Progressivism in America has always been a thuggish ideology. It rests on the notion that laws require no evidence to support their implementation, that intentions are all that matter and that those who oppose “change” of the sort progressives like are morally deficient. Progressivism requires Americans to separate off certain groups in American life as evil — the rich (“greedy!”), gun owners (“hooligans!”), traditionally religious people (“sexists!”), Constitutional government advocates (“bigots!”). It requires that certain Americans be cast as good — racial and ethnic minorities, low income earners and women (“victimized!”), irreligious people (“rationalists!”) and big government advocates (“experts!”).
Progressivism in America is actually regressivism. Progressivism sends us back to a time when philosophical differences were seen as rebellion against God-given monarchic authority. It sends us back to a time when the law of the community invariably outweighed the rights of the individual, rather than building government on the basis of protection of individual rights.
And most of all, progressivism prevents any possibility of real progress. The goal of the progressive agenda isn’t to allow people to live more prosperously, more happily, better. Progressivism has achieved none of that. In capitalist countries, today’s poor live better than yesterday’s rich; tomorrow’s poor will live better than today’s rich. In progressive countries, the goal is to obliterate the very categories of rich and poor. In practice, today’s poor aren’t as poor as yesterday’s poor, but they live no better than yesterday’s middle class. And the next generation’s poor will live the same as today’s poor. Stagnancy is the theme of progressivism in material terms.
But material progress isn’t their goal. The progressive goal is “progress” in generating a new version of human nature. That is why progressivism embraces and promotes false distinctions between human beings. Progressivism cannot accept the premise of voluntary commitments between human beings — that would imply that the current state of affairs is relatively ideal since it is based mostly on consent. Capitalism means that the rich aren’t rich because of greed — after all, all human beings are greedy. They’re rich because they engage in more voluntary transactions that help both sides. People are people, and they make agreements. There is no possibility of change in human nature.
But this is anathema to progressives. Instead, progressivism must create enemies, opponents to the beautiful change in human nature that must result if we can only excise the evil in our midst. And so progressivism casts certain Americans as the others, who if curbed or eliminated, can be converted into wonderful human beings — as defined by the left.
Barack Obama is the best messenger of this ideology. His philosophy on the fiscal cliff has been simple: condemn the rich for their greed, cast them out as lepers. Will falling off the fiscal cliff make us more prosperous? Of course not. Even Obama acknowledges that. But he insists that the rich must be taxed, for they are greedy. After all, he is only “asking them” (read: compelling them) to “pay their fair share” (read: foot all the bills associated with reshaping human nature). Republicans believe that prosperity cannot be accomplished by the IRS. But Obama instead casts them as representatives of those greedy rich, and thus fit for excision from the public debate, too.
On the gun control debate, Obama and his allies set up the same dichotomy between good and evil. Those who want more laws confiscating guns — laws unsupported and unsupportable by evidence in decreasing violence and murder — are good people. Those who don’t are unconcerned about the slaughter of innocents in Sandy Hook. On religion, too, Obama promotes that dichotomy: the religious hate women, and therefore don’t provide birth control to their employees. The irreligious love women and want them to have everything they need.
The left’s thug ideology finds its ultimate spokesperson in President Obama. True material progress pays the price for implementing his vision of the universe. So does the Constitutional order, which is based on checks and balances designed to preserve rights in the face of non-altruistic human nature. The Constitutional order is an obstacle to progressives like Obama, who believe that government can change human nature if left unchecked.
But if left unchecked, it is the audacious self-righteousness of those like Barack Obama that will destroy the possibility of a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.
Ben Shapiro, 28, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KRLA 870 Los Angeles, and Editor-At-Large for Breitbart News. His newest book is “Bullies,” to be released in January 2013.