“All that exists deserves to perish.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, cited by Karl Marx in his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
Progressives fancy themselves as harbingers of a new world order, and the scions of a utopia never before seen. Yet despite their best intentions, they are the destroyers of civilization and the oblivious instruments of totalitarians. These amoral souls are but the playthings of collectivists, and the handmaidens of incipient tyranny.
The American Founding represents the anti-thesis of the government preferred by those with the kind of craven powerlust that progressives exhibit time and time again. Far from being a new and enlightened being, the progressive archetype was anticipated and deliberately frustrated by those who founded this country.
Before Karl Marx set out to develop a systematic method of destroying the world as he knew it, the world that had enslaved him to labor and the care of his neglected children, he concluded that the whole world was “upside down.” How could he, as a mere philosopher, develop the means to bring the world to a grinding halt — only to be remade by philosopher-kings, such as himself?
Marx settled upon his ideological scapegoat for all the poverty and misery of the world — “capitalism.” This form of economy based on property ownership and currency as an exchange for goods and labor was posited as the barrier between human cooperation, since Marx believed it caused people to mutually objectify and feel alienated towards one another.
Like French revolutionary badboy Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marx believed that civilization in its present form was corrupt at its very essence. Human beings needed to be emancipated from industrial society (a sentiment former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi would later echo):
In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.
This in some ways the reflection of an intellectual’s dread, similar to that Adam Smith himself experienced, of the implications of political economy based on increasing specialization. Such a form of economy may be conducive to improved efficiency, but its effect is to narrow the human mind’s perspicacity. This is a legitimate complaint, and one anticipated not just be Marxists, but by the likes of the aristocratic Montesquieu, who was concerned about the influence of pecuniary interests on the nobility of the monarchic spirit.
While Enlightenment philosophers preached the advancement of humanity on the foundation of universal education and the elimination of superstition, later neomarxist philosophers like Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer believed The Enlightenment to be mythos that masked the inherent ugliness of the capitalist system. The material benefit of capitalism was in some ways tacitly acknowledged by this rhetorical shift, even as Marxists took up a cultural form of warfare to justify economic redistribution.
In all fairness, in some ways The Enlightenment did smack of pseudo-religion; in other words, it was an empty replacement for the Christianity that was becoming increasingly questioned among intellectuals (e.g. Spinoza). But the Enlightenment project was crucial for improving the lot of humanity, because it had dismantled the Divine Right of Kings argument for arbitrary rule, a task best exemplified by the work of Locke.
Thus, it is a great irony, though not one wholly unanticipated if one grasps that the state’s defeat would never be permanent, that the self-styled “progressives” of American politics would return Western Civilization precisely back to the arbitrary absolute rule of the state. If might analogize, progressivism takes America back to the status quo ante-bellum, if we take The Constitution to be a kind of treaty, not just between the U.S. and Britain, but between the people and the state.
It is through this lens of history and philosophy that a relatively informed and knowledgeable “conservative,” meaning in this case someone in favor of increasing and expanding the insights and gains of classical liberalism, perceives many bittersweet and tragic ironies.
If one holds that real progress is best exemplified by the development of the scientific method and the fruit it self-evidently bore, the security and productivity that sprung from the mutual societal recognition of private property, the diminishing of superstition’s hold on the human mind, and intolerance for the cultish exaltation of one human being over another, then what has come to pass for “progressive” in the American culture is at best a farce, and at worst, a dangerous and perverse re-institutionalization of a bureaucratic and stultifying form of absolutist rule.
Among the many ironies commensurate with progressivism, one finds that socialism destroys society. The highest degrees of alienation and anomie in the world can be found in post-communist nations, where one can simply not trust his neighbors to refrain from snitching on him for a “thought-crime,” or to withhold from seizing the fruits of his labor, particularly if he makes an effort to excel.
Consequentially, progressivism is anti-progress. In a classic maneuver of ideological inversion, progressives oppose the kind of scientific progress that has come from intellectual freedom. Repeated risk, failure, and breakthrough by the best and brightest, as incentivized by a market (and rarely achieved through government funding), recombined with scientific inquiry driven by healthy skepticism, as opposed to morally and politically influenced group-think, has achieved the greatest progress for mankind in the modern era.
It is with such a “progressive” spirit, which seems in this mind’s eye to be a stodgy and decayed relic of the mid-nineteenth century, especially by comparison to the heady yearning for freedom as embodied by the late eighteenth century, that we must understand that the intellectual elite of America fancy that individual rights are obsolete, and the state granting of privileges and financial rewards based on arbitrary group affiliation and so forth is in any way “enlightened.” We therefore stumble upon another irony — the dismissal of the individual in the so-called interest of “equality.”
Individual rights aren’t archaic — they have been used as the underlying bases for “equal rights” for well over two centuries in this country. Property is an extension of the equal right to self-determination; lawful firearms possession is a part of the equal right to self-defense; and the freedom of speech and conscience recognizes the equal value and worth of each individual. Voting and suffrage are just aspects of political freedom for people to choose their own leaders — provided those leaders don’t violate others’ rights.
Voting takes place as a process to solve the practical matters of where roads are paved, how the military is funded, and so forth. “Democracy” does not determine moral right or wrong, as difficult a concept for modern liberals to grasp that it is. Our rights as sovereign individuals in the universe, created with free choice and only our own lives to live and die, is not up for vote.
The economy should thus reflect that reality that each individual should be equally respected under the law; regardless of incidental characteristics such as skin color or gender. A woman is equal to a man, a white is equal to a black, and so forth. The history of the nation has been the progress towards the equal application of individual rights for all, regardless of progressives’ intentions, and nearly wholly related to the nation’s proceeding from Founding principles as enshrined in The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.
Burdening citizens unequally, decreeing that certain Americans should pay a disproportionate share for the limited expenses of the state — this has nothing to do with equality. People do not have an “equal right” to remuneration for non-services provided or non-value rendered — this is state-sponsored fraud to justify its enhanced power via economic dictatorship.
Since the Democrat Party feigns that it has bestowed rights to certain social groups (in actuality, the Republican Party emancipated the slaves, voted for the Civil Rights Act more so than Democrats), people believe that the “government” has “freed” them. In fact, the government(s) had enslaved them to begin with!
Note that eleven of thirteen colonies supported Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration condemning slavery; the Constitution banned slave trade in 20 years, and penalized southern states with three/fifths clause. The Founders and Framers were enlightened men — true visionaries; unlike the short-sighted, vacuous characters of today’s political parties, who squabble and bicker over how much more power and money they can control, rather than leading the country as statesmen with a mind to the historical failures and fortunes of nations and the will to forge a path that increases and enhances freedom.
If the Founders were but petty men of property attempting to secure their own hegemony over a society, then why did they allow for the right to bear arms, through which a people could rise up and overthrow a tyrannical government? Why did they allow for freedom of speech, through which a people could communicate their disdain of a corrupt government? Why did they institute federalism as a way of dispersing federal power and providing for checks and balances? Why did they promote property rights, by which people could accumulate their own fortunes based on their own labor, frugality, and ambition, and trade freely in a voluntary economy?
Progressivism, at its most naked and stripped-down core, corrupts the nation and progressively puts more power into the hands of the central government and its increasingly wanton and craven politicians. If this is the agenda of today’s intellectuals, then what more can be said for them to savor the human misery and suffering their ideas predictably cause?
It is the project of conservatism to disperse political power, essentially equalizing it among the citizenry, and to disperse economic power by putting most decision-making in the hands of consumers and individual laborers. It is an additional note that when a banking cartel masquerading as a legitimate arm of government arbitrarily controls the value of money and interest, one does not live under a remotely free economy.
The promotion of a government that owns our labor, owns our property, and can dictate every significant aspect of our lives is nothing less than a reintroduction of slavery for all Americans. Even the great author on democracy Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this dreadful aspect of socialism.
One should never attempt to cede control over one’s life to others — not only is this unwise and dangerous, as it rests on the blind faith in the goodness of others, but no one can run a human being’s life as well as he or she can, provided there are the right economic and moral incentives in the society to do so. Any conceit on the part of self-imagined intellectual elites is not only vain, but fatal to the vibrancy and vitality of any free people.
It was recently admitted that the world is becoming more equal and better as a whole, precisely because of the spread of global capitalism; but America has nonetheless become worse off due to the reverse tendency — pursuing the failed central planning schemes that these developing nations are fleeing from. The burgeoning Americas of the world, we invite you to take up the mantle of liberty and freedom, for the good and well-being of mankind, and to show this fallen nation that the true progressivism of the world is progressing towards freedom and respect for each and every individual.