Progressivism Clueless

From the American Thinker:

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December 29, 2009

The Government Still Hasn’t a Clue

By Christopher Chantrill

Thomas Frank, the Wall Street Journal‘s tame liberal columnist, experienced the Noughties (2000-2009) as a  “low, dishonest decade.” It was all corporate scandals, slack regulation, and unnecessary wars.
Allow me, Mr. Frank, to propose a narrative a little more expansive and a little less cramped: The Noughties was a decade of Progressive chickens coming home to roost.
Before coming to this obvious judgment, it helps to read a quartet of articles published just before Christmas in National Review about the founding Progressives back in the late 19th century: Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Herbert Croly (links may still be behind a subscription wall). Most of the ideas about the living constitution and the wise, powerful federal government advised by educated experts — ideas that our liberal friends get with their mother’s milk — came from them.
When we talk about the Democrats poised on the edge of a precipice this holiday season, we are talking about whether our governing educated liberal elite are going to make the Progressive worldview developed by Ely, Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Croly, and implemented by FDR, LBJ, and now BHO, into a suicide pact.
This worldview was sorely tested all through the last decade, and it got its comeuppance this past year. Last month we saw the scientific climate experts exposed as conniving manipulators in Climategate. On Christmas Eve, the United States Senate passed a health reform bill with 2,000 pages of undigested expert ideas on gaming the health system with untested administrative rules and commissions. Then, on the weekend, in response to its failure to interdict the hot-crotch Detroit bomber, the heaving security apparatus of the United States government triumphantly implemented useless new security measures on the innocent traveling public.
These liberals, Progressives, or whatever they want to call themselves next are clueless.
Here’s how the last decade looks to me.
We had the pre-9/11 federal government stolidly pirouetting around a wall of separation between intelligence agencies. We had the Federal Reserve Board ponderously snuffing out two investment bubbles and then ponderously printing money to get the economy started again. We’ve had the State Department and the Defense Department, with President Bush in the middle, arguing for a year over how to govern Iraq. We’ve had Congress posturing for years about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and doing nothing but argue about the racism of the agencies’ critics.
Now we have President Obama and the Democratic Congress hosing down the economy with bailouts, deficits, and huge new administrative schemes for health care, energy, autos, and finance. Yet we are assured by Peggy Noonan’s unnamed Obama aide source that the president “just does what he thinks is right. And that consumes a lot of his time. Most of it, in fact.” No kidding.
Over in Britain, my favorite columnist, Minnette Marrin, is advising the government to “do nothing.” In government, especially, there is “too much that doesn’t matter going on.” No kidding.
For years, the hit on capitalism is that even though it floods the world with prosperity, it must go because it is unjust.
The liberal/Progressive conceit was that their recipe of a living Constitution and an educated, expert administration would not only work, but it would be just.
But now we know, after a century of Progressive politics and the last decade of bureaucratic bungling, that they are wrong. It isn’t just that Progressivism doesn’t work. That’s obvious. There’s a bigger problem.
Progressivism is profoundly unjust.
As David Freddoso wrote last week, “Big government is always for sale to the powerful.” When liberals start planning new trillion-dollar programs, all we get is a feeding frenzy.
We are watching, real time, as moderate Democrats fold for tiny, dirty little payoffs to their states and their egos.
A moderate Democrat is just someone who will demand a higher price for caving into what Reid and Pelosi and Obama want him to do.
Conservatives have an answer to the unjust vote auctions of liberalism. That answer is conservatism, a moderate and just worldview balanced between the unjust world of the administrative state and the cramped world of the old traditional society of the aristocracy, the gentry, and the lower orders. That’s what freedom means: freedom from the government bureaucrat, from the rapacious landowner, from the unjust employer — the freedom to get up and move to a new state or a new job.
Conservative philosopher Michael Novak writes in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism that this freedom should be institutionalized in the Greater Separation of Powers between the political sector, the economic sector, and the moral/cultural sector.
What are we waiting for?

Page Printed from: at December 30, 2009 – 07:45:21 AM EST

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his and  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

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