke, who greatly influenced America's Founding Fathers, claimed that mixing our labor with what was formerly common property gave us the right to now call that property our own, he both reaffirmed the Protestant work ethic and provided a philosophical defense of private property rights.

Writing of the rights affirmed by the English ["Glorious"] Revolution of 1688, Locke focused on three: "life, liberty, and the right to own private property." Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence famously broadened the scope of the third to the more comprehensive "pursuit of happiness."

For Locke, it was to secure and protect private property rights that governments were formed. Even the rights to life and liberty, for him, sprang from the property rights that we have to our own body and our own person.

That we have these rights not from government but from our Creator was obvious to Locke and the Founding Fathers. As such they were inalienable ["unalienable" was a printer's typo]. While an alien is separated from his or her homeland, these rights could not be separated from us, not even by government.

When Barack Obama claimed that it was effectively his goal and that of his administration to fundamentally remake America, he did so from the standpoint of Progressivism, a loosely constructed conglomerate of political philosophies which share in common a rejection of the view of our nation's founding documents as given above.

Influenced by the German philosopher Hegel's view that the entirety of human history is in a constant state of flux and development, Progressivism views them not as incorporating timeless and invariable truths concerning fundamental human rights and government's role in protecting them, but as anachronistic documents, culturally bound to their own time and circumstances, inadequate for contemporary challenges.

President Wilson, a Progressive pioneer, suggested applying a Darwinian metaphor to the Constitution: Like an evolving species it needs to adapt to its environment to meet contemporary needs. It is a living, not a static, document.

According to Ronald J. Restritto in an article entitled "The Birth of the Administrative State," it was President Woodrow Wilson who first suggested a way to free American government from the checks and balances placed on it in the Constitution and pave the way for Progressive reforms: vest more and more real power in the hands of unelected administrators.

He seems to have genuinely held what strikes many as an incredibly naïve belief, namely that administrators who were experts in their own fields, would somehow be above politics and so interested in devoting themselves to serving the needs of the citizenry that checks and balances on their actions would be unnecessary.

Whether Barack Obama accepts Wilson's view, he seems to have learned its lesson well. In appointing one unelected Czar after another to positions of overriding authority in his administration, he has engineered countless end runs around Constitutional safeguards.

While Locke believed that governments should be instituted for the protection of individual rights and liberties, Progressivism has from its inception loathed individualism and its political expression in our founding documents. In "The Meaning of 'Progressive' Politics" Barry Loberfeld quotes Herbert Croly, a Progressive writer, as saying that, "The Promise of American Life is to be fulfilled.... by a large measure of individual subordination and self-denial."

Reading this, one is reminded of Barack Obama's response to a question from an NBC News reporter on why he thought his proposal for a government takeover of the health care system had aroused such widespread antipathy. As Obama put it: "It's an argument that's gone on for the history of this republic, and that is, What's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look out for one another?...... This is not a new argument, and it always evokes passions."

No wonder the great concern of center right Constitutional Originalists is that the Obama Administration, with its unchecked Czars, unwavering Congressional support for a large and invasive government - and admitted quest to "balance freedom" - seems to think that it can advance Progressive reforms in far more than merely incremental ways. And if it does, it may finally be able to tip the balance that remakes America into a Socialist state once and for all.

Victor Morawski, a professor at Coppin State University, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

Of course, the Obananation could be stimulating us into a depression, done the Progressive way.

But read on. Progressives are basically all alike. They hate the successful, and want to impose Egalitarianism upon one and all. And the State is the recommended means of accomplishing this.

Also, note the last paragraph of this article, and try to tie it in to Frederic Bastiat's "Unseen" hand.

"People only see the jobs created by government programs, never the jobs that are lost in the private sector to create them. Programs focus on the benefits that will be provided to a particular segment of society, never to who pays for those benefits. Progressive solutions buy votes but not economic prosperity."

As Bastiat has stated,

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great "disgusting" to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present "disgusting".

Quote:Stimulating Our Way to Depression
5 October 2009 79 views

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By David Nace

In 1932, FDR had an opportunity to change the conventional way that governments deal with a recession. His predecessor, Herbert Hoover, who also had a tendency towards central planning, had started the process. Instead of allowing markets to correct themselves as they had in all the previous panics, as depressions were then called, both men instituted programs of government intervention.

Hoover signed the Smoot Hawley tariff even after many of the leading economists of the time personally implored him not to sign it. A tariff would help improve farm prices, which was a cornerstone of the progressive movement. He asked businesses not to lower wages, as had been done in previous panics. Wages remained high but unemployment soared.

Although Roosevelt had campaigned on a platform of balanced budgets, once in office things changed. Many of his advisors were college professors and writers from within the progressive movement. Very few were trained economists, but several had been to Russia and seen Stalin's central planning first hand. Others had an admiration of Benito Mussolini's nationalization of industry in Italy. Once FDR was in office they were determined to apply what they had seen in America.

The utility industry had been one of the most highly leveraged industries to be affected by the Stock Market Crash, and was essential to industrial production. The newly developed utilities were grossly overvalued similar to the internet companies of the 1990's or the housing industry of early last year. By 1932, utility stocks were worth a mere fraction of their 1929 value. FDR began to plan how the government would replace private utilities as a large scale electrical power producer. This would also enable him to take credit for providing thousands of construction jobs and control energy production. The first government utility was the Tennessee Valley Authority. It would provide power in the Appalachian region rather then allow private industry to electrify the area.

To prevent wages from going down in response to the demand for labor, FDR instituted the National Industrial Recovery Act, which allowed large business to form cartels in exchange for allowing unionization of their plants. This helped large businesses that had lower costs absorb the additional costs of unionization but was very damaging to small businesses. Wage rates were 25% higher than they should have been, but so was unemployment. Prices for goods were also 25% higher then they should have been.

When unemployment failed to go down as the result of the NIRA programs and the associated unionization, FDR instituted numerous make work programs through out America. These programs employed not only construction workers but also actors, artists and writers. These programs also greatly increased government expenditures and the national debt.

FDR and his progressive advisors generally resented those people that earn more then their college professor salaries, especially industrialists. They blamed industrialists for not hiring more people to reduce unemployment. This gave progressives justification to raise the marginal tax rates on the wealthy from 26% to above 90%. The wealthy responded by investing in other types of investments and their share of the total tax revenue actually fell during the Depression.

Even though the ideas and programs that FDR and the progressives instituted were not effective in preventing the stock market crash of 1929 from turning into the Great Depression, they were effective in creating a loyal voting base. By demonizing the wealthy, FDR was able to take credit for the government jobs his programs created at the expense of jobs in private industry that the provisions of the NIRA took away. FDR learned by 1935 that a crisis should never go to waste.

If this narrative sounds familiar, it should. The progressives of the 1920's that had been shut out of politics since Wilson's administration needed a crisis to return to power and institute their ideas of central planning in America. Today liberals are trying to do the same. Progressives of the 1930's stifled industrial production with regulation and unionization and today they want to do the same. During the Depression, progressives wanted to control the production of energy, today they propose cap and trade to do the same thing.

Socialists then and now rely on the writings of the economist, John Maynard Keynes to justify large government spending programs to stimulate the economy. However, Keynes himself wrote to FDR in 1938 questioning his spending programs and why FDR would use only one aspect of his economic theories. The answer is very simple: government programs create the illusion of improving the economy. People only see the jobs created by government programs, never the jobs that are lost in the private sector to create them. Programs focus on the benefits that will be provided to a particular segment of society, never to who pays for those benefits. Progressive solutions buy votes but not economic prosperity.

David Nace is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

Note who was our first Progressive president, and which party he was leading.

The Legacy of Progressivism

Original Article

Posted By William Anderson

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The Legacy of Progressivism

by William L. Anderson
Posted on the Internet January 10, 2000

While Franklin Delano Roosevelt narrowly missed being Time Magazine's "Man of the Century," there is no doubt that the man who prolonged the Great Depression and helped lay the groundwork for World War II looms large in the consciousness of statist journalists and historians. Although FDR's role in the Second World War is of utmost importance to the pundits, his main historical role seems to be the New Deal, which permanently established the welfare/warfare state in this country.

Contrary to popular belief, FDR's New Deal was not the most significant legislative period of the 20th Century. In fact, had it not been for the reign of Progressivism more than two decades earlier, Franklin Roosevelt would simply have been a relatively obscure governor of New York, known more for being a distant cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt.

The New Deal did not rise out of a vacuum. Rather, the New Deal " and the subsequent canonization of FDR " came about as the result of the legal, bureaucratic, and intellectual framework that was laid down during the Progressive Era of the early 1900s.

Without Progressivism, the New Deal would and never could have come into existence. The vast expansion of the state apparatus that occurred during the 1930s moved along tracks already laid by politicians like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. By the mid-1930s, the New Deal, far from being a legislative aberration, naturally followed the economic crisis that Progressivism had caused.

Just what was Progressivism, what were its causes, and what followed from the Progressive Movement? Historians refer to it as an influential social movement that began in the late 1800s and ended with the United State's 1917 entry into World War I.

Among the many "successes" of Progressivism were antitrust laws, state and national income taxes, increased business regulation, minimum wage laws, direct election of U.S. senators, creation of the Federal Reserve System, and prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

Other than prohibition, historians (and many economists) almost uniformly praise Progressivism and its results. Take the passage of antitrust laws, for example. Whether it be from history texts, encyclopedias, or news stories, the story is almost always the same: huge business trusts were monopolizing the economy, artificially driving up prices, producing shoddy products, and generally dragging down the standard of living for most people. Aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, especially after the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, broke up many trusts and set the stage for future prosperity.

The only problem with this explanation is that it is patently untrue. First, if American businesses were stifling competition and charging monopoly prices, they had a strange way of doing it. By almost any standard of measurement, economic prospects for nearly everyone were increasing by the end of the 19th Century, as prices for most goods fell rapidly.

If this era is known for impressive economic accomplishments, it is also known for its journalistic excesses. Not only did William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer conspire to inflame Americans with war fever against Spain in 1898, but a group of writers called muckrakers created a false picture of life in the United States.

In fact, it seems that one of the most insidious things to come from the Progressive Era was the wedding of mainstream journalism and statism. The formerly independent journalist now became a flack for expansion of the power of the state, as the chief "beat" of news reporters became the various government agencies.

Most of the "muckrakers" were also socialists. For example Upton Sinclair is famous for his 1906 book, The Jungle, which, among other things, described what were supposedly horrific conditions in the meat packing industry in Chicago. While most history books treat his depiction of rats and even humans being processed into meat sold to consumers as gospel truth, his book was simply untrue and represented a crude attempt to convince Americans that socialism was their only hope. (Investigation after investigation of the meat packing industry showed Sinclair's claims to be false.)

Sinclair admitted afterward that his book was an attempt to change the "American heart," but instead managed only to affect "its stomach." Historians often say that The Jungle led directly to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. As usual, the truth is more complicated.

As Milton Friedman has pointed out, American meat processors were anxious to show Europeans that their products were not poisonous and the FDA became the mechanism to do that.

Ida Tarbell's The History of the Standard Oil Company, an anti-Rockefeller screed which many historians treat as an accurate documentary of Standard Oil's practices, must be seen in the light of the author herself. Tarbell, another socialist, was the daughter of an oil executive from a rival oil company that had lost the battle of the marketplace to Standard Oil.

Although competent economic historians have pointed out time and again that Rockefeller's company gained its large market share through efficiency and lower prices, Progressivists who believed oil " like everything else " needed to come under the heavy hand of government spread the lie that Standard Oil had gained its dominant position through violence, fraud, and chicanery.

Nor was Progressivism the domain of just one political party, as both Republicans and Democrats vied with each other to see who could more thoroughly expand the state. Republicans, led by Theodore Roosevelt and Sen. Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin, pushed for high tariffs, government ownership of natural resources, antitrust legislation, and imperialistic adventures abroad.

Democrats, on the other hand, led by William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson, pushed the income tax, inflation through debasement of the money supply, and the internal protectionist device known as Jim Crow laws, which attempted to shield white workers from competition from blacks. Both parties favored expansion of voting rights to women. What is clear is that neither party had any intention of honoring the U.S. Constitution.

In fact, the Progressive Era would not have had its social and legal effect had it not been for its reworking of the Constitution through the amendment process. The 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th amendments reworked the political landscape and greatly expanded the scope of the central government, one of the main goals of progressives. The 16th Amendment was probably the worst, as it authorized Congress for the first time to levy an income tax that would not be struck down by the Supreme Court.

The 17th Amendment took power of appointment of U.S. senators from the state legislatures and and placed it in the hands of voters. This further helped make the states subservient to the national agenda of progressives. The 18th Amendment was the infamous prohibition of alcoholic beverages, while the 19th Amendment forced all states to permit women to vote.

The imposition of the income tax was a green light for unbridled growth of the central government by allowing politicians to confiscate willy-nilly the property of individuals -and especially the property of the most productive citizens. Prohibition further increased the power of the central government over the property of Americans, while the other two amendments permanently altered the delicate balance of powers that the framers of the Constitution so painstakingly laid out in 1787.

Entry into World War I in 1917 was not, as many historians have said, the end of Progressivism, but rather - as Murray Rothbard so aptly pointed out [.pdf file] - its fulfillment. The advent of war empowered the central government to seize ownership of U.S. railroads, as well as to reorganize much of the economy into a series of cartels controlled by committees of business executives, military officers, and bureaucrats. Strong press censorship reigned, all with the express backing of mainstream journalists. The Progressivist dream of socialism came into being through the auspices of patriotism.

Although most historians lament the "demise" of Progressivism during the 1920s, in truth, it hardly disappeared. For one, the Federal Reserve System worked feverishly to maintain the artificial rate of exchange of the British Pound and the U.S. Dollar and expand the domestic money supply, feeding speculative bubbles which finally collapsed with Black Thursday on Wall Street. Second, even though Congress cut the top income tax rate from its World War I high of more than 60 percent to 25 percent, this tax still was the main source of revenue for a government that had not ever shrunk back to its prewar levels.

After the Fed-induced crash of 1929, President Herbert Hoover, a favorite of a large number of Progressives, decided to take a non laissez-faire approach to the economic downturn that followed the crash. Within a couple of years, Hoover had openly urged business owners to keep wages and prices artificially high, signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff into law and oversaw the doubling of tax rates. As Rothbard noted in America's Great Depression, all of these measures took what would have been a brief recession and turned it into the greatest economic calamity in U.S. history.

That Progressivism ultimately led to the Great Depression should be obvious. Not surprisingly, Franklin Roosevelt chose to expand the powers of the state. Not surprisingly, his actions prolonged the depression. And, not surprisingly, the Progressivist propaganda machine was able to convince the public that the solution lay not in elimination of government intervention, but rather in further expansion of government.

While the names of interventionist politicians have changed, the Progressive Era still remains. The modern regulatory state is firmly rooted in Progressivist legislation of 100 years ago, the income tax still confiscates hard-earned wealth of productive Americans, and the Fed continues to inflate. The U.S. Supreme Court, once the bulwark against the Progressivist agenda, today gives rubber stamp approval to the latest legislative outrages.

Just as the political classes turned liberalism upon its head with Liberalism, so have Progressivists undermined the meaning of progress. The rise of humanity from its existence of perpetual poverty to the modern standard of living has occurred precisely because people were free to dream, invent, and invest. Real progress has happened because the stifling chains of government were removed from people. It is false Progress which seeks to reimpose those shackles.

Fred Smith. president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writes this essay, about the Progressive movement, and how it hijacked 19th century liberalism.

What is interesting is that in the last decade, or so, the truth is finally coming out about the Real Progressive movement, and the Real Liberalism. Some things just take time to refute, just as the AGW Hoax, which is finally in the process of falling apart.

Quote:The Progressive Era's Derailment of Classical-Liberal Evolution

Posted By Fred L. Smith Jr. , June 2004, Vol. 54/Issue 6

It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in the system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.

Ludwig von Mises
Human Action

This statement captures the core dynamic nature of the classical-liberal view of civilization. Civilization is the slow evolutionary process by which a rich framework of institutions evolves (private property, contracts, the rule of law) and enables individuals to engage in exchange. By so doing, individuals advance and protect the values they hold. As new values emerge, as older resources become scarce, classical liberals envision the institutional framework expanding to encompass them. The framework is always in flux, gradually growing as mankind's interests and challenges also expand.

Civilization evolved familial institutions, which allowed diversified management units - experimental entities that could take chances without endangering the tribe. Land moved from the tragedy of the commons to private property. In more recent times, the initial bundle of concepts comprising the idea of private property was unbundled to allow separate ownership of subsurface rights and then later ownership of even the electromagnetic spectrum. As discussed below, environmental resources are the latest challenge to this evolutionary process.

Classical liberals do not see the market as failing; rather, they see inadequate resources making it difficult for individuals to express their preferences. That tension creates the opportunity for institutional entrepreneurs to advance reforms that might better allow those preferences to be expressed. In the classical-liberal view, we are not charged with protecting the environment or anything else. There is no social utility function. Rather, individuals gain the right to own newly valued resources and to determine individually what sacrifices-what tradeoffs-they find worthwhile to protect those resources.

Precedents-in history or in other societies-guide that evolution. Innovators invent new ways of "fencing" the commons (barbed wire), devise methods of unbundling the "sticks" making up established property (creating divestible rights in subsurface minerals), and extend property rights to newly homesteaded resources (the electromagnetic spectrum). Institutional innovation is the process of creative construction, integrating an ever-greater fraction of the world's resources into a system of voluntary exchange. That integration liberates the creative destruction of the extended market, making it possible for man to resolve more and more disputes without conflict or the risks of collectivism. Civilization is the trial-and-error process in which these experiments are validated or rejected.

This classical-liberal evolutionary process accelerated during the Industrial Revolution, as man's creative energies found ways of working with nature to yield value. That process was weakened with the success of the "progressive" belief that planned order would better advance the human condition than the spontaneous order championed by economic liberalism. The progressives have largely succeeded in derailing institutional evolution for the last century or so. Resources not integrated into the classical-liberal order before 1900 are still not integrated today. Much of the western United States is the property of the federal government, as are almost all offshore areas. The electromagnetic spectrum, which Ronald Coase noted was actively being homesteaded privately, was brought back under collectivist control. And the air sheds, rivers and lakes, and wildlife-all of which became valued in the later nineteenth century-remain totally under political control. The fatal conceit that motivated progressives ensured that centralized political management would replace the evolutionary approach that had prevailed. The result is the mishmash of public policy today.

Approach to the Environment

Contemporary environmental policy illustrates the result of that derailment. Today, most policy analysts (even libertarians) addressing environmental problems raise the possibility of private ownership of environmental resources (water, wildlife, air sheds) as a means of addressing environmental concerns, only to swiftly dismiss that approach as infeasible. The transaction costs associated with environmental resource ownership, we are told, are too high.

The classical-liberal challenge is to re-examine this history and to assess what institutions might have evolved had America not adopted collectivism. The roots of most modern public-policy problems stem from the destruction of the evolutionary process.

The implications of this thesis are important. It explains many of the fallacies of modern economics: market failures, "natural" monopolies (never, one might note, found in nature), public goods, externalities, lack of competitive grids. All stem from the impoverished state of institutions throughout the modern economy. Only areas where government was too slow to block the evolutionary process (the Internet, for example) have escaped this stagnation. I develop this theme in the environmental area.

As the quote by Mises suggests, it is not obvious that any environmental problems would have emerged-or if they had emerged, would have persisted-had the Progressive Era not prevailed. After all, economic issues are as old as mankind. The first cave dweller who dragged home his kill must have suffered some criticism from his neighbors as the carcass began to decay. Those early environmental problems were dealt with by the evolution of cultural rules-carry away offal, pollute waters only downstream of the tribe, move fires safely away from the huts. Traditional societies evolved some sophisticated procedures for managing environmental issues.

The key question is: Why, as wealth increased and allowed this greater appreciation of environmental values, didn't new institutions evolve that would have empowered individuals to express their changing preferences?

The answer, I believe, lies in the undermining of the classical-liberal evolutionary process that occurred during the Progressive Era. Progressives believed that markets and private property slowed progress, and that collective management of resources would more surely advance the public interest. Thus they blocked the extension of private property to resources that had not yet been privatized (indeed, in the case of the electromagnetic spectrum and some arid western lands, rolling back fledgling homesteading efforts). Progressives also transformed the rule of law, making it more utilitarian, more willing to ignore individual values to advance the "common good." Social concerns trumped individual rights. Earlier common-law defenses of individual property rights that might have encouraged economic development along more environmentally sensitive paths were weakened or abandoned.

New Agencies

The progressives also created or expanded a vast array of "promotional" agencies-the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, the Rural Electrification Administration, the U.S. Forest Service—to dam rivers, build canals, manage timberlands, and string power lines. The pro-economic-growth biases of these institutions (undoubtedly the popular view at that time) led them to neglect environmental values. Progressive views came to dominate American culture, leading courts and legislators to weaken nuisance trespass. Economic activity became associated with low environmental protection; it is not surprising that many Americans saw economic development as "causing" disasters.

Thus when a wealthier America began to place greater value on ecological concerns-when, in fact, the effective political majority began to demand that the environment be protected-pollution and other environmental problems were viewed as a result of economic activity. The "market failure" explanation was accepted, even by most "free market economists."

Yet, as the initial quote by Mises suggests, this line of thinking is confused. Had classical-liberal institutions evolved, environmental values would have been integrated gradually into individuals' varying preferences. In earlier eras voluntary exchanges would favor economic development over environmental preservation-poverty leaves little room for aesthetics. But, even then, some minority interests would have preferred the tranquility of their undisturbed properties to wealth. Thoreau was not unique, even in his time. In a system that honored private property, Thoreau would have been able to enjoin those whose activities would have disturbed his peaceful use of his property.

Such preferences enforced by legal remedies would have encouraged economic developers to devise methods of alleviating environmental damages. Railroads would have acquired larger buffer zones around their lines; technologies would have evolved earlier to suppress noise, odors, and emissions. Noxious industrial activities would have been sited in areas far from sensitive individuals. Methods for re-aerating oxygen-depleted waters or restocking damaged hunting or fishery areas would have been explored by firms seeking to reduce costs.

Moreover, private property would have earlier been extended to ensure those protections for environmental resources as they became more valuable to the citizenry. As an example of this evolutionary process, consider the way property rights evolved to protect and advance the development of underground liquid resources. America had departed from the European tradition of transferring ownership and control of all underground mineral resources to the state. In America individuals privately owned subsurface mineral rights and could sell those properties to economic developers if they wished. That slight shift encouraged a far more aggressive entrepreneurial exploration for things of value. Privatization of the underground resource made possible the rapid development of the modern petroleum industry. (I am aware that oil wells had existed far earlier-in China around 1000 A.D.)

The result was that oil was always managed as a sustainable resource. From the time of Colonel Drake's first gusher in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859 until today, America's private petroleum industry has aggressively spent vast sums mapping subterranean resources, seeking geological formations in which oil might be found. A new science, seismology, was developed to make this exploration more efficient. Once oil was discovered, owners sought to map the boundaries of each pool. Firms developed creative ways of contacting and negotiating with surface owners to acquire integrated ownership of these pools. One creative innovation was "unitization"-the acquisition of all initially dispersed subsurface rights and their economic reorganization into integrated physical units, allowing more efficient drilling, pumping, and extraction. The result of bringing this once-common property resource into the classical-liberal institutional framework has been spectacular. Oil has become an ever-more-abundant resource as we've become ever-more-skillful at discovering, developing, and refining it.

Note, however, that the evolution of property rights in petroleum occurred prior to the Progressive Era. Classical-liberal policies were still dominant; there was no force to block the creative evolution of rational institutional arrangements. The progressives had not yet derailed the process by which newly valued resources were gradually integrated into the market.

Groundwater and the Progressives

In contrast, groundwater became a scarce-and therefore valued-commodity after the progressives gained control. Ground-water was abundant in the nineteenth century-moreover, surface water was generally a more economical source of this resource. The value of groundwater in this early period did not encourage anyone to incur the costs of promoting the institutional arrangements that would have allowed it to be owned privately, as was oil. Thus property rights were never extended to groundwater, so it never became a "private" resource like oil.

The result of these different treatments of comparable underground liquid resources is striking: The relatively scarce commodity (petroleum) has become ever-more abundant, while the relatively abundant commodity (water) has become ever scarcer.

Another cost of the Progressive Era has been the increasing conflict surrounding water policy. If oil is discovered in a region, the residents are elated. There exists a well-established way in which the value of that resource can be exchanged with the outside world, creating wealth for the local region and greater resource availability for the consumers of the world. In contrast, for example, a bottled-water facility in a basin may find demand for its products growing dramatically, but face great opposition if it seeks to expand output. The lack of any agreed-on exchange method of transferring water ensures conflict rather than cooperation. PERC economist Terry Anderson notes that this explains the saying "Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting!"

Of course, in some environmental areas, fragments of a classical-liberal institutional order did survive. In England, fishermen formed associations that were able to force reductions in harmful pollutants from both industry and municipalities. In some regions, custom and culture produced property-rights arrangements to protect shellfish in bays and estuaries.

But the broad outlines remain dismal. Resources that were outside the private sphere in the 1890s remain so today. And resources that were only beginning to enter the private sphere at that time-the electromagnetic spectrum, fisheries, and western lands-effectively reverted to political control and suffered the tragedy of the commons. The gradual emergence of the environment as a valued aspect of life occurred in a world bereft of classical-liberal institutions. Older property-rights defenses were slowly eroded, and their newer adaptations were blocked. The result was that when environmental values became majority values, few realized that they might better be protected privately via a creative program of ecological privatization.

The Challenge

The challenge to classical-liberal scholars today-and to all those championing environmental values-is to revisit the evolutionary steps that were underway before the Progressive Era. Our goal must be to gather up those embryonic threads and extend them to today. The difficulties of doing so are great. Absent the incentives and the innovations that would now exist, we are forced into an imaginative and difficult gedanken, or thought, experiment: what would the world look like had the Progressive derailment not occurred?

As discussed, leaders of the modern environmental movement are not only unaware of the value of private property in protecting environmental values, they are often antagonistic to the market and its institutional underpinnings. We must not only present reasonable steps toward a system of ecological privatization, but also work to legitimize this approach. One path to such reforms is to recognize the overcentralization of current environmental policy (the view that only the federal government has the wisdom and concern needed to protect environmental values) and reopen the Green Laboratory of the States. Most environmental problems are local and regional in nature, and even those larger-scale problems occur somewhere before they occur nationally. Steps that would allow local owners to protect their properties would have positive spillover (external) value to the nation as a whole. An effort should be made to identify and remove the barriers to classical-liberal environmentalism. The traditional common-law defenses of property-trespass and nuisance-should be reinstituted in areas where current practices permit, and phased in where past locational decisions would block any immediate reform. The direction that reform should take is clear-to think creatively about the changes that would likely have occurred had the Progressive tide not derailed the evolutionary process.

Restoring the classical-liberal order in the environmental field (or anywhere else) will not be easy, but there is no alternative. To manage the modern economy via centralized control is impossible; to "perfect" the market via pervasive government regulations is even more impossible. Yet the absence of property rights in environmental resources-wildlife in America, air sheds, rivers, lakes, and bays almost everywhere-means that we must begin the reform process almost from scratch.

Indeed, in the ecological field, the problems faced are similar to-but perhaps even greater than-those addressed by Hernando de Soto in establishing private property rights in such conventional resources as land and buildings in the developing world. In both cases, we know where we wish to go, but we have no roadmap to guide us. Indeed, the problem in the environmental field is far more complex than that in the economic sphere. In the economic sphere, there are working approximations of the classical-liberal world, while in the ecological field, there are only fragments.

We must repair the impoverished state of our institutional framework for addressing the environmental concerns that we all share. To fail in this task is to risk further losses of economic liberty. Eco-socialism is even more complex than traditional socialism. It will fail. Our challenge is to ensure that as this occurs, a free-market alternative is available and is understood. There is much work to do.

Nice article, which brings up the right question about Obama and his idealogical parallel with Wilson. It's really unsettling, isn't it?

Quote:Is President Obama the New Woodrow Wilson?
John Steele Gordon

Jen referred this morning to David Brooks's column, in which he advises the President to change his ways after the midterm election, especially if it turns out to be as disastrous for Democrats as nearly everyone expects. And this means changing his politics, just as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterm:

Quote:Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis - by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Unlike Clinton, who doesn't have an ideological bone in his body, I'm not sure Obama has the capacity to do that. I've just finished reading Louis Auchincloss's mini-biography of Woodrow Wilson (part of the "Penguin Lives" series), and I was struck by the similarities between the country's first liberal president and the man who might be its last (I know, I know, ever the optimist).

Wilson was, at heart, an academic, the author of several books, (including Congressional Government, still in print after 125 years). He thought and acted like a professor even after he entered politics. Wilson always took it for granted, for instance, that he was the smartest guy in the room and acted accordingly. Does that sound familiar? Wilson was a remarkably powerful orator. (It was he who revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union message in person, a custom that had been dropped by Thomas Jefferson, a poor and most reluctant public speaker.)

Both men had very short public careers before the White House. Wilson's only pre-presidential office was two years as Governor of New Jersey. And Wilson thought he had a pipeline to God, which allowed him to divine what was best for the world and gave him a moral obligation to give it to the world whether the world wanted it or not. This last tendency, evident even when he was president of Princeton University, became more pronounced with age as a series of debilitating strokes (the first at age 40) increasingly rigidified his personality.

Both Wilson and Obama were the subjects of remarkable public adulation, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize for their aspirations rather than their accomplishments. In Wilson's case, at least, it only increased his sense of being God's instrument on earth. Although the Republicans had won majorities just before Armistice Day in November 1918, in both houses of Congress - and the Senate's consent by a two-thirds majority would be necessary to ratify any treaty - Wilson shut them out of any say in the treaty he went to Paris to negotiate with the other victorious powers. Obama, of course, shut the Republicans out of any say in both the stimulus bill and ObamaCare.

The result was disastrous for Wilson's dream of world peace. So obsessed was he with creating a League of Nations that he was willing to surrender on almost everything else enunciated in his Fourteen Points to get it. Clemenceau and Lloyd George, shrewd and ruthless negotiators, played him like a fiddle. The result was the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps the most catastrophic work of diplomacy in world history, which produced a smoldering resentment in Germany at its harshness, a resentment exploited by Adolf Hitler.

When Wilson returned home, he flatly refused to compromise with the Republicans in the Senate and embarked on a speaking tour to build public pressure to force the treaty and the League through. The result was another stroke that left him incapacitated. The treaty was defeated 55-39, and when the Republicans tried to add a "reservation" that was essentially trivial but would have resulted in ratification, Wilson would have none of it. If he could not have the treaty, word for word, that he had negotiated, then he preferred nothing. He asked Democratic senators to vote against the amended treaty, and they did so. As a result, the United States did not join the League, which was hopelessly ineffective without the world's greatest power, and what Wilson had hoped would be eternal peace became a 20-year truce.

President Obama, so far as I know, is in the best of health, but will he be any more able to deal with a changed political reality and work with Republicans? I hope so, but even this incorrigible optimist is not too confident of that.

Martin Hutchinson explains how modern Progressives use Cronyism in order to create a largely Fascist economy, with all the costs and inefficiencies implied by that.

I wonder why both sides of the isle still have this thing about not using the "F" word more often.

Quote:The Evils of Cronyism

The awarding of a $36 billion tanker contract to Boeing illustrated the well-known difficulties caused by crony capitalism in the awarding of government contracts. However what is less well appreciated is the damaging effect that crony capitalism has in a number of other ways, making the economy less efficient and providing rent-seeking opportunities that are both morally and economically repugnant.

Let's begin with a definition of crony capitalism. In a truly free market, government is small, so gives out few contracts. It also passes few laws that affect business, so for even large corporations there is no point in hiring lobbyists. This was the position in Calvin Coolidge's America. It still appeared sufficiently true even in the 1990s that Microsoft spent no management attention on Washington lobbying "virtually ignoring the Washington power game" according to the New York Times - and was surprised in 1998 by a massive antitrust suit.

As Microsoft found to its cost (though it survived the antitrust suit and has made up for it since with massive lobbying activities) that is not the America - or world - in which we now live. Crony capitalist companies seek through campaign contributions and strategic placement of their alumni to produce legislation favoring their business, to get access to lucrative government contacts, to rewrite the tax laws in their favor and to create rent-seeking mechanisms whereby their profits (and management bonuses) can be enlarged at public expense.

The costs of crony capitalism became apparent in the 2008 financial crash and bailout. Two episodes stand out in particular. In the rescue of AIG, $62.1 billion of credit default swaps were paid out to counterparties such as Goldman Sachs, who also profited from their holdings of CDS against the credit of AIG itself. Goldman Sachs alumnus Hank Paulson was Treasury Secretary at the time, and appears to have given no significant thought to the possibility of killing the pernicious CDS market by allowing the $62.1 billion in losses to be levied on its major participants.

Second, the banking industry as a whole was energetic in encouraging Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues to lower interest rates to zero and to buy over $2 trillion of Treasury and agency securities - decisions which ran directly against Walter Bagehot's advice for a financial crisis, to lend freely, but at penally HIGH rates. We have not yet seen the full cost of this decision, which has reduced job creation in the recovery to a painfully slow rate (through making labor-saving capital investment artificially cheap) while very probably leading to a major inflationary collapse - and tangentially to the current Middle East turmoil, through the mechanism of excessively inflated commodity prices. Wall Street wanted low interest rates, to bail it out of the mess it had created, so that's what it got, without regard to the needs of the rest of the economy, the losses to America's beleaguered savers or the disruption it imposed on the world as a whole. Wall Street alumni being scattered liberally throughout the decision making process in both the Bush and Obama administrations, it was a classic case of crony capitalism. Again, no proper consideration was given to the Bagehotian alternative.

The longest-standing and most entrenched area of U.S. crony capitalism is agriculture. Farm subsidies were introduced in the 1930s and have remained important ever since, with a modest attempt to reduce them in 1996 being reversed by the Bush administration in 2002. In recent years an additional gigantic farm subsidy has been introduced, the corn-based ethanol fuel program. This subsidizes an especially inefficient method of fuel production, which offers no net benefit in terms of carbon emissions - it is a pure handout to the farm lobby, strengthened by the political salience of the Iowa presidential caucuses. Today much of U.S. agriculture is dependent on crony-capitalism controls and subsidies, at enormous cost to the food consumer and the world economy.

The global warming hysteria, as it played out, gave massive opportunities to crony capitalists (whether or not some modest measure of global warming is in fact occurring.) Global warming, once it emerged from the academy, was a project of extreme socialist environmentalists to increase government control of the economy. (The academicians themselves became "useful idiots" rewarded with tenure and massive grants in return for proclaiming the global warming religion, adjusting the facts where necessary to justify the theory.) However the movement would not have got far, at least in the United States, without the assistance of crony capitalists.

GE saw the opportunity to close high-labor-cost US light bulb manufacturing plants, relocating production to China, and to reap rewards from manufacturing higher-cost fluorescent light bulbs. Hence it worked with allies in Congress to institute in December 2007 an outright ban on incandescent light bulbs, effective 2012-2014. This measure was costly economically and damaging environmentally, since it failed to solve the disposal problem of the toxic CFL bulbs, which contain mercury.

Crony capitalism also reared its head in the abortive Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade environmental legislation of 2009. Cap-and-trade as a mechanism for controlling carbon emissions is highly subject to capture by crony capitalists, because it inserts the government into an entirely new area of economic activity, and allows it to give out emission permits to favored interest groups. The Waxman-Markey legislation was particularly unattractive in this respect; it imposed a huge new cost on the economy and then managed to lose over 80% of the revenue that should have been received by government through giving handouts to crony capitalists.

Immigration is another area in which crony capitalism is rife; in this case the crony capitalists seek to block proper enforcement of US immigration laws in order to ensure themselves a labor supply at below-market costs. As with the "cap-and-trade" scheme the crony capitalists are here seeking to distort the legal system and the market mechanism to achieve self-enrichment through government manipulation. The current dispute in Georgia is a case in point; Governor Nathan Deal, elected on a platform of enforcing the e-verify employment verification program, appears to have bowed to crony capitalists among his campaign donors and is now seeking to block the appropriate state legislation.

Crony capitalism is rife in the taxation system, as businesses seek special exemptions from taxes that apply to the remainder of their countrymen. The subsidies to GE and Whirlpool for making energy efficient washing machines, which appear to have wiped out a decade or so of the latter company's tax liability, are a case in point. Another example is the "carried interest" taxation of private equity funds, whereby the tax code deems their bonus remuneration to be a capital gain, even though no capital has been invested.

Of all areas in the U.S. economy, crony capitalism is most rife in the health system, which is why healthcare costs 50% more in the United States than elsewhere in the world. Hospitals are encouraged to load their non-insured customer with additional costs arising from their enforced mandate of providing free care in emergency rooms. An entire industry of medical care trial lawyers exists solely to leech off the medical system, using their political connections to ensure that their protection rackets are preserved unharmed. The pharmaceutical companies load their drug development costs onto U.S. consumers, protected by legislation prohibiting drug purchases from abroad. The examples are innumerable; the costs loaded onto the healthcare dollar are becoming unsustainable. Needless to say, President Obama's healthcare legislation, heavily supported by many producer interests in the healthcare sector, made none of the cost reductions that had been promised, simply adding a new layer of bureaucracy, cost and controls to an already overloaded system.

The above examples should indicate that crony capitalism has become a major burden on the U.S. economy. Through it, government meddling is proliferated, spurious costs are added and politically connected producer interests are given windfall profits. The problem has steadily worsened since the abandonment of small-government free enterprise in the Great Depression, and the proliferation of new excuses for regulation in the last few decades has provided endless new opportunities for crony capitalists, greatly increasing their burden on the economy.

The solution is not merely smaller government but less intrusive government. To the extent that laws are simple, comprehensible and properly enforced, the opportunities for crony capitalism are limited. Environmental controls need to be cut back to those that truly produce a net economic benefit, after taking into account the health and other costs of pollution. Immigration laws need to be simplified, with fewer loopholes such as H1B visas and the lottery program, and enforced strongly and equitably. The financial system needs to control excessive speculative activity, through a modest "Tobin tax" on fast trading and a bank regulatory system that enforces proper risk management as well as simply capital standards. Frivolous lawsuits, cross-subsidization and excessive regulation need to be removed from the healthcare system, so that the free market can operate in medical services, while the poorest are protected through handouts. Loopholes must be removed from the tax system, not only in corporate tax but also in individual tax - the "sacred cows" of the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable contributions deduction must be abolished.

The necessary changes will provoke immense squawking from the interests concerned. But in economic legislation there is a universal aphorism: the loudest squawks come from those whose unjustified privileges are to be abolished.

John, in truth, fascism goes all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in England and the accompanying political changes. The real beginning was when they put William of Orange on the throne...
(05-21-2011, 05:22 PM)Anonymous24 Wrote: John, in truth, fascism goes all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in England and the accompanying political changes. The real beginning was when they put William of Orange on the throne...

I wouldn't be surprised. Perhaps you can provide some links to the articles?


I'll have to go get my friend at another forum to explain, he can do it much better. I am trying to "recruit" him here, but he may not have the time for another forum...

I do agree though that the West has been under a Fascistic system - that is to say, the government manipulating the economy for special interests - for a long time now. Is that also what you mean by fascism? I remember you often saying the real definition of the word is much different than the popular conception...
(05-21-2011, 09:33 PM)Anonymous24 Wrote: I'll have to go get my friend at another forum to explain, he can do it much better. I am trying to "recruit" him here, but he may not have the time for another forum...

I do agree though that the West has been under a Fascistic system - that is to say, the government manipulating the economy for the benefit of a small group of people - for a long time now. Is that also what you mean by fascism? I remember you often saying the real definition of the word is much different than the popular conception...

Correct. Instead of owning the means of production, as with socialism, the State heavily controls and regulates the means of production.


Yeah, that has been going on for awhile now.
The October 2011 issue of "The Freemen" is out, and the lead topic is fittingly about Progressivism, and it's ultimate legacy: Eugenics. If we remember anything about Progressivism, and its alter ego Fascism, we must understand how eugenics played such an important part.

And we must go the extra mile to totally discredit Progressivism, its ugly history, and just how dangerous it is to Liberty within the US.

Quote:Eugenics: Progressivism’s Ultimate Social Engineering

by Art Carden and Steven Horwitz

According to the received account of the Progressive Era, an enlightened government swept in and regulated markets for goods, labor, and capital, thereby protecting the hapless masses from the vicissitudes of unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism. The Progressives had faith that experts would rise above self-interest and implement wise plans to create a great society. The resulting state-level workplace safety regulations, restrictions on child labor, and minimum wages restored dignity and safety to the trod-upon and exploited workers.

Despite the widespread acceptance of this narrative, there are many reasons to question whether it accurately portrays the motivations and hopes of some Progressive-Era reformers. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era,” the economist Thomas C. Leonard offered a completely new historical account of the sources of Progressive-Era labor legislation and the intentions of its supporters. Leonard’s work, including an important 2009 article coauthored with legal scholar David E. Bernstein for Law and Contemporary Problems, “Excluding Unfit Workers: Social Control Versus Social Justice in the Age of Economic Reform,” indicates that lurking behind what many people see as humanitarian reforms was something much uglier.

Leonard and Bernstein argue that some of the most prominent of the Progressive reformers were “partisans of human inequality.” They supported interventions as ways to forward their eugenic goal of a purer (that is, whiter) human race by eliminating the opportunities for the “unfit” to get meaningful work. The “unfit” here included not just nonwhites (especially African-Americans) but also the “insane,” immigrants (especially from central and eastern Europe), and in a somewhat different way, women.

In other words, what we today think of as the unintended consequences of laws supported by today’s well-meaning but economically uninformed Progressives were actually the intended goals of some of their intellectual ancestors a century ago. Early Progressive economists understood the effects of these interventions, but they thought those effects were desirable.

The Progressive economists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw social science not merely as a means of inquiry and understanding but as a guide to social management and control. The advent and broad acceptance of Darwinism in the late nineteenth century, combined with a more general belief in the power of science and scientific management to solve social problems, led to a fascination with eugenics and the possibility of using public policy to ensure the “survival of the fittest” and the purity and strength of the human race. In the hands of many thinkers at the turn of the twentieth century, Darwinian theory became a rationale for using the power of government to weed out the “undesirable” and “unfit” in much the way that the new understanding of evolution was changing agriculture and animal husbandry. Eugenics clubs and societies grew rapidly and many of the leading intellectuals of the early twentieth century, including a number of well-known economists (such as John Maynard Keynes and Irving Fisher, perhaps the most famous American economist of the time), were active in these groups and saw their work through the lens of eugenics.

Eugenics and Intended Consequences

We look back on the eugenics movement with proper horror. Yet the same ideas that led to forced sterilization also led to restrictions in the workplace, because labor markets were one place where eugenics-oriented economists could combine their two interests. They recognized early on that legislation which excluded the “unfit” from labor markets would advance their eugenic goals. Most of these laws were enacted at the state level during this period, but the New Deal era saw many of the same arguments applied at the national level.

Consider minimum wage laws, for example. Today we tend to think people support them because they believe a minimum wage is a free lunch that will help the poor. Classical-liberal economists have long criticized such regulations, arguing they are a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences and of the disconnect between intentions and outcomes. In a competitive labor market any worker who can produce value is hirable at some wage up to that value. Even workers with limited skills are employable. What the minimum wage and other mandated benefit laws do is create a minimum productivity criterion for hiring, closing off the labor market to workers whose productivity is too low to justify that cost.

Leonard’s work shows that some advocates of the minimum wage, including many giants of the early days of the economics profession, such as John R. Commons and Richard T. Ely, understood exactly what minimum wage laws would do and liked it. In addition, various Progressives and socialists who were not economists, such as Eugene Debs and Beatrice and Sidney Webb, also supported minimum wage laws and other interventions into the labor market precisely because they would weed out those who were deemed too stupid or lazy to compete in a market economy—in particular, women, immigrants, and blacks.

Leonard writes, “the progressive economists . . . believed that the job loss induced by minimum wages was a social benefit, as it performed the eugenic service ridding the labor force of the ‘unemployable.’” He quotes the Webbs’ statement that “this unemployment is not a mark of social disease, but actually of social health.” Further, he quotes Henry Rogers Seager of Columbia University, who suggested that minimum wages were necessary to protect workers from the “wearing competition of the casual worker and the drifter.”

A. B. Wolfe, who would one day be a president of the American Economic Association, wrote in the American Economic Review in 1917 (quoted in part by Leonard and Bernstein): “If the inefficient entrepreneurs would be eliminated [by minimum wages,] so would the ineffective workers. I am not disposed to waste much sympathy upon either class. The elimination of the inefficient is in line with our traditional emphasis on free competition, and also with the spirit and trend of modern social economics. There is no panacea that can ‘save’ the incompetents except at the expense of the normal people. They are a burden on society and on the producers wherever they are.”

In the context of the early twentieth century this group largely included nonwhites, immigrants, and women, as well as white males with physical or mental disabilities—the very same groups the Progressive eugenicists thought were diluting the quality of the human gene pool. Unlike their modern successors, these supporters of minimum wage laws were under no illusion about the effects of their proposed policies; they understood and intended the negative consequences that economists now go to great lengths to argue will be the outcomes of the policies favored by contemporary Progressives. A great irony of the Progressive movement for a minimum wage is that while it aimed at eliminating the “unemployable,” it in fact created a group of “unemployables.”

Leonard’s research shows that even professional economists, including some for whom distinguished prizes and lectures are named today, engaged in a manner of thinking about issues like minimum wages that was profoundly—even obscenely, given their explicitly racist goals—anti-economic. According to some Progressives, wages were determined not by marginal productivity but by the living standards to which a particular worker was accustomed. Competition from women, children, and members of “low-wage races” threatened the dignity of white male heads of households, the robustness of the white genetic stock, and ultimately the social fabric. Leonard and Bernstein quote sociologist Edward A. Ross, who wrote that “the coolie, though he cannot outdo the American, can underlive him.” If society was to endure, white male breadwinners needed protection from outside competition.

Economists today sometimes argue that subsidies or expansion of negative income tax programs like the earned income tax credit are far more efficient ways to help the poor than policies like minimum wages. Leonard and Bernstein point out that according to Progressive economist Royal Meeker, wage subsidies were undesirable precisely because they would create more employment, particularly among “unfortunates.” The virtue of the minimum wage was that it increased the supposed dignity of white labor while separating “unfortunates” and “defectives” from jobs they would have otherwise had. Minimum wages were supported by explicit racists seeking explicitly racist ends.

Fast-forward a few decades and the results are still the same even if the intentions are more noble. In a recent paper, “Unequal Harm: Racial Disparities in the Employment Consequences of Minimum Wage Increases,” William Even and David Macpherson argued that in states fully exposed to the most recent minimum wage increases, the law cost young African Americans more jobs than the recession has. We should judge policies by results, not intentions. As the economist Thomas Sowell might say, whether a policy is deemed “compassionate” or not should depend on its effects rather than the stated goals of its advocates.

Other Labor Market Interventions

Eugenics provided an allegedly scientific pretext for protectionist legislation—specifically, restrictions on immigration. The eugenicists supported immigration restrictions because they believed that members of “low-wage races” would compromise not only whites’ living standards but also whites’ genetic stock through miscegenation. According to them, immigrants and other outsiders (read: African-Americans) would degrade the labor force and debauch the species. The Progressives proceeded on a model of society in which a (white male) breadwinner earned a “family wage” sufficient to support a (white) wife and (white) children. Women were to fulfill their roles as “mothers of the race,” and children were to be trained to do the same in the following generation.

In his 2005 article Leonard pointed out that restrictions on child labor were enacted specifically to prevent the lower classes from putting their children to work. Presumably this would then cause them to think twice about procreating as well as limit their incomes.

The Progressives used the same techniques to reduce the labor market opportunities of women. Women were seen both as fragile—in need of protection from the rigors of the workplace—and as having a special role in bearing children and managing the household as “mothers of the race.” This was in contrast to the perceived “overbreeding” of nonwhites and immigrants from places like eastern and southern Europe. Progressive reformers tried to keep women out of the labor force by enacting a variety of “protective” legislation at the state level, including maximum hours and minimum wage laws for women, both of which were set differently from those for men. Such laws made women less desirable and more expensive employees, which limited their labor force participation—precisely the goal of the reformers.

The perils of the 1930s provided an opening for additional burdens on the labor market designed to exclude “unfit” workers. Leonard and Bernstein report that the Davis-Bacon Act, for example, was “passed with the intent of preventing itinerant African American workers and others from competing with white labor unionists for jobs on federal construction projects.” The amplification of interest-group politics was evident in the relatively transparent attempts by New Deal Progressives to protect special interests from low-wage competition from the South—from African-Americans and other “low-wage races.”

In the 1930s U.S. Rep. John Cochran (D-Mo.) said he had “received numerous complaints in recent months about southern contractors employing low-paid colored mechanics getting work and bringing the employees from the South.” Rep. Clayton Allgood (D-Al.) joined in: “Reference has been made to a contractor from Alabama who went to New York with bootleg labor. This is a fact. That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.”

The disemployment effects, for example, of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) were stark. Leonard and Bernstein cite one estimate that the NIRA’s “wage provisions directly or indirectly led to the dismissal of 500,000 African American workers.” They also write that “the American Federation of Labor took credit for the failure of the FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] to provide for a lower minimum wage in the South,” preventing southward capital flows.

The Progressives, the Modern Left, and the Dismal Science

This history can be read as the American version of what happened earlier in England. David Levy has shown that economics became known as the “dismal science” because classical-liberal economists (such as J. S. Mill) favored racial equality in a free labor market. Reactionary, elitist British Romantics such as Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin argued that the free market, with its underlying assumption of equality, would eliminate racial hierarchies and bring a “dismal” future of racial mixing. It was the classical-liberal economists who were providing the intellectual support for that future.

The moral of the story is that, despite the modern left’s continued claim that the pro-market philosophy is racist, sexist, and xenophobic, history demonstrates that classical liberals/libertarians were proponents of equality and opponents of racism, and that those who viewed the races as unequal were likely to seek backing from the State, particularly in labor markets. The historical record of the left on these counts is much more mixed than it is willing to acknowledge.

Despite their odious views on race and the use of the State to enforce their eugenically informed vision of the future, Progressive-Era reformers were ahead of their modern liberal counterparts in one important way. They understood that free markets, especially free labor markets, are the enemy of racism.

Dr. Thomas Sowell has a new article out, and its about American Fascism, of all things. Who would have thought?

Quote:Socialist or Fascist
By Thomas Sowell

It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.

What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.

Politically, it is heads-I-win when things go right, and tails-you-lose when things go wrong. This is far preferable, from Obama's point of view, since it gives him a variety of scapegoats for all his failed policies, without having to use President Bush as a scapegoat all the time.

Government ownership of the means of production means that politicians also own the consequences of their policies, and have to face responsibility when those consequences are disastrous -- something that Barack Obama avoids like the plague.

Thus the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the "greed" of the insurance companies.

The same principle, or lack of principle, applies to many other privately owned businesses. It is a very successful political ploy that can be adapted to all sorts of situations.

One of the reasons why both pro-Obama and anti-Obama observers may be reluctant to see him as fascist is that both tend to accept the prevailing notion that fascism is on the political right, while it is obvious that Obama is on the political left.

Back in the 1920s, however, when fascism was a new political development, it was widely -- and correctly -- regarded as being on the political left. Jonah Goldberg's great book "Liberal Fascism" cites overwhelming evidence of the fascists' consistent pursuit of the goals of the left, and of the left's embrace of the fascists as one of their own during the 1920s.

Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and in America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. Du Bois, as a man of the left.

It was in the 1930s, when ugly internal and international actions by Hitler and Mussolini repelled the world, that the left distanced themselves from fascism and its Nazi offshoot -- and verbally transferred these totalitarian dictatorships to the right, saddling their opponents with these pariahs.

What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people -- like themselves -- need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.

The left's vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. In the United States, however, this vision conflicts with a Constitution that begins, "We the People..."

That is why the left has for more than a century been trying to get the Constitution's limitations on government loosened or evaded by judges' new interpretations, based on notions of "a living Constitution" that will take decisions out of the hands of "We the People," and transfer those decisions to our betters.

The self-flattery of the vision of the left also gives its true believers a huge ego stake in that vision, which means that mere facts are unlikely to make them reconsider, regardless of what evidence piles up against the vision of the left, and regardless of its disastrous consequences.

Only our own awareness of the huge stakes involved can save us from the rampaging presumptions of our betters, whether they are called socialists or fascists. So long as we buy their heady rhetoric, we are selling our birthright of freedom.

Actually the good doctor started talking about it, with Glenn Beck, right here, back in 2009.

I've been somewhat negligent about placing articles on the Progressivism, its history, and why is it so dangerous to Liberty. But Grizzly's comments about wanting to be called a Progressive, rather than a Liberal, has sparked my renewed drive. I suspect Grizz/Robert really doesn't have the slightest idea what he is getting himself into.


Many early progresssives advocated eugenics, or human engineering, to purge society's gene pool of undesirable traits. In Looking Backward, socialist author Edward Bellamy mused about “race purification,” a fantasy shared by many utopian novelists. Indiana's state government in 1907 became the first in the modern world to codify eugenic principles, and more than two dozen additional American states soon followed suit. These states did not dictate the coupling of ideal mates, which could be called “positive eugenics.” Rather, they advocated “negative eugenics” – i.e., the sterilization of those harboring undesirable genetic makeups, precisely as Bellamy had advocated.

Eugenics was wholly compatible with the progressive era's faith in science, the future, the regulatory potential of the state, and human perfectibility. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institution helped bankroll organizations that sought to advance eugenics. Among the more notable progressives to embrace the practice were the anarco-communist Emma Goldman, NAACP founder W.E.B. Dubois, author H.G. Wells, political scientist Harold Laski, socialist reformers Sidney and Beatrice Webb, biology instructor/atheist Edward Aveling, economist John Maynard Keynes, playwright George Bernard Shaw, World Wildlife Fund founder Julian Huxley, sex theorist Havelock Ellis, and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Sanger, taking issue with the Church's view that eugenics was immoral because the souls of all people were equally valuable in the eyes of God, said:

Quote: “My own position is that the Catholic doctrine is illogical, not in accord with science, and definitely against the social welfare and race improvement. Assuming that God does want an increasing number of worshipers of the Catholic faith, does he also wantan increasing number of feeble-minded, insane, criminal, and diseased worshipers?”

In 1913, Brown University's progressive sociologist Lester Ward endorsed eugenics as a means of fighting “that modern scientific fatalism known as laissez-faire,” and of facilitating “the betterment of the human race.” “The end and the aim of the eugenicists cannot be reproached,” he expanded. “The race is far from perfect. Its condition is deplorable. Its improvement is entirely feasible, and in the highest degree desirable.”

Speaking on a related theme, the playwright George Bernard Shaw advocated the creation of a panel tasked with the duty of deciding who was, and who was not, worthy of being allowed to continue living. Said Shaw:

Quote: "You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence? If you can’t justify your existence, if you’re not pulling your weight in the social boat, if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little more, then, clearly, we cannot use the organizations of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself."

By 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court had accepted the progressive belief that the state ought to be empowered to determine who should and should not be permitted to reproduce. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Court's progressive icon, wrote in 1915 that his "starting point for an ideal for the law" would be the "coordinated human effort ... to build a race." He elaborated:

Quote: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for the crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

All told, some 60,000 Americans were sterilized by the decrees of state governments.






“It is hard to fix a specific starting date for the progressive race to the Great Society,” writes Jonah Goldberg, “but a good guess might be 1888, the year [when socialist] Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward burst on the American scene.” Set in the year 2000, this futuristic book depicts a utopian society run with the hierarchical efficiency of a military battalion. All workers in this idealized world belong to a unified “industrial army” that labors within the confines of an economy controlled by a coterie of central planners who are deemed to be more capable of fostering prosperity and productivity than is a free marketplace. A preacher in the story lauds the earthly paradise, while the population at large looks back upon the “age of individualism” with a blend of amusement and derision.

Bellamy's book became immensely influential, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. It was particularly effective at setting afire the hearts of idealistic young people who were moved by the author's vision of a socialist utopia. All across America, “Nationalist Clubs” were formed to advocate for “the nationalization of industry and the promotion of the brotherhood of humanity.” Bellamy presented his utopia as a forum for the genuine expression of Jesus Christ's teachings. The author's cousin Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister who penned the “Pledge of Allegiance,” shared this perspective, as he stated forthrightly in a sermon titled “Jesus, the Socialist.”

By the turn of the 20th century, many intellectuals had wedded this socialist-utopian vision with the psychological confidence spawned by the technological and scientific advances of the age. People saw that they clearly lived in an era of progress, where, for the first time in human history, the darkness of night had been overcome by the electric light; where the need for efficient, safe transportation had been met by the automobile; and where the chains of gravity had been broken by the airplane. The ability of scientific ingenuity and expertise to master the physical world, suggested that similar mastery might be achievable in the realms of politics and economics; i.e., that an intellectual elite might be able to assess society's defects and prescribe appropriate remedies. That belief was part and parcel of the progressive vision that flourished in America from the 1890s through the 1920s.

As progressives saw things, most societal flaws were attributable to capitalism's inherent injustices. Foremost among those flaws was economic inequality – the plainly observable reality that some people lived in poverty while others basked in splendor. Progressives saw these inequalities as by-products of the industrial age, which had enabled some innovators and entrepreneurs to earn vast fortunes that contrasted sharply with the destitution of others – among whom were people whose traditional livelihoods may have been rendered obsolete by technological advances. Progressives also believed that industrialization had led to social “disintegration” and materialistic decadence throughout America.

By progressives' reckoning, solving the foregoing problems would require government intervention on a very large scale. Affluent progressives in particular led the chorus of criticisms against the gap between rich and poor. Giving voice to their sentiments, in 1899 the economist Thorstein Veblen published Theory of the Leisure Class, which ridiculed symbols of affluence and tarred the allegedly greedy “leisure class” as “the conservative class.”

Progressivism soon evolved into an umbrella label for a host of economic, political, social, and moral reforms aimed at curing the ills of American society. Some of these reforms were quite beneficial, and indeed necessary, as they provided social mechanisms that allowed the U.S. to make a peaceful transition into 20th-century life.

The Progressive Era was, among other things, the age of “muckrakers” – journalists and authors who sought to expose the corrupt underbelly of industrial-age America and, by extension, of capitalism itself. Muckrakers called attention to such negative trends as child labor, urban poverty, government corruption, ruthless business practices, dangerous factory conditions, and the horrors of lynching. Major progressive projects included the elimination of red-light districts from American cities; the enactment of minimum-wage laws; the provision of industrial-accident insurance; restrictions on child labor; legislation to regulate the meat-packing, drug, and railroad industries; laws to improve working conditions; the strengthening of anti-trust laws; and the formation of a vibrant conservation movement.

A number of progressive reforms also made their influence felt in the American political system. For instance:

-Direct primaries were instituted, where citizens could select the candidates who ultimately would represent their party in the general elections. (Traditionally, from the 1830s until the early 1900s, candidates had been nominated by delegate conventions.)

-The secret ballot was implemented, whereby citizens were assured of privacy when voting in any election.

-Citizens in numerous states were granted the rights of initiative (empowering them to draft laws and constitutional amendments and place them on the ballot for a popular vote); referendum (providing for a popular vote on laws passed by the legislature); and recall (allowing citizens to remove elected officials from office if the latter failed to fulfill their obgations).

According to R.J. Pestritto, author of American Progressivism, “America’s original Progressives were also its original, big-government liberals.” They set the stage for the New Deal principles of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who cited the progressives – especially Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – as the major influences on his ideas about government. The progressives, Pestritto says, wanted “a thorough transformation in America’s principles of government, from a government permanently dedicated to securing individual liberty to one whose ends and scope would change to take on any and all social and economic ills.”

In the progressive worldview, the proper role of government was not to confine itself to regulating a limited range of human activities as the founders had stipulated, but rather to inject itself into whatever realms the times seemed to demand. The progressives reasoned that although America's founders had felt it necessary to limit the power of government because of their experience with King George III, government, as a result of historical evolution, was no longer the menace it once had been; rather, they believed government had become capable of solving an ever-greater array of societal problems -- problems the founders could never have envisioned. Consequently, the progressives called for a more activist government whose regulation of people's lives was properly determined not by the outdated words of an anachronistic Constitution, but by whatever the American people seemed to need at any given time.

This perspective dovetailed with the progressives' notion of an “evolving” or “living” government, which, like all living beings, could rightfully be expected to grow and to adapt to changing circumstances. Similarly, progressives also coined the term “living Constitution,” connoting the idea that the U.S. Constitution is a malleable document with no permanent guiding principles -- a document that must, of necessity, change with the times.

R.J. Pestritto writes that the Progressives “detested the Declaration of Independence, which enshrines the protection of individual natural rights (like property) as the unchangeable purpose of government; and they detested the Constitution, which places permanent limits on the scope of government and is structured in a way that makes the extension of national power beyond its original purpose very difficult.” Given their contempt for those documents, the progressives' mission was to progress, or move beyond, the principles laid out by the founders.

In 1913, the progressive historian Charles Beard published An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, which offered a Marxist view of history and smeared the captains of industry. It also portrayed America's founding fathers as basically selfish men who had established a form of government that they thought would benefit them, and only them, financially. From Beard's premise, it was a short logical leap to discredit the Constitution itself as “essentially an economic document” unworthy of the lasting reverence of legislators, judges, or ordinary citizens.

Woodrow Wilson likewise gave voice to the progressive antipathy for America's founding documents when he said that “if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface” – i.e. that part of the Declaration which states that the only legitimate purpose of government, regardless of time or place, is to secure the natural rights of the individual. By Wilson's calculus, the truly vital portion of the Declaration was the latter part, where it enumerates a litany of time-specific grievances against George III. Wilson suggested that "we are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence," and that the Fourth of July, rather than celebrate the Declaration's timeless principles, should instead "be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness."

Whereas classical liberalism saw government as a necessary "disgusting" whose involvement in social and private affairs needed to be limited wherever practicable, progressivism saw the state as the rightful overseer and regulator of significant portions of American social and economic life. To compensate for the inequities of capitalism in industrial-age America, Progressives favored a government empowered to redistribute private property under the banner of social justice. R.J. Pestritto compares and contrasts progressivism and socialism:

Quote: "Since the Progressives had such a limitless view of state power, and since they wanted to downplay the founders’ emphasis on individual rights, it is only natural to ask if they subscribed to socialism....

"[We must] bear in mind that there was an actual socialist movement during the Progressive Era, and prominent progressives such as Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were critics of it. In fact, Wilson and Roosevelt both ran against a socialist candidate in the 1912 election (Eugene Debs). The progressives were ambivalent about the socialist movement of their day not so much because they disagreed with it in principle, but because the American socialist movement was a movement of the lower classes. The progressives were elitists; they looked down their noses at the socialists, considering them a kind of rabble.

"Keeping these points in mind, it is, nonetheless, the case that the progressive conception of government closely coincided with the socialist conception. Both progressivism and socialism champion the prerogatives of the state over the prerogatives of the individual. Wilson himself made this connection very plain in a revealing essay he wrote in 1887 called 'Socialism and Democracy.' Wilson’s begins this essay by defining socialism, explaining that it stands for unfettered state power, which trumps any notion of individual rights. It 'proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view,' Wilson wrote, and 'that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will.' After laying out this definition of socialism, Wilson explains that he finds nothing wrong with it in principle, since it was merely the logical extension of genuine democratic theory."

As its name indicates, progressivism suggests movement toward a goal – in this case, bigger government and increased state control. But it is a gradual, incremental movement rather than a sudden transformation. Progressives endorse evolution (rather than revolution), a process by which society drifts gradually but inexorably toward statism.

To facilitate this evolution, progressives have sought, ever since their entry into the pages of American history, to infiltrate society's power structure and its key institutions – the schools, the media, the churches, the entertainment industry, the labor unions, and the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judiciary).

Among the most noteworthy figures of the Progressive Era were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, social worker Jane Addams, child advocate Florence Kelley, historian and political scientist Charles Beard, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, suffragette Lucy Burns, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt, journalist Herbert Croly, philosopher and education reformer John Dewey, NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois, inventor Thomas Edison, economist Irving Fisher, automaker Henry Ford, feminist Charlotte Gilman, philosopher William James, California politician Hiram Johnson, Wisconsin politician Robert M. La Follette Sr., journalist Walter Lippmann, suffragette Alice Paul, historian Ulrich Phillips, conservationist Gifford Pinchot, theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., novelist Upton Sinclair, sociologist Albion Small, sociologist Ellen Gates Starr, reporter Lincoln Steffens, President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft, muckraker Ida Tarbell, economist Thorstein Veblen, and social reformer Booker T. Washington.

The RESOURCES column located on the right side of this page contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:

-the roots and early crusades of progressivism, particularly its steady push for the expansion of government's role in both public and private affairs;

-how progressivism's inherent drive toward political activism and regulation found expression in the advocacy of eugenics;

-how the religious Left, by way of the Social Gospel Movement, helped to spread progressivism's influence;

-the progressive policies enacted by President Woodrow Wilson's administration;

-why progressives embraced the objectives of Russia's Bolshevik revolution;

-why progressives looked favorably on the policies and ideals of Italian and German fascism in the 1920s and 1930s;

-how the Progressive Era set the stage for FDR's New Deal in the 1930s; and

-progressivism's continuing agendas and its modern-day standard-bearers.


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