Progressives, Liberals, and now Progressive Again

Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president, rejected the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s system of the separation of powers. This philosophy is known as Progressivism.

“All that progressives ask or desire,” wrote Woodrow Wilson, “is permission — in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word — to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.”

John Dewey and his followers, argued that we needed a broader conception of liberty than the one maintained by laissez-faire negative-rights libertarians. The key idea can be summed up in a quote from Anatole France: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” Basically, the idea is that the freedom to starve because you have no food is not a meaningful freedom at all, because it does not maximize your autonomy or allow your to realize your potential, which were important goals in classical liberalism.

Thus Dewey argued that we should recognize positive liberty as well as negative liberty, meaning that e.g. just as we ought to recognize a right to live without someone killing you, we similarly ought to recognize a right to live without dying due to lack of food. Thus American Progressives advocates that the government should play some role in the economy in order to give people autonomy and enable them to pursue their own happiness, along the lines of the “responsiveness” part of the Progressive philosophy. Thus Americans liberals still try to achieve the goals of classical liberalism, but they sometimes do it through Progressive means.

The Progressives rejected God given rights as naive and unhistorical. In their view, human beings are not born free. John Dewey, the most thoughtful of the Progressives, wrote that freedom is not “something that individuals have as a ready-made possession.” It is “something to be achieved.” In this view, freedom is not a gift of God or nature. It is a product of human making, a gift of the state. Man is a product of his own history, through which he collectively creates himself. He is a social construct. Since human beings are not naturally free, there can be no natural rights or natural law. Therefore, Dewey also writes, “Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.”

The Progressive presidents advocated a very interventionist foreign policy, since they were motivated by the desire to help people as much as possible, even people abroad. Liberals still share some of this impulse, and are willing to support limited American military intervention in circumstances of extreme humanitarian crisis. But mostly their foreign policy views were taken from classical liberalism, so they they’re antiwar for the most part.

Progressive are totally silent about their widespread support for the theory and practice of eugenics. As Princeton University economist Tim Leonard has chronicled, “eugenic thought deeply influenced the Progressive Era transformation of the state’s relationship to the American economy.” Despite the fact that this monograph favorably cites progressive hero Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for his famous dissent in the economic liberty case Lochner v. New York (1905), the authors make no mention of Holmes’ notorious majority decision in Buck v. Bell, where Holmes and his colleagues (including Louis Brandeis) upheld the forced sterilization of those who “sap the strength of the State.”

Today it is the Progressive that laud Margaret Sanger and champing the slaughter of babies, which, btw the way are mostly black, Let’s read a few quotes:

“[Our objective is] unlimited sexual gratification without the burden of unwanted children… [Women must have the right] to live … to love… to be lazy … to be an unmarried mother … to create… to destroy… The marriage bed is the most degenerative influence in the social order… The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

No, that was not taken from Hitler. That’s a quotation from the patron saint of the feminists and Hillary Clinton. And the above words were not a one-off moment of insanity. There’s more where those horrendous thoughts came from.

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. And the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

“Plan for Peace” from Birth Control Review (April 1932, pp. 107-108)

Article 1. The purpose of the American Baby Code shall be to provide for a better distribution of babies… and to protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit.
Article 4. No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit…
Article 6. No permit for parenthood shall be valid for more than one birth.
“America Needs a Code for Babies,” 27 Mar 1934

Give dysgenic groups [people with “bad genes”] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization.
April 1932 Birth Control Review, pg. 108

Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.

In any case, when contemporary liberals call themselves progressive, they’re hearkening back to their intellectual predecessors. The Progressives hijacked the Democrat Party early in the 20th Century, as they were doing it they stopped calling themselves Progressive and started referring to themselves a Liberals. We can thank Hilary for the label coming back out in the open, she said that she was proud To call herself a Progressive.