The Progressivism of the Future Is Really Just the Socialism of the Past
The world is currently in the midst of a newly aggressive drive to bring about a new socialist order through a powerful and “efficient” technocratic state. This new order has been labeled as “progressive,” but it is merely the latest version of the socialist impulse which we have seen before in the form of socialism and communism.
A War on Private Property
Summed up in a single sentence, the plans of the communists aim at the abolition of private property. From there, the other major demands follow, such as abolishing the family, nation, and countries, and finally, as Marx noted, “communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality.” In as much as the program of liberalism “if condensed into a single word….is private ownership of the means of production” (as described by Ludwig von Mises), the program of the communists is the abolition of private property.
A Promise of Efficiency and Expertise
Yet Marxian socialism—i.e., communism—has not found many followers in the United States. The communist appeal to justice and equality found more resonance in the old world. To have an appeal to the Americans, socialism had to be packaged differently. In the United States, the gospel of socialism appeared under the name of “progressivism” and was preached as bringing society to the highest degree of efficiency.
Under President Woodrow Wilson, progressivism attained its first peak as the dominant philosophy of the state. Society was to these socialists a single organization. The bureaucrats as public administrators found a vivid expression in the political novel Philip Dru: Administrator: A Story of Tomorrow by Edward Mandell House, who was a very close friend of Wilson and who served as the president’s most important political and diplomatic advisor.
This vision of progressivism requires:
- Government and labor representation on the board of every corporation
- Sharing the profits of public service companies
- Government ownership of the means of communication
- Government ownership of the means of transportation
- A comprehensive system of old age pension
- Government ownership of all healthcare
- Full labor protection and governmental arbitration of industrial disputes
Beyond that, other demands and programs put forth and realized by the progressive movement have included eugenics, population and birth control, family planning, prohibition, antitrust legislation, public education, central banking, and an income tax.
These echo of the planks of the Communist Manifesto, which included demands to
- Centralize the means of communications and to put the means of transport in the hand of the state
- Extend the control of the state across the factories and over all land
- Implement a heavy progressive income tax and abolish the rights of inheritance
- Centralize credit in the hands of the state and establish a central bank of an exclusive monetary monopoly
Unlike the Communist Manifesto, the progressives did not preach a proletarian revolution but spoke out in the name of efficiency and demanded the bureaucratic rule of expert public administrators. In a specific way, the progressive movement presents an even worse program than Marxism. As Murray Rothbard summarized it, the progressive movement brought about a profound transformation of the America
Article from Mises Wire