Want to understand a political movement? Distinguish between its early proponents and its later followers. The thinking and rhetoric change over time.
Take Progressivism. It started out as an intellectual movement. Its leading lights were Americans who had studied in foreign colleges and universities. They brought back European ideas of an aggrandized state to counteract American notions of limited government.
Though I disagree with their notions almost totally (with interesting exceptions), it’s worth noting that they thought they were “scientific,” and would sometimes even encourage an experimental attitude towards public policy: Devise new programs, test them, chuck them when they don’t work.
Modern “progressives” don’t seem to sport that “testing” idea any longer.
I just received an email from BarackObama.com, which was complaining about the Speaker of the House, who — on TV, of all things! — said that “Congress ‘should not be judged on how many new laws we create,’ but rather on ‘how many laws . . . we repeal.’” My BO correspondent found this “embarrassing”:
We elected our members of Congress to work on the issues we care about: creating jobs, fixing our immigration system, fighting climate change, and passing laws to reduce gun violence.
We didn’t put them in office to sit there and wind back the clock.
Notice the assumption here: All the laws on the books are good, serving the common good; none are worthy of repeal.
Doesn’t seem like an assumption an early Progressive thinker would have made. But for too many of today’s progressives, progress apparently consists in accumulating regulations, rules, prohibitions, and tax programs as if each one were a pearl of great price.
Progress is government growth? That defies common sense.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.