In political circles, progressives pride themselves on being “the adult in the room.” This stems from their belief in the intellectual superiority of progressivism over conservatism. The progressive stranglehold on mainstream media reflects this most often when a Republican occupies the White House. Before the “unstable” Trump there was Bush the “idiot.” The defeat of Bush senior was with the slogan “The Economy, Stupid” while his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, was “senile.” Gerald Ford was a bumbling fool in the eyes of leftists and Nixon was paranoid.
Since conservatism is more inclined to keep things as they are, implying a reluctance to consider new ideas, it’s not a stretch to assert backwardness, ignorance, or stupidity. However, conservatives are no more likely to be ignorant or close-minded than are progressives. History is awash in the blood spilled by communism yet this remains the ultimate goal of progressive ideology. Logic refutes central planning yet the state remains infallible to progressive stalwarts. Ever moving goal posts for equality may require adept mental agility but this is hardly indicative of anything more than blind obedience.
Sure, The Donald does some wacky things, but he continues the same policies that his two predecessors perpetuated, if only with a politically incorrect bravado. When Obama doubled the national debt, he was no more brilliant than Bush’s doubling of the national debt except for the scale of spending required to achieve it. Those who died under the drone attacks of Obama are no better off than those who will die under Himself regardless of their respective intellects. Republicans and Democrats share, among many other things, the propensity to be stupid on an ever increasing scale.
On a recent episode of Lions Of Liberty, Marc Clair interviewed John Perkins, author of New Confessions of An Economic Hitman. During the discussion, Mr. Clair described the power of government leveraged by big business as a chicken and egg situation. This is not an uncommon conclusion considering that libertarians and anarchists point to the government as the problem while progressives point to the greed of business as the source of corruption. However, assessing the question logically, one of these is clearly the primary culprit.
There are three possible configurations of any social structure: statelessness where business is subject completely to the whim of the market (i.e. anarchy), a coexistence of state and business, or complete ownership of the means of production by the state (i.e. communism or socialism). Needless to say, any practical application of the middle configuration would appear on a continuum between no state and complete control by the state. It is in this configuration we find ourselves today.
Where states exist, state actors claim powers which exceed natural rights. For example, the U.S. federal government claims a power to tax citizens (i.e. expropriate private property) as a means of raising funds to maintain government agencies. Such a power does not naturally exist and could not be exercised by someone outside of the government.
Since humans act purposefully, applying available means to achieve desired ends, it would be natural for anyone claiming the power of expropriation to exercise that power when they deem necessary. Similarly, anyone not directly possessing such power would seek avenues through which it could be wielded on their behalf. In a free market, businesses have no such power to expropriate: they must serve consumers in order to reap benefits from them. However, when the power of the state can result in greater profits for less cost, businesses will naturally seek access to that power.
In a stateless society, no person, group, or business can legitimately claim powers over others. The state introduces such claims to power and, as a result, the corruption inherent in it.
When classical liberalism gained momentum in the late 18th century, it sowed the seeds for the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Progressives continue to descry the period because it represents the growth of big business. Few of them recognize, or are willing to admit, that the poor grew into a middle class, benefiting from the products and services made available by efficiencies of industrialization. Instead they focus on what they term a lack of equality. In response, Lord Acton had this to say:
“The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion for equality made vain the hope for freedom.”
Despite the obstacle of progressivism, people around the world have risen from poverty. The wars and communist experiments of the middle of the 20th century provide stark contrast to the benefits of voluntary exchange and the division of labor. Despite this, a significant portion of millennials believe that socialism and communism are not just viable but preferable to capitalism. While they espouse this position, they surf the web on their smart phones, laptops, and tablets, connect with their friends using GPS and Uber, as well as enjoy the greatest variety of organic, vegan, and locally grown foods, none of which would have been available in a centrally planned, socialist world where equality dictates needs over desires.