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.

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