Monday, January 1, 2018

Question: Why is the Progressive Era in the United States considered one of the greatest democracy movements in recorded history?

The Progressive Movement is not really a democracy movement, if you are defining democracy as a political system. Some would even say it was anti-democratic because it fostered the creation of a welfare state. Big government is generally seen as the opposite of democracy because a concentration of power at the federal level reduces personal liberty.
If you are using democracy in the generic sense, referring to the United States, then I would agree it was one of the most important movements in our nation’s history. The Progressive Era successfully attacked two egregious problems that existed in late 19th century America: unfair working conditions and corrupt politicians. Both problems were dealt with successfully.
Europe did not have the same experience as the United States. There was no corrupt political system to fix and solutions to the problem of worker exploitation were implemented much earlier. For example, Germany put a national health care system into place in 1883.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Question: Why do progressives in the U.S. move to implement most of their social programs at the federal level? Why not leave the decisions surrounding the implementation of such programs to the states (and their voters)?

 Because the federal level is where all the power is. If you can get Congress to create new federal law, it becomes enforceable over all 50 states. If you move one state at a time it takes much longer, and there will always be states who are opposed to specific social programs and cannot be won over.

There was a movement by Progressives in the 1990s to operate more at the local level. This effort came about because the Supreme Court and Congress were becoming more reluctant to support expanding the welfare state. These local efforts were called “civil society” programs and they combined entrepreneurship, volunteerism, and civic mindedness to achieve their goals.

Remember the great historical tug of war between Progressives and Conservatives has been based on defining the government’s role with respect to group rights versus individual rights. Progressives look at society as a set of groups. Some of these groups are disadvantaged and need to be helped by government. Conservatives are more concerned with liberty, meaning the individual’s ability to live his life independently without the government controlling him.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Question: What were the limits of the progressive movement?

There were two factors that placed limits on the Progressive Movement. First, Conservatives resisted the efforts of the Progressives, based on their disruption of the status quo. Republican presidents supported small government and would not support welfare state building. The lone exception to this was Theodore Roosevelt who was a Progressive himself.
The second factor was the law of diminishing returns. When the Progressive Movement began in the late 19th century, the people of the United States were being crushed by political corruption and corporate exploitation. Because these problems were so wide-spread, there was a tremendous force of will for change expressed by the American people. Once the government regulation of business was put in place and the political corruption cleaned up, momentum for change was weakened.
The Great Recession of the 1930s greatly expanded Progressive action as government expanded to try and bring the American economy back to normal. During that time, Social Security and other programs became part of the American entitlement fabric.
After World War II, the Progressives broke with the Democratic Party over foreign policy because they could not accept a cold war strategy. They tried to succeed on their own, but became marginalized by a growing Liberal establishment. It wasn’t until the advent of the New Left in the 1960s that the Progressives were able to reestablish themselves as a movement.
One characteristic of the Progressive ideology is utopianism. Progressives seek equality for all, in individual rights and economic standing. They dislike capitalism as exploitative and unfair.
Progressives would have been happy to see socialism or communism succeed because those models represented their view of how society should operate. But, both failed in practice because they are incompatible with individual rights and enormously inefficient. As an alternative, Progressives have put their efforts toward building a welfare state within the Capitalist Democracy.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Question: What is something about Republicans that is commonly misunderstood by liberals?

I’d say the number one factor is the Liberal belief that Republicans are selfish, uncaring capitalists who don’t mind seeing people starve. Republicans tend to ignore that accusation and don't typically demonstrate compassion or caring.

Republicans differ from Liberals because their moral point of view is different. Not better or worse, just different. Liberals look at welfare as essential to protect disadvantaged groups, and don’t worry about the cost to deliver the services they need. Republicans worry about value and effort. They are willing to support the disadvantaged if the programs designed to help them are efficient and don't waste money.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Question: Liberals seem to prefer being called progressives. Why? Are they ashamed of being democrats deep down?

The answer to this question is partly semantics so we have to clear up the definitions first. Progressive thinking is associated with the Progressive Movement which operated from 1870–1940. Those Progressives agitated to reverse worker exploitation and corrupt politics. They were successful in that endeavor.
American Liberalism did not appear until after World War II. President Truman made opposition to communism a key component of his administration. That decision isolated the Progressives because they had been traditionally against foreign intervention. The actually ran Henry Wallace as a Progressive candidate against Truman in 1948. When Truman won, Liberals took control of the party and the Progressives became marginalized until the 1960s.
I say American Liberalism because, as at least one other person pointed out, it was very different that the European version we call “Classic” Liberalism.
American Liberalism prospered until the early seventies, when it got a bad name over the failure of the welfare system. That is what I think you mean by “ashamed”. Today’s Liberals do not want to be associated with big government programs that do not work and waste money.
As Liberalism waned, the Progressives rose again, starting during the George W. Bush administration.
Progressives sit to the left of Liberals in the Democratic Party. They are more aggressive about wanting change even to the point of changing the government. They are very sensitive to the poor and other disadvantaged groups and they hate capitalism as exploitative.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What is the Progressive Gene about?

When you read the title of my book, you might wonder what it means. Genetics? Morality? Progressives? 

Here is a basic synopsis.

The Progressive Gene fuses the idea of a universal, genetically determined personal and social morality with the expression of that morality in the individual’s political philosophy. Although this connection extends to and encompasses society as a whole, the book focuses on the far left of the political spectrum, where the Progressives reside.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Political Morality. What is it?

Human beings live with two moralities: personal and social. The personal morality functions within the family: how we treat our family members. The other one is external: how we act with other people. External morality developed because human beings are social creatures and had to learn how to function in a group. Group compatibility offered protection that extended safety beyond the family unit. Group morality is an aggregate of the individuals in the group based on a consensus between them. To remain part of the group an individual has to follow those rules. This social morality was simple and worked well when man lived in small groups.

When agriculture began, man gave up his nomadic ways to live in one place and human group size grew enormously. Villages, towns, and cities developed. These human social structures required governments and laws. Social morality was now very complicated and inflexible. We experience the collision between our personal and social morality every day. For example, we know that abortion has been legalized, so if we are against abortion, we have to accept the law even though we disagree. We can also try to change the law, or move to a place that doesn’t have that law.

Our political morality is the result of our personal morality being mapped against the morality of society. Our party affiliation reflects the direction we’d like government to take to bring society’s morality into better alignment with our own.