back to

The Progressive’s Dilemma

Part 1

Fallacy at the Root

A “progressive” approach to politics has been in vogue in the USA for nearly one hundred years, but utopian schemes to improve the lot of mankind have a much, much older history, dating back to Plato at least. So far, however, paradise has not yet arrived, and for very good reasons. The question to ask about the progressive policy is not, “how can I make this work better?” but rather, “does this thing work at all?” because it is a logical certainty that when there are serious flaws in basic assumptions, any conclusions drawn from them will be wrong as well.

In the USA progressivism has essentially been a shifting coalition of interest groups that share certain political, economic and social outlooks. Thinkers as diverse as Bentham, Marx, Keynes, Dewey and Bismarck have all contributed ingredients to the mélange of ideas that progressivism rests on. But this bedrock is more of a concoction designed for the acquisition and exercise of power, than the formulation of a systematic body of thought purged of internal inconsistency.

Because politics is played in an emotional field rather than an intellectual one, this deficiency is little hindrance, at least in the short the run. There, slogans and cant will trump logic most of the time. But in the day-to-day world, where the effects of policy and law reverberate, bad ideas do have consequences; consequences that the citizenry and body politic alike cannot escape.

The progressive agenda now reaches into every aspect of modern life. It affects the food we eat, the words we are permitted to utter, the quality of the money we spend and the education of our children. It is our partner in health care and sexual activity. It practices zero tolerance for selected behaviors while subsidizing a raft of others. But its ultimate sin is that of hubris, Hayak’s “fatal conceit” (aka the “knowledge problem”), which is nothing more than the pretense of knowledge and mastery where it does not and cannot exist. It is a pride ignores the existence of unintended consequences and remains willfully blind to the evidence of the historical record.

A State of Error
Progressivism has wide support today largely because its language is attractive, its goals seem laudable, and it has an aura of right action. This is illusory. The political and economic underpinnings of progressivism are deeply flawed.

Unlimited credit creation and monetized debt -upon which the progressive agenda now depends absolutely- destabilizes the economy and devalues our currency. They are also the lifeblood of the war machine, without which it would grind to a halt. The effects of such pervasive rot are now (2009) becoming quite visible.

Constant interventions create politically induced economic distortions, which then require additional intervention. Pork and political waste are rife, and all contribute to the decline of true productivity and economic wellbeing. The hierarchical planning and management that accompanies centralized control is inefficient and error-prone in terms of both information gathering and operation; this defect increases as operational scope does. Planning also carries inherent political risks for free societies.1

Unfortunately the range of public discourse in the US concerning politics is carefully limited to mythologizing, vague language and rhetorical fireworks. These are more comforting than the stark reality presented by the findings of Public Choice economics or the evidence of the historical record. Small wonder, then, that nothing ever really changes.

The defender of the progressive agenda will need to confront certain specific issues, and to deal with damaging or contrary evidence that is normally ignored or swept under the rug. They will need to account, not only for the persistent gap between stated political goals and what is actually achieved, but also for their complicity in sustaining this gap. They must recognize the damage sustained by our republic, intentional and not, that was done in pursuit of progressive goals, and to answer for the careless loss of so much hard won human freedom for so dubious a reward.

Politics & the nature of the State

Who owns you? That is the basic question of sovereignty. If you don’t own yourself, who does? When is the dominion of one man over another justified? If sovereignty is not an absolute quality, then when does “enough” become “not enough”, and under what circumstances?

The question of self-ownership in a modern progressive society is far from a settled issue. If sovereignty is denigrated in some quarters, one should look to the tenor of the times, where individual effort and individual perceptions have found themselves eroded by forces as diverse as psychology, social change, political activism and the economy of scale.

If you own yourself, you should logically own the product of your labor as well, which you are free to buy, sell or trade as best you can, but this will put you on the wrong side of many current wage, price, labor and licensing laws all over the world. If you own yourself, and are happily minding your own business without hurting anyone or anything, then what you do should not concern anyone but yourself. If you own yourself, it would seem that you could use, feed, clothe, decorate and medicate your own body however you saw fit, again making sure no non-consenting others were harmed.

Since there are very few places on earth today where you can actually exercise these sorts of freedoms, it would appear that the more regulated the state becomes, the more personal sovereignty is threatened, diminished or extinguished entirely.

Personal sovereignty is a foundational concept in natural law: “We hold these truths to be self-evident… “. These same truths are not so self- evident (nor is natural law very popular) for enthusiasts of the central state, since they constitute an obvious challenge to that authority. The one common factor to any political talk that surrenders or debunks sovereignty is that it is never the speaker’s sovereignty that will actually be on the line; it’s always someone else’s.

In its purest sense, sovereignty is freedom from the will of others. If that statement seems too absolute then we can add the rejoinder, “free from unreasonable interference” and debate the details later. In some sense, one might achieve a psychological sense of sovereignty even if the objective case is less clear. But feeling sovereign and being sovereign are two different things, and there is a point where perception and reality collide.

In ancient times disputes of sovereignty were settled on the battlefield. Whoever had the strongest soldiers won. You can decide for yourself if much has changed since then.

Sovereignty is not only an issue between nations; it is first and foremost a matter between individual humans. The same impulse that leads a single man to take another by might or right, easily multiplies itself into both war and conquest on a tribal or national scale.

The current bias against the sovereignty of national states is largely due to the perception that this is a basic cause of war, but the diagnosis misses the mark by attacking the symptom and not the cause. A single-government pax romana situation would eliminate war -by definition- by simply eliminating external enemies, but this sleight of hand would leave the germ of dominance untouched. Nor would internal enemies such as “outlaws” or “terrorists” disappear. How many internal “wars” are being carried out for our benefit right now?

World government would change the nature of sovereignty however, destroying a multiplicity of old forms while creating a new, essentially universal form of hierarchical vassalage.

If you are subject to a military draft or a civilian version of national service are you sovereign? What about state-mandated vaccinations or medical procedures? What about state-mandated medicine in general? In a field so vast and diverse as healing, should a single authority, the state, decide what is allowed and what is not? Where should authority over an individuals’ health lie?

Progressivism, with its utilitarian emphasis on the greatest good and its penchant for planning and direction, reserves sovereignty for the state alone. In the progressive state, individual lives become the means by which social and political ends are achieved, and little more. Unless, of course, you work for the management.

Can your life really become the means of someone else’s ends? Ask a trench soldier in WWI or a Vietnamese peasant for a definitive answer. Or, given that the Aral Sea was effectively destroyed by soviet planners, you might ask any surviving sturgeons about this too. Millions have starved and whole economies have been crippled in the quest of political economic or social perfection without a lot of good coming out of any of it. As the enemies of complexity and self-organization, planners fight a losing battle against the operative realities of the natural and economic worlds. The idea that everything can and must be controlled is a sickness that bodes no good for our world or that part of us that is most essentially human.

The nature of the State
1. The question of how we govern ourselves, has perplexed and fascinated thinkers for ages. Because it is a subject tailor made both for theorizing and mythologizing, most discussions usually result in a classic “more heat, less light” situation.

There are currently two great archetypes for the state: oppressive totalitarianism and liberating democracy. (Monarchy is still mythologically potent but a political non-starter for most people. It’s the Nazis or Mr. Smith goes to Washington, take your pick.)

The oppressive and extractive view does have the validation of history behind it. The association of government with oppression is an ancient one that spans many regions and countries. It is not for nothing that the cause for liberty is so often characterized as a “struggle”.

The other face of government is that of a shining institution dedicated to human welfare, the civics class version. This form probably exists more widely in mythology than in fact, but it may be important as a goal if not as a practical example.

However, supporters of this view will first have to come to grips with the findings of R.J. Rummel, University of Hawaii. In his book, Democide, Rummel shows that the largest number of violent deaths in the 20th century (far outstripping the toll of both world wars) was for citizens who died at the hands of their own government. His conclusion: “concentrated power is the most dangerous thing on earth.” 2

Given that governments can be either bad or good, its essential qualities must lie deeper than legal or moral flavorings. Murray Rothbard in his Anatomy of the State finds that the common, defining characteristic of all government is a territorial monopoly on the use of force as the final resort in dispute resolution; the iron fist under the velvet glove. In plain language it means you can’t shoot the policeman but he is free to shoot you. Given that balance of power, it follows that government is essentially or ultimately based on threat and coercion, overt or implied.

Coercion can be explained away as necessary (Hobbes), or sugarcoated by means of a “social contract”. Such "contracts do not and cannot exist as legal instruments, but the idea is an excellent intellectual fig leaf to justify the exercise of power. It is in bad taste to openly state this however; but that is exactly what American president George Washington meant when he said: ,

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

Most people do not choose violence as a way to settle disputes. They realize it can be counter-productive, prone to escalation, is heavy-handed and often leads to irrational behavior. The outcome for government coercion is no different. Government’s willingness to use violence to enforce its will is a fatal flaw in the platonic ideal. It is ethically questionable. Any political theory that fails to account for the dangers of coercion in a meaningful way is basically a fairy tale, produced for children. (3)

2. Government has been imposed by conquest, by divine right, by fiat, by revolution and sometimes by mere elections. But where did the institution itself come from? Some say banditry, and some say the work of philosopher-kings.

In the latter case, when men came together they saw they needed laws to maintain order. Some laws could be divine, others of human, social origin. Implied or otherwise, some sort of social contract was said to underlie the relations between different classes and/or individuals. Law allowed them to live in harmony.

Unfortunately, the idea that an entire society could somehow agree to a “contract” in a some mythical past (what happens if there is a dissenter or two?) is already difficult enough, without also making the same contract binding on all future generations. In reality this “contract” is metaphorical rather than a living legal compact. It’s a social fiction, a linguistic sleight of hand that plasters over its structural defects.

A less idealistic view on the origin of government was voiced by German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943). Oppenheimer held that there were two, and only two, distinct ways by which men made their living. The first, termed the “economic means”, was where men obtained the resources they needed to live through harvest, production, trade, and commerce, all of which was powered by mutually agreed upon voluntary exchange. In the second way, which Oppenheimer termed the “political means”, men simply obtain the resources they need to live by making a claim on the resources harvested, produced or owned by others. Raw plunder is its most basic form.

The eventual evolution from wandering bandits who periodically pillage a town or region to permanent residents who obtain their livelihood by the work of the farmers and artisans they have under their control is not hard to imagine. Intermarriage would facilitate this change. If these new rulers were to offer protection against raids from all other bandit bands, it may have even removed some of the bad taste occasioned by their original exploitation, and given them a “positive” social purpose. Under a permanent, quasi-symbiotic relationship, it is to the former bandits’ advantage to stop quarrels, prevent fights, and perhaps even enforce a beneficial practice or two in order to maximize their host creature’s productivity. “Wasteful” festivals might be cancelled and new observances introduced. In this way many of the functions attributed to government would develop organically.

While we may not like what Oppenheimer’s theory tells us, it is certainly backed up, at least in part, by the witness of history, from the plundering wars of the age of kings, to the vast colonial empires and “areas of influence” of modern geopolitics.

3. Whether or not Oppenheimer’s ideas on “political means” and the origin of government are correct, it is an economic fact that all government expenditures are purely consumptive. Government does not generate wealth, it can only consume or redistribute it, which means that government activity diverts money from productive uses where it is already employed. Such a diversion might be said to generate a higher value than the alternative, but this valuation, like all others, would be subjective. Because they are compulsory or monopolistic in nature, government programs structurally lack the tools that allow the sort of meaningful cost/benefit analysis that profit and loss give when voluntary choice is involved.

The important points concerning the non-voluntary diversion of resources are:

1. Such diversion wouldn’t occur on its own,
2. Government itself is the least able to judge whether or not said interference was beneficial or not.

(In fact, under bureaucratic logic a common remedy for troubled programs is to throw more money at them.)

How much diversion from productive use a society can afford is related to how wealthy it is and what sort of resources are available to it. Consideration of future rainy days would be wise too. Because governments have almost no incentive to rein in expenses (this is especially true for fiat currency regimes) it would appear that any society can be bankrupted, given enough time and opportunity.

Failures of Representational Government
Representational government is a cornerstone of democratic practice and theory, but it works far better in theory than it does in practice. Having a senator or congressperson that consistently votes opposite to your principles is a common occurrence. Politically there is little guarantee that your “representative” will carry out his political actions in accordance with your will or desires. He will, however, be “concerned” enough about any issues you bring to his attention to reply with a form letter or, in some cases, a call from an aide. Then again, you might become what is termed a “photo op”.

In most cases your representative is simply that person who was acceptable first to the local party structures and then to a majority of the people voting in a particular election. It is more correct in most cases to say that your representative was designated rather than chosen.

The winner has three jobs: party loyalty, fund raising and maximizing the flow of tax-funded booty back to the home district. In all fairness some reps are quite diligent about fulfilling their people’s needs; the problem is that voter satisfaction is expensive and is most palatable when paid for by tax monies obtained from other districts or states; direct taxes are rarely popular. Federally funded debt is the best source of all. In either case, with other people’s money on the line, checks on spending are few and far between. Problems generated by excess credit further down the road are also someone else’s problem.

“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
Frederic Bastiat 1848

Legally, the doctrine of sovereign immunity makes a mockery of any notion of representation, or indeed the notion of government service at all. In essence, it means that elected officials are not responsible for any harm caused by their decisions. Attorneys and fiduciary agents in private transactions are held to far more exacting standards as a matter of course. Recall does not appear to be a very effective means of recourse or control.

Legislators can also be manipulated or pressured by events (public and private) so that their voting response is virtually guaranteed. The Patriot Act that followed 9/11 is a classic example where public fever was such that legislators unanimously passed (without reading) legislation that large segments of their district voters still seriously disagree with.

Final note: along with all other the other difficulties it faces, representational government requires that a trustworthy system of casting and counting votes be in place before it can be said to be truly functional. Electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail have too many questions surrounding their reliability and tamper-proof qualities to be considered as acceptable in this regard.

Democratic Government
The pre-eminent place democracy holds in modern political thought is a relatively new phenomenon. In earlier times, democracy was seen as a dangerous and volatile form of government that was subject to the passions and vagaries of the mob. It was not seen as a sustainable form of government, indeed quite the opposite. Eighteenth century Scottish professor Alexander Tyler made this observation about living by political means and the fall of the Athenian republic:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship."

This is the same understanding that led Ben Franklin to answer, “a republic, if you can keep it”, when asked about the new form of government that had just been created for the United States.

Hans Herman Hoppe(4) is the foremost critic of democracy writing today. In Democracy, the God that Failed he echoes Tyler’s observation from the vantage point of time preference. An elected official is at best a custodian of public property, not an owner in the sense that a king or nobleman with lands is. Indeed this is the case for every citizen in a democracy, and so, according to human nature, in most cases the tendency is towards consumption of resources rather than preservation of capital stock. The more that people look to the public treasury as a source of short-term wealth, the heavier the pressure to spend will become, as more and more individuals determine to “get their share” while it is still available.

We are also told that democracy promotes peace., but in this paper,James Ostrowski makes a strong case for the opposite point of view: ( ). Another excellent examination of democracy and security by Michael Rozeff can be found here.

Democracy in the west is a cultural value as much as a form of government, and this value may not be shared worldwide. Since democracy can’t exist in a vacuum or be imposed from outside, the idea that we should expend blood and treasure to spread it is ill considered at best.

While most Americans would describe their country as a democracy, they are only partly right. The country is (or was) set up as a constitutional republic because not only did the founders fear the voice of the mob, but were aware also that individual freedoms are difficult to guarantee under monarchical or democratic rule (see below). Certain features of the justice system especially reflect this concern, particularly the doctrines of jury nullification, and resting the power to indict with juries rather than judges or prosecutors.

The idea that democracy is equated with freedom does not hold up under examination. The only real guarantee of freedom lies in decentralization as well as respect for individual rights and self-ownership.

Majority Rule
The idea that majority rule is a good thing depends entirely on whether you are in the majority or the minority. Democracy has been described as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch, but the question is usually about whose wealth should be taxed. Legal safeguards for individual rights are citied as a remedy for this, but history shows that written constitutions are little proof against the encroachments of ambition, power or worse. Reliance on simple majority can allow relatively small swing groups to impose their political will on rather large numbers of people. This problem is exacerbated by voter apathy and single-issue politics.

Welfare & the Warfare Bribe
In the modern social democratic state, welfare and warfare are economically and politically joined at the hip by a common method of funding. Welfare is the bribe that keeps the warfare state going.

Wars and empires are expensive. So are social programs. Wealth extraction via taxation is never easy or popular, and being trapped by hard currency makes it all even more difficult. This helps to explain why central banks and fiat moneys have become the fixtures they are today. (By the 1720’s the British government was successfully using revolving or perpetual debt to finance the empire’s expansion).

Buying votes and distracting the populace is not very new either. Bread and circuses were a fact of Roman political life millennia ago, but at least back then they needed to be paid for with hard cash. Today, for the ambitious and visionary alike, a more flexible financing is desired.

The roots of modern social democracy can be traced back to the managerial rule of Kaiser Wilhelm and his Prussian Imperial State. The newfound Prussian concern for the welfare of the working classes was more a way to defuse the radicalism stirred up by the revolution of 1848 than it was an outburst of humanitarian zeal. Compulsory education was seen as the way to mold compliant industrial workers. State pensions decreased the power of troublesome independent workman’s associations, as did official programs of social welfare. The added expenses would be dealt with by fractional reserve banking, monetized debt and politicized money.

For a time fiat money appears to work extraordinarily well: the left can have everything from day care centers to money for NPR while the right gets B1 bombers and covert wars. In return for this largess a smaller but equally satisfied group of bankers and shareholders are blessed with the powers of money creation and interest collection. But not everyone prospers.

Typical recipients of “new” money are banks, government agencies and programs and large industrial concerns. Allocation at this level is largely due to political connectedness – witness the recent windfalls for Halliburton and KBR or government’s past flirtations with railroad barons. These early recipients are largely immune to the effects of inflation because they spend this money into circulation before the inflationary effects gain traction. As time progresses however, prices will rise in response to the dilution of buying power that any increase in the money supply creates.

The financially destructive effects of deficit spending continue to quietly ripple outward with falling purchasing power, price inflation and misallocation of capital as primary effects. Ordinary consumers, who are at the ends of the chains of production, feel the effects of inflation most strongly. And inflation, more than any other factor, is the cause of the destruction of the American middle class. (5)

While current flavors of left and right appear to be on opposite poles of the political spectrum, both factions absolutely need a system of centralized banking, monetized debt and a managed currency to finance their agendas. Both have an equal stake in the continuance of American empire and dollar hegemony. As long as it drinks from a tainted well, and casts a blind eye, progressivism can continue to posture at peace all it wants, but it will never strike at the true enabler of bloated defense budgets and modern total warfare because, in truth, it is its’ willing handmaiden.

The Regulator – Clueless & Captured
Regulation is another cornerstone of progressive policy. Objective management by trained experts is touted as the best path towards social improvement and economic stability, but the reality is less utopian.

The first failure of regulation is due to the “knowledge problem” (see below). Simply stated regulators have, at best, an imperfect knowledge of whatever endeavor they are overseeing because the information that managers need is encoded in the various price mechanisms and transactions that occur along their chains of production and distribution. The information is intensely local, fleeting and volatile. Much of it flows along private, informal networks outside official channels. The volume is immense, more than a single agency or entity can collate and analyze in the time frames required. Not only are regulators divorced from this information, but regulation, by nature of interference, distorts markets (“they’re giving mortgages away!”) and makes it hard to extract the information’s true message (“interest rates have been set too low!”).

Regulators are also behind the curve due to legislative delays and inertia. Most legislation is a reaction to events that have already occurred. In some fields- finance, communications and information technology for example- growth always occurs faster than regulation can keep up with.

To entrepreneurs the lowered opportunity costs and freedom that come from operating in areas outside regulatory oversight is a powerful spur towards innovation, while to the regulator such “gaps” provide territory for future expansion. Rockets, automobiles, radio waves and airplanes, all followed the pattern whereby the private obsessions of a visionary minority morphs into an industry complete with official supervision and control.

Some regulation is purely political in nature, a response to the public’s need “to do something”. But regulation has an economic aspect as well. Because change can be expensive, one use of regulation is to protect an established turf, burden a rival or simply defend the status quo. This is easy to ensure. Donate to the right degree and your lobbyist can write the language of his choice in upcoming legislation; it’s a proud tradition with roots that reach all the way back to the first Continental Congress!

The political reality of regulation in America is that regulators and agencies are easily captured. The move from industrial chief to regulatory head seems to be fairly common, as does the practice of industry lawyers writing the text of regulatory bills. The influence of lobbyists is a matter of news record, not idle speculation.

The assumption that industry always fights against regulation is mistaken. Regulation is often welcomed by established industry operations as a way of screening out potential competition through increased costs that they are better able to bear or pass along. Regulation can also pave the way for emerging industries by creating a friendly legal climate. The cold economic fact is that when regulation is rife, it may be cheaper (and even wiser) to invest in politicians rather than R&D. (6)

Regulation of economic and business matters is problematic; it carries high hidden costs with questionable effectiveness. As recent (2008-9) events have shown, it is vulnerable to politicization or outright collusion between government and business that leaves consumers and tax payers holding the short end of the stick.

It is interesting to note that probably the most universally respected and effective of oversight agencies in this country – UL Laboratories – is a private, self-financing institution.

Limits & Metrics

Limits. Few would knowingly subscribe to a program of government without limits, but many will do so by default. Because there is little discussion of such matters, many are unaware of the philosophic and legal implications that certain current political stances entail.

The move away from natural law towards legal positivism was the single largest step in the unshackling of government because by removing obedience to a higher law, it removed one of the few restraints that political power knew. Progressivism is a logical outgrowth of legal positivism.

The basis of natural law is that there is a higher order or authority than human will and that laws are to be found through examination of this order. Legal positivism on the other hand holds that law is solely of human making and that there is no order higher than human will or understanding. One is restraint, the other hubris. One is 1939, the other 1776.

Natural law is not an antiquated and discredited idea as some theorists claim; among other things, it is the foundation upon which our republican government, with its belief in “unalienable rights”, was formed. An explicit statement to this effect (the Bill of Rights) was required before the constitution could gain ratification. In contrast, under positive law, even the definition of what constitutes a human person has become a matter for the courts to define.

As positive law extends into reproduction and illness (the boundaries of life), matters that were formerly the purview of philosophy or private belief now require legal definition and official response. The ramifications of this are only beginning to be felt.

For example, traditionally the state has reserved the death sanction for a declining number of crimes. Definitions of capital crimes can differ but in all cases the persons executed were found to have caused great harm or criminal act. In the case of abortion however, the state enlarges the scope of the death sanction to include a person, being, biological construct or entity (language is a minefield for this particular subject) that is essentially innocent. In addition the state has taken its traditional sanction and made it into a licensable, legal permission that can be conferred onto third parties.

This is a significant enlargement of scope, because now simply being ruled inconvenient or disposable in some official way is enough to constitute legal grounds for execution. The concepts of guilt and wrongdoing have been removed. Once a precedent has been established, it can be applied in other cases as the court sees fit. The Terry Schiavo case shows that an expansion and evolution of the death sanction is currently underway in US law. The introduction of economic matters into the case (the state claimed an interest because it was paying) is a development to watch in light of current events. With the close association of twentieth century government and eugenics as a matter of living memory, a cautionary note seems appropriate.

The forces that motivate administrative and bureaucratic functions that rely on coercion are quite different than organizations that operate under voluntary participation. The ability to say “no” changes how the game is played. When customer satisfaction is low or non-existent on the list of priorities, turf expansion, budgetary defense and political considerations take its place.

Without competition these operations are unable to make meaningful cost/benefit calculations. More importantly, there is no way to tell if the need for a particular compulsory program is legitimate or not, or to determine whether the resources it is using were better allocated elsewhere or in some other way. Only voluntary exchange, the price system and profit and loss can answer these questions.

The inescapable conclusion is that even if government exhibited self-limiting tendencies -which it decidedly does not- it lacks the managerial tools by which rational decisions about resource allocation could be made. An unlimited checkbook coupled with the insulation from the consequences of misallocation is a bad combination in anyone’s administrative playbook.

All limits on government are theoretical when the use of force enters the picture. Ironically this in itself is the ultimate limit on the growth of government; in the long run excessive control chokes itself out – as in the cases of the former Soviet Union and East Germany. But that is a long, wasteful process, when the alternatives seem so much easier and so more palatable.

The Price of Progressivism
The truth of the progressive “revolution” of the 1900’s is that it was a managerial coup d’etat that covered its tracks with intellectual window dressing. The ideas themselves came almost exclusively from Europe and were in many ways antithetical to the America of the Founder’s vision. Rothbard sees the progressive takeover as a shift in power from old style political bosses to the educated classes and the emerging professions, and inevitably, organized financial interests.

The paradox of progressivism is its soaring rhetoric and failing results. One hundred years of progressive policy has left this country impoverished, dependent, less productive and politically divided. The blame for these failures has been apportioned elsewhere along strictly sectarian lines.

TThe brilliance of progressivism is in co-opting in the language of morality and justice thus transforming the state into a modern god that sees all, knows all, and giveth and taketh away, just like the old one did. Citizens should be aware however, that, as with any new god, a steady supply of new sins will also be found, ready to replace the old ones as needed.

Progressivism is currently a successful path to power, and power that seems unlimited at that. As a workable system of governance its success is much more questionable. In the 100 years or so of its reign virtually all the problems progressivism set out to solve have been exacerbated, or reconstituted themselves in new and virulent ways. Ever more drastic and comprehensive interventions and programs are required to “fix” things. The cumulative loss in freedom and productivity is monumental, which, as current economic indicators clearly show, is unsustainable at best.

Intellectually, progressivism is seriously flawed with its mix of incorrect premises, questionable goals, and slippery ethics. It thrives on the politics of division and the Hobbesian assumption that the elements of society are at war with one another and that they absolutely require referees with guns and laws to make things right.

Ultimately, progressivism’s ignorance and distrust of spontaneous order and the beneficial effects of enlightened self-interest becomes politically damaging. And when one couples this with a fixation on distribution (redistribution, actually) that entirely ignores the realities of production, then, as we will see in the following part, you have a guarantee of economic disaster as well.

(1)The Road to Serfdom
(Illustrated version)
Print version(Amazon)

2. Democide
Rummel’s Homepage
20th Century Democide
Wiki - Democide

3. Historian Martin van Crevald, in The Rise and Decline of the State, defines the State as:

"an abstract entity, which can be neither seen, nor heard, nor touched."

He notes this entity differs from government in the sense that government is:

“a person or group which makes peace, wages war, enacts laws, exercises justice, raises revenue, determines the currency, and looks after internal security on behalf of society as a whole, all the while attempting to provide a focus for people's loyalty, and, perhaps, a modicum of welfare as well. The latter [the State] is merely one of the forms which, historically speaking, the organization of government has assumed, and which, accordingly, need not be considered eternal and self-evident any more then were previous ones.”

Van Crevald stresses the unique corporate nature of the State, and its separateness from both its rulers and its members. He regards the defining characteristics of the State as:

“First, being sovereign, it refuses to share any of the above functions with others but concentrates all of them in its own hands. Secondly, being territorial, it exercises such powers over the people within its borders and over them only. Thirdly and most importantly, it is an abstract organization. Unlike any of its predecessors at any other time and place, it is not identical with either rulers or ruled; it is neither a man nor a community, but an invisible being known as a corporation. As a corporation it has an independent persona. The latter is recognized by law and capable of behaving as if it were a person in making contracts, owning property, defending itself, and the like”.

4. Hans Herman Hoppe
HHH Homepage
HHH archives

5. Effects of inflation:
Weimar Inflation 1
Weimar Inflation 2
100 Years of Purchasing Power in Decline

DIY Inflation Calculator

6. Political Investments
Politcal Investment Guide">Why Govt can't "fix" itself
Public Choice 2