Here’s a thought: *It’s wrong to take things from people by force.*
The above is an ethical principle so basic that even leftists know it. When, say, watching a movie that has cavemen, the leftie can see that the caveman taking things (by force) is a sign of his savagery. Or, when teaching a kindergarten, even a left-wing teacher will stop the kid who grabs another kid’s toys or body parts without prior, explicit consent. The willingness to deal with others by mutual, voluntary consent is the foundation of civilized society.
But in the sphere of politics, the left-winger forgets it. Politically, her concept is that if you can get “the community” or government to take things from people by force (rather than taking things yourself)……then it’s OK. She calls that concept “progressive”. But it isn’t progressive. It’s regressive and, indeed, reactionary.
It’s reactionary because it dates back to savage times. It’s the prevailing rule in the dark(er) ages of human history. In medieval and early modern times, they called it the Divine Right of Kings. The idea was that the monarch, being answerable only to God, had the right to take anyone’s life, liberty or property at any time. Which meant, more or less, that the government had the right; government was effectively unlimited.
Beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries, unlimited government was opposed by the Lockean Revolution, a set of ideas developed by many, including John Locke. The core idea was that individuals have natural rights, superior to the government’s. The Lockeans were not anarchists; they pushed the ideas of limited government and rule of law.
The Lockean Revolution was (and still is) profoundly progressive. In itself, it is an instance of progress (over savagery). Also, to whatever extent it has been practiced, it has tended to make the surrounding society much more developed and open.
Opponents of the Lockean Revolution were reactionaries. Why? Because almost by definition they were aristocrats, defending old privileges and unjust institutions (such as slavery and unlimited government).
Eventually, the reactionaries saw that Big Government could not survive, if people understood that it was reactionary. Big Government advocates saw the need to dress themselves up as new-fangled and “progressive”. So they developed new political theories; new justifications for Big Government, that is, government which would be able to take things from people by physical force, as it pleased.
Following more socialistic philosophers such as Rousseau or Marx, advocates of Big Government chopped off the King’s head – while preserving his Big (or nearly unlimited) government, in practice. Instead of God or the King’s right, they talked about the supremacy of the People (or Nation or Race or Proletariat or Community) over the individual. (“We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.” – Hillary Clinton)
In chopping off the King’s head – and by their own loud, ongoing proclamation – Big Government advocates have re-branded themselves as “progressives”. But they are not. They remain reactionaries. Because, in practice, these “progressives” still oppose the Lockean Revolution – which is (in Jonah Goldberg’s phrasing) the greatest gift to humankind of the last 1,000 years.
In point of fact, limited government – and the Rule of Law – are civilization and progress; while Big Government, however left-wingers may now justify it, is still as savage and reactionary as it ever was.
We who believe in freedom and limited government may often get called reactionaries, by left-wingers. Call it example #6553 of left-wing deflection and projection.