There is apparently among Democrat Liberals grave concern over the difference between a Liberal and a Progressive.
- What’s the Difference Between a Liberal and a Progressive? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Democrats Debate: What Is A Progressive And Who Wants To Be One? (npr.org)
- What are ‘Liberals,’ What are ‘Progressives,’ and Why the Difference Matters (politicususa.com)
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (see What does it mean to be a progressive in the US? (bbc.com)) even debated the meaning of the word: progressivism. Apparently, each wanted to be seen as the most progressive. Why? What is a progressive? Well, the word “progressive” is actually another one of those relatively meaningless words politicians have made up.
Let’s be clear – most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America’s social safety net are noble and critical. It’s the other direction that’s the problem. Many of today’s liberals are not fully comfortable with progressivism as defined in these terms. Many of today’s Democratic politicians, for instance, are simply not comfortable taking a more confrontational posture towards large economic institutions (many of whom fund their campaigns) – institutions that regularly take a confrontational posture towards America’s middle-class. (from here)
The notion that the author of the above has a clear definition of the word “progressive” is kind of funny, but I think he is trying to define “progressive” as a thoroughly aggressive Democrat Liberal. What is scary is the author doesn’t think Barack Obama was progressive enough.
So why would a politician want to be labelled as a progressive?
Progressivism has historically been associated with science, rationality and an approach to government and society reliant on knowledge and empirical methods. It has often been counterposed with populism, which is a movement among the common folk. Progressives tended to be people with education and some standing in the world. (from here)
Well, obviously Democrat Liberals don’t want to be associated with the common folk, those irredeemable deplorables. However, what is truly nice about the labels “liberal” and “progressive”?
Although I’ll cite sources in these essays, I do not presume to declare The One True Definition for either “liberal” or “progressive.” No such definitions exist, as both “liberal” and “progressive” are what philosopher and political scientist W.B. Gallie called contested concepts:
… concepts the proper use of which inevitably involves endless disputes about their proper uses on the part of their users [that] cannot be settled by appeal to empirical evidence, linguistic usage, or the canons of logic alone.
Simply, people disagree about what “liberal” and “progressive” mean, and none of us can prove that his or hers is The One True Definition. (from here)
“Liberal” and “Progressive” are a labels that mean whatever it is you want them to mean. In truth, that is also somewhat true of the Conservative label, but politicians have not ruined that label yet. Of course, the author then proceeds to provide his own definitions of Liberal and Progressive. Some Democrat Liberals have even written a manifesto, What It Means To Be A Progressive: A Manifesto (thinkprogress.org).
Dictionary.com provides a vanilla definition for progressive, and the urbandictionary.com provides a more partisan definition for progressive. If the Democrat Liberal spinning makes you dizzy, you may want to check out the urbandictionary.com definition. If you insist upon a more Liberal academic definition, check out Wikipedia’s article, Progressivism.
So what is a Progressive? Well, here is my definition. A Progressive is someone who thinks it is their “right” to run other people’s lives and spend other people’s money for the sake of “progress”. When someone speaks of progress, what exactly is that? Is what one person calls progress always going to be what another person calls progress? Consider some of the different notions about progress.
- Progress (history), the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life, etc.
- Social progress, the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures.
- Scientific progress, the idea that science increases its problem solving ability through the application of some scientific method.
- Philosophical progress, the idea that philosophy has solved or at least can solve some of the questions it studies.
- Idea of Progress, the theory that scientific progress drives social progress; that advances in technology, science, and social organization inevitably produce an improvement in the human condition.
- Progress trap, the condition societies find themselves in when human ingenuity, in pursuing progress, inadvertently introduces problems that it does not have the resources to solve, preventing further progress or inciting social collapse.
Again Dictionary.com provides the vanilla definition of progress, and the urbandictionary.com provides a more humorous definition of progress. The urbandictionary.com definition makes the point that “progress” is in the eye of the beholder.
Not even all the people who label themselves Progressives can agree as to what constitutes progress. Therefore, as a purely practical matter, running other people’s lives and spending other people’s money is what Progressives define as “progress”.
Put yourselves in the shoes of a politician, and just consider the money aspect of the issue. Imagine what it means to spend millions, billions, even trillions of dollars of other people’s money. If you are in politics for the thrill of exercising power, the more money you can spend the more power you have to exercise.
Now consider what it means to control other people’s lives. If you are a power hungry politician, that means you want control over people’s choices. The more you can control other people’s choices, the more power you have.
How much of your money does our government spend? What can our government tell you to do? How Progressive is our government? Does it further or hinder what we consider “progress”? As voters we must consider the pitfalls of Progressivism carefully. Do we want someone else’s idea of “progress”, or do we want some control over our own lives and our own money?
Does how we define “progress” require spending someone else’s money? When? Why? What is the benefit and the cost to our Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?