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Why Does “Progressive” Mean Bigger Role for State?

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 12:36 pm - March 15, 2009.
Filed under: Big Government Follies,Freedom,Liberals

It is uncanny sometimes how Bruce and I, while having very different blogging styles, often have similar ideas in mind.  This morning, when I checked the blog, I was delighted to discover his latest, How “Progressive” Are You? in large part because he had put the word “progressive” in quotation marks.

Yesterday, when reading this comment on the press conference between President Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Ina¡cio Lula da Silva, “Obama’s talking progressive policies, Lula is talking about free trade and business,” I noted how, in common parlance, that word, “progressive” has come to mean the opposite of “free trade” and many other freedoms.  Indeed, it seems to have become synonymous, at least for those who use it, with an increasing role for the state.

Who decided that big government means progress? Had those who did so studied history, they would see that it’s quite the opposite.



  1. Dan:

    The same adulteration of the English language is prevelent in the misuse of the word “liberal”. I never use the word to refer to the political Left in America because there’s nothing liberal about:

    Confiscating wealth
    Confiscating guns
    Hate-speech Laws
    Political Correctness
    Trapping Kids in Government Schools
    Forcing People to Invest in the Government for Retirement
    Universal(ly mandated) Healthcare
    Tax-funded Stem-Cell Research
    Affirmative Action
    Judicial Fiat

    These are hallmarks (and I could go on) of the Left in America today. How on earth they came up with the label “liberal” I’ll never know.

    Comment by ColoradoPatriot — March 15, 2009 @ 1:52 pm - March 15, 2009

  2. “Progressive”, “Liberal”, “Gay”, “Patriot”…

    Comment by Ignatius — March 15, 2009 @ 7:46 pm - March 15, 2009

  3. To me, “progressive” is like curing diarrhea with chili and prunes.

    Liberal used to mean giving people the freedom to act on their own. Now it forcing people to toe the line of “progressive” government.

    When I was first on my very own (age 18) I had $50 and a fiber board suitcase which held my other shirt and some underwear. I went to college where I worked for my tuition and lived by my wits. My studies in the “liberal arts” reinforced what I already knew: there is no free lunch.

    Today, liberals and “progressives” put a great premium on “wants” and “feelings.” In some respects, we can never satisfy our wants and you allow your feelings to take charge of your life if you have no gratitude for the wonderfulness of life itself.

    When I was a youngster in the home, I never got farther than down town in a small town. Now I have traveled the globe and met scores of cultures and studied interesting societies both past and present.

    As a conservative, I have discovered a remarkable sameness among people. But classicists would consider my views and understandings to be liberal. How confusing things are when so many fail to understand the verities we were taught by Swift and Carroll.

    I find the modern American “progressive” or liberal to be the among the most repressive regimes in the world of today. That includes Obama who is but one degree from a Peron, Salazar, Franco, Putin or Arafat.

    Comment by heliotrope — March 15, 2009 @ 7:54 pm - March 15, 2009

  4. To me, “progressive” has come to signal reform through massive government growth and social-democratic policies. However, in many circles, “progressive” is roughly equivalent to “not a social con.”

    Thus, we find Meghan McCain referring to herself as a “progressive Republican” to distinguish herself as someone on the Right who supports gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research. She uses the term “progressive” to make her politics more palatable to her liberal hipster friends who have declared conservatism the epitome of uncool.

    Perhaps conservatives need to work a little harder on countering the positive branding of a political philosophy that yields such negative outcomes.

    Comment by Jenn Q. Public — March 15, 2009 @ 8:31 pm - March 15, 2009

  5. Who decided that big government means progress? Had those who did so studied history, they would see that it’s quite the opposite.

    Like we keep trying to tell people: It was the Germans, particularly admirers of Prussia and/or fascism, who decided that the words ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ should come to mean Big Government, especially in the U.S. Also the Communists / admirers of Marx. They all realized that the only way they could succeed in the U.S. was to pervert the language: to dress up their statism (worship of the State) as being something that was somehow, well, liberal and progressive.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 15, 2009 @ 9:49 pm - March 15, 2009

  6. What actually separates an overwhelmingly big government from the oligarchy or dictatorship?

    Big governments are consumed with efficiency. Not long ago, my wife and I were on a train in Japan. We each had a suitcase by our feet. The “pusher” on the platform in Shinkasa Station only saw the open space between us and the other passengers, so he shoved two more people into the car. Two women stood on top of our suitcases in order to make room. We were embarrassed, but they bowed and smiled and apologized for standing on our luggage. All things being equal, we should have balanced the suitcases on our heads.

    Such efficiency shapes the culture. The Japanese rent “love” rooms by the hour in hotels because rice paper walls are not private. Dogs are restricted in size and they have their barks removed. Living space is measured by the tatami mat.

    The utility of government regulation can not be denied. But the exuberance of government regulation is the playground of petty satraps.

    Comment by heliotrope — March 15, 2009 @ 10:21 pm - March 15, 2009

  7. The other part of this to consider is progressivism’s track record of failure, often disastrous failure, in its attempts at social engineering.

    Progressive industrial policies — unionism, the Wagner Act, overzealous regulation — have devastated the manufacturing base in the USA.

    Progressive social policies — the welfare state — have devastated the family structure of vulnerable minorities. Progressive attitudes on sexuality have similarly damaged the broader social fabric and, ironically, made women more sexually objectified than before the sexual revolution.

    Progressive education policies — the triumph of self-esteem over actual learning — have made our public schools the most expensive and worst performing in the industrialized world.

    Applied to post-colonial Africa, progressive policies have given the world Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe.

    Most recently, progressive policies applied to credit and mortgage lending — i.e. the socialization of credit risks for political purposes — have been an economic disaster.

    All things considered, any policy advocated by the progressive left should be treated skeptically.

    Comment by V the K — March 16, 2009 @ 5:30 am - March 16, 2009

  8. Aw, filtered.

    Comment by American Elephant — March 16, 2009 @ 5:35 am - March 16, 2009

  9. […] Progressive Movement’s Disastrous Track Record Jump to Comments A post at the GayPatriot blog got me to thinking.Why is it “progressivism” means progressively higher taxes, […]

    Pingback by The Progressive Movement’s Disastrous Track Record « Teh Resistance Blog — March 16, 2009 @ 5:38 am - March 16, 2009

  10. It depends on which era of Progressivism you are talking about, because it does go through different shifts of attitude. You have the old Reformist Left of Croly that came about to deal with the problems of government and economics of the late 19th and 20th century. He didn’t push a larger government but wanted more popular soverignity. He saw things like the Constitution, State Governments, Parties as barriers to the people’s will and sought to change that. Interestingly enough, Croly’s progressive view of Government has largely come to pass. He believed in a more powerful executive and the use of a civil service/Administration. On the economic front, he believed the government had to step in to help the worker because he was different type of person than the property owner. The wager earner couldn’t just hope for propety protection, his property was his work and his property rights would be insurance against sickness and injury. This would lead to regulation of business by Government for things like safety and protection of union rights. Croly would be play with government growth because, with his reforms, the government would be only act in the people’s will.

    The Reformist Left dies out when the Anti War Left grows in the 60’s and 70s. They see the system as a failure and only radical change can save America, because she is too far gone due to the Vietnaim War and the horrors of racial injustice. The Cultural Left comes after that, it comes about from the loss of labor unions in progressivism. The Cultural Left deals more with removing stigmas of race, gender and sexual orientation and less focused on economic matters.

    Thats basically an overview of the history of American progressivism…Obama is probably seen as a return to Reformist Left.

    Comment by Darkeyedresolve — March 16, 2009 @ 10:53 am - March 16, 2009

  11. [Croly] didn’t push a larger government…
    He believed in a more powerful executive and the use of a civil service/Administration. On the economic front, he believed the government had to step in…

    DER: Do you proofread your comments? Did you not see how the second part of what I’ve quoted contradicts/disproves the first part?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 16, 2009 @ 11:33 am - March 16, 2009

  12. Oh yea that does run right into one another, Sorry about that I was thinking of larger government in a more social regulation sense.

    Comment by Darkeyedresolve — March 16, 2009 @ 11:49 am - March 16, 2009

  13. When he was a young man in the 1920s, my grandfather (a staunch conservative in later life) attended some of the Communist Party meetings in New York City. He told me that the Party leaders warned everyone never to call themselves Communists, because the word was such an anathema to most Americans. Instead, they were instructed to call themselves Liberals, Leftists, Progressives, or Activists.

    Just in case you were wondering why Progressive = Communist.

    Comment by Conservative Guy — March 16, 2009 @ 7:40 pm - March 16, 2009

  14. I was thinking of larger government in a more social regulation sense

    Larger government is larger government. I personally am not persuaded if someone tries to say “It’s only economic regulation”, “it’s only social regulation”, “it’s only regulating hate speech” or what have you.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 16, 2009 @ 10:48 pm - March 16, 2009

  15. […] UPDATE Who decided that big government means progress? […]

    Pingback by Fausta’s Blog » Blog Archive » “Is Rand Relevant?” — May 15, 2009 @ 5:20 pm - May 15, 2009

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