by Richard Saunders – November 28, 2014 (opinions expressed don’t necessary represent eventsfy views)
Every great movement forward throughout history has been an immense struggle. And at the very root of every movement forward throughout history, it has been the Idea of Progress. The Idea of Progress isn’t—by definition—more government. In fact, progress could mean less government. Progressivism (the Idea of Progress) is the theory that advances in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition.1 The Idea of Progress is based on five guiding values—value of the past, worth of economic and technological growth, faith in reason and scientific knowledge, intrinsic worth of life on earth, and nobility of Western civilization.1
Progressivism believes we can become happier by improving quality of life (social progress), economic development (modernization), and the application of science and technology (scientific progress). The assumption is that this process will happen once people apply their reason and skills, for it is not divinely foreordained. The role of the expert is to identify hindrances that slow or neutralize progress.
Progressivism gained prominence during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, but the Idea of Progress has defined Western civilization for three thousand years.1 Some scholars consider the Idea of Progress as a secularization of ideas from early Christianity and a reworking of ideas from ancient Greece. Charles Darwin’s (1809–82) theory of evolution by natural selection made progress a necessary law of nature and gave the Idea of Progress doctrine its first scientific formulation.1
We must understand that Progressivism—learning from the past on how to perpetually create a better future—should always be the main objective of our federal government and society. And we must understand that Conservatism—which greatly values established and traditional practices in politics and society, and which greatly dislikes change or new ideas3—shouldn’t ever be the main objective of a federal government and society. Conservative Ideology, at its essence, seeks to preserve things as they are—emphasizing stability and continuity—and many times seeks a return to “the way things were.”4 Therefore, we can easily conclude that Conservatism—at its roots—is anti-progress. So let’s review how the Idea of Progress—not Conservative Ideology—has continuously succeeded with providing us a better tomorrow throughout history. In fact, Conservatism often has been a great hindrance to our progress.
We must follow science—not entrenched traditions
Who were the people initially against the idea that the earth was round and not flat ? Conservatives. Who were the people initially against the idea that the sun was the center of our universe and not the earth? Conservatives. Who were the people initially (and some still are) against the idea of natural selection (evolution)? Conservatives. Who were the people initially (and some still are) against the idea that the earth is much older than thousands of years? Conservatives. And who are the people that still adamantly oppose the idea that humans contribute to the earth getting warmer? Conservatives. History has clearly shown us—beyond any reasonable doubt—that Conservatism has been an immense impediment at almost every major scientific breakthrough.
Evolution of our democratic government
The changing from a monarch/dictatorship government to a democratic government was a progressive idea—not a conservative one. Conservatism–-remember—looks to its past traditions and culture to solve current problems, because past traditions were successful answering past problems. When we decided to change from being a British colony to becoming an independent and sovereign nation—this was a radical and progressive idea. If you fervently believe in The U.S. Constitution and The Declaration of Independence, then you must understand that these revolutionary and inspired works were progress—inspired from earlier works and ideology (such as the Bible, the Magna Carta, past democracies, past writers, past philosophers, the British Common Law, and many others). Our forefathers didn’t come up with all these brilliant and enlightened governing principles themselves—although they were indeed remarkably brilliant and enlightened. The point here is that we have created a far-superior and better government today by learning and improving upon past governments—not by re-establishing a past government.
Perpetual improvements to our democratic systems
Any new type of system within our government is Progressivism because it changes the status quo (i.e. not conservative). The changing from a barter-and-trade system to a currency system for trading everything was absolutely a progressive idea. The changing from a feudal system to a free-market (for-profit) system—along with the creation of the stock market—was absolutely a progressive idea. The changing from an agricultural to an industrial to a technology-based economy was absolutely a progressive idea. Evidence-based improvements to our current systems with the creation of the Federal Reserve, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations are all absolutely progressive ideas that have helped our country and world in immeasurable ways.
Amendments to The U.S. Constitution (and most laws)—propel us closer to a more perfect union
Amendments to The U.S. Constitution have morally and permanently propelled our country towards the original intent of The U.S. Constitution. The following progressive laws—none which were conservative—include passing of the 13th Amendment of The U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery (not originally a conservative idea); passing of the 15th Amendment of The U.S. Constitution, which gave blacks the right to vote (not originally a conservative idea); passing of the 19th amendment, which gave woman the right to vote (not originally a conservative idea); passing of the Civil Rights Law, which helped to desegregate the segregated South (not a conservative idea); passing of the 26th Amendment, which allowed 18-year-olds to vote (not a conservative idea); and the passing of many other law. The Civil Rights Law—along with all these other Amendments to The U.S. Constitution—inarguably changed our society for the better. Perhaps not so much with just the statutory law being passed through Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson, but more importantly with tangibly changing society’s perceptions towards race—because if the Civil Rights Law were repealed today, there would most likely be only a few businesses in the South that would actually revert back to segregating their customers.
Government-created services (Technology/Education and Welfare)—should always be temporary
Technological and Educational programs
Government-created services are always progressive—not conservative. Government-created services, however, should only be temporary until the private sector can adequately provide these services to the public. With that said, government-created services have provided so many positive benefits to our Great Nation yet today so many people believe as religious doctrine that our government has no role with progressing our society forward—this is fundamentally incorrect. In America’s brief history, our government was instrumental with creating our railroads, our roadways, our universities, our utilities (hydro/nuclear electricity, telephone lines, internet, mobile technology from satellites, space travel, and the most advanced weaponry ever conceived). All these undeniably successful government-created services have propelled our society forward positively. And as with so many of these government-created services, our government continuously steps aside and allows the free-market to take over these services when it has the capacity to do so (i.e. railroad, building roads, energy, telephones, mobile technology, Internet technology, space travel, etc.). Contrary to the pervading myth in our society, the American private sector is growing far faster than the American Federal Government and continuously provides services that were once provided by the federal government. After countless immensely successful government-created services, why now do so many Americans incorrectly believe that our government doesn’t still have a constructive role to play?
All the above government-created services are widely accepted to have been appropriate and were the right things to do. Unlike the above mentioned government-created services, government-created services of welfare (social programs) are contentiously debated. But empirical evidence still clearly shows us the huge positive impact these welfare programs have had on our Great Nation. These progressive social programs include Social Security (imagine the poverty of our elderly without Social Security); The GI Bill (arguably the most influential Bill passed to improve our middle class—providing college education and business start-up benefits to our veterans); Medicare, Medicaid, and now Obamacare (health care should absolutely be a right for the richest developed country in the world); Urban-housing development; food stamps; and other welfare programs (can anyone really argue intelligently that the poor would be better off without these programs?). As our free-market continues to grow with evermore capacity to provide needed services to our society, we may not need any more government-social programs. And once our society finds a way to increase wages and revert back to full employment, so many of these social programs just go away and disappear. Eventually, as our country continues to prosper—like it always has—these programs do go away. Hence these social programs are and should be only temporary. But that doesn’t negate the fact that these social programs have provided so much help to countless individuals who really needed the help—like we all need from time to time.
Progress through smart governance
In the past our federal government has helped to teach our society right from wrong by implementing laws to combat wrongs—i.e. Emancipation Proclamation, Abolishing Slavery, Woman’s Suffrage, Civil Rights Law, Gay Rights, and others. Today, the American government has taken the military option off the table with Russia over its dispute with Ukraine, and is establishing new precedencies on how the world should engage with its enemies—not militarily anymore but economically and ideologically. This is good because it reduces world stress of potential military war with a major foe
Progressivism uses government—not just the free market—to push society forward positively, because progress happens more efficiently and effectively this way than progress without the use of government. History tells us that major leaps in progress (advancement in technology, science, living conditions, etc.) has happened under strong central governments–-i.e. Greeks, Romans, Persians, Ottoman, England, America, etc. And sometimes smart governance and progress is regulating certain industries of the private sector. Some examples:
President Theodore Roosevelt said that “great corporations are creatures of the state and the state not only has the right to control them but is in duty bound to control them wherever need of control is shown. Regulations are needed when major problems arise from business conduct (financial calamities, air/water/food pollution, widespread business malpractices, etc.). However, after federal regulations are implemented, they should be removed once an industry successfully proves to society that it can prudently and appropriately regulate itself. The federal government should be the people’s conscience to help guide the free-market system to an ever-more prosperous state.
After the Great Depression of 1929 when 80 percent of the stock-market value evaporated, the unemployment rose to 24.1 percent, and our country’s Gross-National Product decreased in half, 5 President Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to understand and see clearly that a collective external force (the government) could, in fact, help guide our free-market system when the private sector fails our society with its booms and busts. FDR so eloquently said during the Great Depression, “I paint the one-third despair in our nation so that we all can see that we can collectively with government paint it out.” Therefore, FDR correctly believed that people who could see the problems could figure out how better to solve the problems. Therefore, government obviously has a role to assist us forward—we just need to continuously debate what that government role is. And that’s exactly what many Americans are doing today—albeit quite ungracefully.
Conservatism is not the path forward
The main problem with Conservatism is that it essentially believes only past generations had the knowledge and capacity to create a better society—why? Most of us are nostalgic of the past but conservatives are just much more nostalgic of the past. Conservatives are against change—that’s the fundamental definition of a conservative: one who believes the past had the best ways. Throughout history, conservatives have been against progress with science, the evolution of governments, improvements to our systems, new laws, and new government-created services and social-welfare programs. Therefore, it has taken much longer for past successes and acknowledgments to prevail as obviously right and correct. Conservatives don’t understand that we have been constantly building upon prior successes since the beginning of time.
To better understand why Conservatism isn’t the correct pathway forward for America or the world, take a minute to record your feelings or perspective of the conservatives of other countries. Who are the conservatives of Russia? Putin and his ilk who want to revert back to the Soviet Union and are the biggest enemies of America. Who are the conservatives of Iran? The Ayatollah and the Old Guard, who both adamantly oppose change and who both are the biggest enemies of America. Who are the conservatives of China or North Korea? The most traditionalists that oppose change. It’s the conservatives in other countries that Americans have the most problems with. And it’s the American conservatives that foreigners—including the majority of Americans—have the most problems with. Shouldn’t this tell us something? Why is it so difficult for conservatives to understand they’re so wrong on so many things?
Progressivism always does win eventually—Conservatism always does lose eventually. Progressivism believes diversity is for the better—Conservatism is not convinced of this. Conservatism, however, absolutely plays a constructive role in preventing our Great Nation from implementing any ill-conceived policy. Every new policy idea—especially today—has to have overwhelming public support before it can be implemented into law because conservatives so rightly revere the past. Conservatives are so afraid to implement any new policy into law—fearing policy changes make things worse. This entrenched Conservative Ideology in America is definitely inhibiting our federal government from making any progress. Every country has conservatives that undeniably hinder their countries’ progress as seen in China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. However, these same conservatives do prevent their countries from changing too quickly, which could potentially have devastating consequences to a country’s cultural and traditional systems as we’ve witnessed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, etc.
We are all the sum product of past humans and their achievements (creation of language, ideology, information, science, education, governing systems, etc.). Therefore, we should all be extremely thankful for all the past progress and achievements for which our forefathers worked so very hard—providing us today with so many more opportunities and blessings. From nothing to a single cell to a multi-cell organism to eventually a human, reveals to us just how powerful nurture (environment) has had and will always have on us.
We all must understand that we really just need to build upon prior successes—this is Progressivism. We are not asking for any revolution here, we are asking for you to do only your duty—as an American endowed with its great history and riches—to help progress our society forward. Be more engaged within the American political system—educate and learn about the issues that matter so that you can help make a difference. We have many problems that America faces today, and America needs help from its citizens to help her perpetually progress. Be blessed and build upon all of our past progress that we’re so fortunate to enjoy now. We have to respect our ancestors for what they’ve built and we have to have prudence for our heirs for what they will inherit.
As stated earlier, the Idea of Progress is based on five guiding values—value of the past, worth of economic and technological growth, faith in reason and scientific knowledge, intrinsic worth of life on earth, and nobility of Western civilization. Through evermore evidence, we can conclude that the fundamental principles of these five guiding values of Progressivism are accountability (personal responsibility), empathy, fairness, faith, free-will, integrity, reason, service, and transparency. If we all follow these principles, we will achieve great progress in America and the world—this is each of our duty.
Free-will (free market)—increases innovation and creativity
Fairness of laws—reduces conflicts and improves performance because more people buy into the system
Service or work—improves the quality of life for someone or many people
Transparency—decreases suspicions of others so that more work can get done
Accountability of ourselves (personal responsibility)—decreases dependencies on the government
Empathy of others—increases understanding of others so that win/win compromises can be reached
Faith that we perpetually progress—increases our hopes, which decreases are fears, which increases progress
Integrity of ourselves—increases right, which makes might
Reason—decreases emotions from clouding our judgments and actions