Skip to comments.The 'Progressive' Legacy (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 02/13/2012 9:20:06 AM PST by jazusamo
Although Barack Obama is the first black President of the United States, he is by no means unique, except for his complexion. He follows in the footsteps of other presidents with a similar vision, the vision at the heart of the Progressive movement that flourished a hundred years ago.
Many of the trends, problems and disasters of our time are a legacy of that era. We can only imagine how many future generations will be paying the price and not just in money for the bright ideas and clever rhetoric of our current administration.
The two giants of the Progressive era Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson clashed a century ago, in the three-way election of 1912. With the Republican vote split between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt's newly created Progressive Party, Woodrow Wilson was elected president, so that the Democrats' version of Progressivism became dominant for eight years.
What Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had in common, and what attracts some of today's Republicans and Democrats, respectively, who claim to be following in their footsteps, was a vision of an expanded role of the federal government in the economy and a reduced role for the Constitution of the United States.
Like other Progressives, Theodore Roosevelt was a critic and foe of big business. In this he was not inhibited by any knowledge of economics, and his own business ventures lost money.
Rhetoric was TR's strong suit. He denounced "the mighty industrial overlords" and "the tyranny of mere wealth."
Just what specifically this "tyranny" consisted of was not spelled out. This was indeed an era of the rise of businesses to unprecedented size in industry after industry and of prices falling rapidly, as a result of economies of scale that cut production costs and allowed larger profits to be made from lower prices that attracted more customers.
It was easy to stir up hysteria over a rapidly changing economic landscape and the rise of new businessmen like John D. Rockefeller to wealth and prominence. They were called "robber barons," but those who put this label on them failed to specify just who they robbed.
Like other Progressives, TR wanted an income tax to siphon off some of the earnings of the rich. Since the Constitution of the United States forbad such a tax, to the Progressives that simply meant that the Constitution should be changed.
After the 16th Amendment was passed, a very low income-tax rate was levied, as an entering wedge for rates that rapidly escalated up to 73 percent on the highest incomes during the Woodrow Wilson administration.
One of the criticisms of the Constitution by the Progressives, and one still heard today, is that the Constitution is so hard to amend that judges have to loosen its restrictions on the power of the federal government by judicial reinterpretations. Judicial activism is one of the enduring legacies of the Progressive era.
In reality, the Constitution was amended four times in eight years during the Progressive era. But facts carried no more weight with crusading Progressives then than they do today.
Theodore Roosevelt interpreted the Constitution to mean that the President of the United States could exercise any powers not explicitly forbidden to him. This stood the 10th Amendment on its head, for that Amendment explicitly gave the federal government only the powers specifically spelled out, and reserved all other powers to the states or to the people.
Woodrow Wilson attacked the Constitution in his writings as an academic before he became president. Once in power, his administration so restricted freedom of speech that this led to landmark Supreme Court decisions restoring that fundamental right.
Whatever the vision or rhetoric of the Progressive era, its practice was a never-ending expansion of the arbitrary powers of the federal government. The problems they created so discredited Progressives that they started calling themselves "liberals" and after they discredited themselves again, they went back to calling themselves "Progressives," now that people no longer remembered how Progressives had discredited themselves before.
Barack Obama's rhetoric of "change" is in fact a restoration of discredited ideas that originated a hundred years ago.
God bless this special, brilliant man. He’s one of hero patriots.
Amen! He made simply in a few words progressivism and Obama what would take many writers pages to make clear.
With one added note, the brilliance of those in and out of the DNC who marketed him to the public knowing that he could never be impeached for what ever reason because of the color of his skin. This burning tire around the neck of anyone who chooses to be labeled a racist and a bigot against the first black president of the United States is enourmously debilitating allowing him to run buckshot over the law of the land with no consequence. Many employers suffer this on a smaller scale. We all have come in contact at our job where there is a worker who the employer cannot remove because of his affirmative action affiliation.
OK.... I say, let’s not mince words anymore. Let’s just call them what they in fact ARE..’Anti-American”
Exactly so, and whereas Glenn Beck is a loon and sounds like one, Dr Sowell “teaches” and informs concisely.
Were he or Walter Williams to run, I’d vote for them in a heartbeat. They are smart and self accomplished...and did it despite the prejudices that ruled during their childhood.
I hate Obama because he is a vapid dork quota baby undeserving of even receiving welfare.
Well said and true! I believe this latest caper of his on religion will be his downfall, hopefully so anyway.
A bump for the brilliant Dr. Sowell; the king of succinctness.
Good one. Thanks for the ping jaz.
“He made simply in a few words progressivism and Obama what would take many writers pages to make clear.”
The progressives use big words, and lots of them, to obscure their agenda.
They robbed the old-money rich of their status and power.
Socialism can best be understood as a way for the old-money rich, whose biggest assets are their connections to the political class, to use government to prevent the rise of any competition.
And yet this is exactly why his supporters love him. He represents their attitudes perfectly. His supporters for the most part (other than his campaign contributors who get massive payoffs with taxpayer funds - Soylandra) are losers and parasites who are envious of the achievers, but too lazy and/or too stupid to achieve anything by themselves. They are literally too lazy to steal, but they have the government to do it for them. These people love 0 and want him for a second term. What has to be defeated in the fall isn't 0 as much as it is his hordes of worthless moochers who vote for him and vote for his hand in our pockets.
Every word of this essay is dripping with brilliance.
Our progressive income tax is designed to prevent the working and innovative people from accumulating the wealth at the levels that the old-money rich have.
Lobbyist and the mechanics of crony capitalism via government regulations and sweetheart deals are designed so that innovative small businesses cannot compete fairly against the entrenched business interests.
Farming regulations (recently keeping kids off tractors) are designed to cripple the small family farms in favor of the large factory farming operations that give billions to politicians.
Government power has a vested interest in pursuing the interests of those who ‘vested’ into the system.
The Left often accuses the Right of being 'simplistic'. That's because the truth is often simple, and pretty linear to boot.
Liberal thought is always convoluted and dense, and frankly makes no sense most of the time because they want to obscure and bury the half-truths, the leaps in logic, and the outright lies of their thought processes
They want to do this not just to confuse you, but to enable themselves to believe the BS that they spout. And THAT'S the truth.
What you state is true; except that there is no conspiracy to achieve a totalitarian end.
The state cannot help itself; it always acts so as to dissolve natural human society, the better to extend its powers.
Divine Providence has endowed him with the gift of reason and the unique ability to articulate his understanding with clarity for our day.
There have been others in our day, including Dr. Leonard Read of the Foundation for Economic Education. As a matter of fact, rereading his classic, "Anything That's Peaceful," should be on the agenda of all of us who recognize the threats to liberty today.
On the topic of the President's so-called "compromise" last week, we must keep the focus on the fact that this is not about the Trojan Horses of "women's health" or "contraception."
It's not even limited to the principle of religious liberty or freedom of speech.
It is about an unconstitutional assumption of power over rights which "the People" withheld from the purview of the government they structured through their Constitution. If this arrogation of power to the Executive is allowed to stand in this case, then all of "the People's" rights are at risk.
Inasmuch as their Constitution allowed no power to infringe on any specified right in the First Amendment, then the person who assumes such a power also does not possess a power to "compromise," or "accomodate."
May I suggest that readers of this thread read Read's "Anything That's Peaceful" and share this wonderful and easy-to-read book with as many people as you can.
Not only does Read provide insight into the ideas of liberty versus those of tyranny (as in socialism), but his Chapter 5, entitled, "How Socialism Harms the Individual" is especially enlightening for any who may not see what is happening in America in its proper context, as pertains to the individuals involved.
In Chapter 5, under the heading "The Authoritarian," he begins by stating, "Of the threee classifications of persons involved in social leveling by compulsion, the authoritarian--the one who administers the taking and the giving--has been too little diagnosed." When you read it, you will see the nature of the man before us today. This section of Chapter 5 paints a portrait most Americans will recognize.