Mises Daily: Blog: Andrew Syrios: A Brief History of Progressivism
What is a Progressive? It depends on what you mean and almost who you ask. But whatever a Progressive is, they aren't Liberals unless the idea of what a progressive is means someone who believes in progress. But without some real ideological vision in how to achieve progress. So if that is the case than I would be both a Liberal because I believe in individual freedom, individual and equal rights for all and responsibility, constitutional law and rights that can't be taken away just through majoritarian rule. Limited government that protects people from predators, but doesn't try to run our lives for us.
But I'm also someone who believes in progress and that even government has limited role in seeing that progress is achieved for the people. To me that is what a classical Progressive I guess the Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt's, Lyndon Johnson's back in the day Progressives who believed in progress and using government including the Federal Government in a limited way to bring about that progress. But if you watch MSNBC now and read so-called progressive publications like The Nation, Salon, the AlterNet, TruthOut and now the new New Republic progressivism doesn't look the way I described it.
Lets say today's Progressives or a lot of people who are labeled as Progressives are really what I call Eurocrats. Social Democrats people who believe in social democracy and that "freedom economic and otherwise is essentially dangerous. Because it comes with so much individual choice and decision-making that can be overwhelming for an individual. So you need a government big enough especially at the federal level to ensure that dangerous even individual choices aren't made. Because when bad individual choices are made the society as a whole as to pay for those bad choices".
That is not Lyndon Johnson progressivism. President Johnson never wanted a government so big that it could essentially run Americans lives for them and outlaw and remove risk completely. He wanted to use government to empower as many Americans as possible to be able to live the American Dream. (For lack of a better phrase) And what I mean by that is that LBJ did believe in public social insurance and the safety net. But not use it to run people's lives for them, but to empower people in need to be able to help themselves. Today's so-called Progressives are much further left than that.
If you really are a Progressive you believe government especially the Federal Government has a role limited at that, but a major role in seeing that everyone has the ability to live well in life. And even live in freedom with the ability to take care of themselves. So you believe in things like like public financing for infrastructure and education and even health care. But you don't believe government especially the Federal Government should have a complete monopoly over these services. You believe in things like the safety net, but not having it so big that people no longer have to make economic decisions for themselves.
A real Progressive believes in public broadcasting, but doesn't believe government should own and operate all media. Just having an independent public broadcasting option for people to use as well. And if you are a real Progressive you are not a prohibitionist or a nanny statist. Someone who believes in outlawing personal choices that are dangerous. Like alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and add junk food and soft drinks today. And if you are a real Progressive you believe in gun control to keep firearms out of the hands of predators and the mentally disabled. But not outlaw them from responsible individuals who use them for protection and have them in private hands.
Progressives, statists, and Communists aren't the same people with three different labels. Progressive are not only democratic, but believe in a certain level of individual freedom because they don't believe you can have a government big enough to run people's lives for them. But also because a government that big would be regressive and not serve anyone well. And that educated people tend to know what they need to do and have in order to live well and be productive responsible people. But you want government strong enough to ensure that everyone has a quality opportunity to live in freedom.