Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America by James Ostrowski

I doubt a single progressive will ever read this book, but it is quite possible, a progressive might be reading this book review.  But let me offer this.  If you go to a private school, you wind up believing in entrepreneurship and non-profits.  People who go to a public school wind up believing in progressivism.  A kid who goes to military school winds up believing in the greatness of the US military.  It’s a no brainer right?  I mean if you ran a school, wouldn’t you impose your values upon the students?  So here’s the challenge.  If you grew up in a private school, read a book about progressivism.  If you grew up in a public school, read a book against progressivism and then make up your own mind.  If you can’t bring yourself to read this book, ask yourself why? 

 Let me preface this by saying that I used to be a socialist with progressive ideals.  I get it.  You want people to contribute to the pot, and then you want to distribute from that pot to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.  The intention is absolutely good.  Fact is, there are few political ideals out there which want to destroy society and hurt people.  It’s just a matter of defining us versus them and how things get done.  The Progressive wants government to ensure that everyone gets a helping hand, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.  I have Progressive friends, and they are some of the most open-minded, socially liberal people I know.  They are kind and gentle and deeply care about those in society who are often oppressed, overlooked, or needy.  Unfortunately, many people who tend to be fiscally conservative also tend to be socially conservative.  People who don’t want government telling them what to do, also tend to be racists, bigots, uneducated, religious zealots, or wealthy assholes.  As a result, people tend to associate libertarians with right-wing bigots, nutters, and rich assholes.  They often overlook the libertarian as socially liberal.  I actually follow a few libertarian pages on Facebook, and it horrifies me that in the comment section, it appears the followers have no fucking idea that libertarians are supposed to be socially liberal, and it is filled with anti-Muslim, bigoted sentiment.  Most of my friends are actually fiscally liberal and socially liberal, so I often have to keep my libertarian sentiments hidden.  However, with my bias in mind, it is always important to consider other people’s point of view, and while I would argue, everyone in school is raised to be a progressive (those who failed history and English would then become right-wing conservatives who reject the system that failed them), few have been exposed to libertarianism.  I’ve studied both Progressivism and conservatism, and I chose to become a libertarian.  If you want to question my libertarian ideas, I would ask you first to learn what they are.  I would challenge you to read this book. 

 The only problem I have with this book is that there are a few passages where the right-wing asshole vibe comes through.  The author mentions an Internet phenomenon whereby black youths go around knocking out people with one punch.  There is no need for this.  It makes the author sound like a conservative white person stoking the emotions of other conservative white people.  Another is the author’s argument that the Civil War was not about slavery but the South trying to secede.  This is semantics.  Unfortunately, the South tried to secede to maintain slavery.  But imagine if the North actually tried to secede from the South and succeeded!  To this day, we would view secession as a good thing, that the North succeeded in freeing itself from a slave-owning South. 

 One argument a Progressive might make is that the ills of modern society, the high healthcare costs, the wars, the failed drug war, are all actually the result of the Progressive war with the right.  Progressives would argue that if they were in charge of everything, they would cap healthcare costs, avoid wars, and decriminalize drugs.  What I would argue is that the right-wing conservatives have actually turned into progressives themselves while the left wing Progressives have actually supported the war state.  Democrat Presidents and congress members have supported wars just as much as Republicans.  And today, Republicans support funding of all social welfare programs, so long as it all gets contracted out to big business.  So what we have is actually the left-wing and right-wing progressives running the country.  And then I would also argue that progressivism is also another word for Federalism and statism.  What many people fail to realize is that our founding fathers were divided between Federalists who wanted a powerful federal government and the Democratic-Republican Party that opposed it.  You don’t learn this in school.  The Democratic-Republican Party were libertarian, or what was then called liberal.  Not only did Federalists steal the term liberal to describe their political ideology, but they also then became separate Democrat and Republican Parties.  Now you know how confusing and tricky politics can get.  It would be like Buddhists going around calling themselves Catholics and Catholics going around calling themselves Muslims.  But since the Progressives became the dominant political force in America and created public education, they had every right to obfuscate and distort history to confuse the public and make them all believe that they were the direct political descendants of Jefferson and all our founding fathers, that they were liberals in the classical sense. 

 The fundamental problem with endowing government with the power and taxation to redistribute resources to help those in need is that: 1. it fails to do this effectively and efficiently.  2. it actually does more harm especially to the most vulnerable and needy in society (institutionalizing, supervising, controlling, oppressing, drugging, and incarcerating them instead of helping them).  3. most of the resources do not get to those who need it but rather big business contractors and a giant bureaucracy which is rewarded with high salaries and plentiful benefits for very little productive work.  4. instead of using their power to help those in need, government often turns around and abuses its power to oppress opponents, engage in conflict with other governments and groups, and commit countless acts of violence upon the population, especially the most vulnerable.  (It is estimated that half of all police shootings of unarmed people involve a mentally disabled person.)  5. government never fixes anything.  The only thing a government can do is defeat another government.  Whatever the government tries to fix, never gets fixed.  In fact, it exacerbates the problem, and by making the problem worse, it justifies its own existence and growth.  My initial enlightenment about the evils of government did not come from some right-wing radio talk host or conspiracy theory nutter or Fox News but rather a Sociology class in college.  We studied the evils and oppressiveness of all large bureaucracies.  Government is a large bureaucracy, and the only good thing about big businesses is that ultimately, if they really suck, they will go out of business.  Government NEVER goes out of business.  The people are always forced to bail out their own government while customers simply leave a failing business.

 It’s easy to see how Americans fell in love with big government, big business, and their cozy, collusive relationship.  The story goes that big government saved us from the Great Depression by regulating markets that produced greedy, out-of-control robber barons.  Then they colluded with big business to save us from the Nazis, Japanese, and then Communists.  Big chains also provided the increasingly mobile public with consistent, quality service from coast-to-cast as more and more Americans drove around the country.  Big government, big business, and their collusion started out as a good thing, but as you learn in Economics 101, monopolies and oligopolies, once destroying competition, start raising prices, reducing productivity, cut costs, and maximize profits and spend inordinate sums lobbying to enforce their monopoly or oligopoly along with countless subsidies, tax breaks, and protective tariffs.

 My Progressive friends, well-intentioned and all, fail to understand how government, in collusion with big business, is making life miserable for the most vulnerable and needy people in society.  So what happened before big “benevolent” government?  People fail to realize that big government did not start with democracy.  Big government was left over from aristocracies.  Aristocracies and monarchies used big government to collect taxes, regulate business, and oppress the peasants.  While we got rid of the mob bosses, we kept the mob under-bosses, hooligans, thugs, enforcers, and muscle.  When we got rid of monarchs and aristocracy, the poor were liberated for a brief respite.  In America, they moved to the frontiers and farmed or raised cattle.  They lived in small towns and took care of the elderly, disabled, and young.  Later with the Industrial Revolution and big cities, there were benevolent societies you would join to pool resources, provide loans to members, and help anyone who suffered a disaster.  Today, many immigrant communities also have these societies, especially illegal immigrants who cannot access our social welfare system.  While many slipped through the cracks, I would argue that a far greater percentage of people are slipping through the cracks today and a far greater percent are homeless than ever before.  In other words, not only is government making things worse for those who are the most needy and vulnerable, but they are also making it worse for all of us.  If you truly care about the most vulnerable people in society, it is absolutely critical that you start to question and investigate the government that you stick upon them.  The worst part about progressivism is that once we all give our money to government, it seems that most people feel that their giving ends there.  When you see a homeless person, you are not shocked and upset and say, “What can I do to help this poor person?  I should share this problem with my friends and see what we can do.”  Instead, people are more likely to go, “Well, government has countless programs to help people like you.  There must be something wrong with you, like you’re an addict or really lazy or criminal.” 

 What people fail to realize is the most important part of being a social creature is giving.  Giving actually gives us small endorphin bumps.  It gives our life meaning.  When we give to others or teach others, we feel good about ourselves and treat ourselves better.  Teaching is also the most undervalued skill and reward of being a social creature especially one that relies on learning the vast majority of our behavioral skills.  Surrendering most all of our giving and teaching opportunities to government has turned us into the narcissistic, selfish, immoral, irresponsible, self-infatuated society we are today.

 An often misleading argument against libertarianism is that it is anarchy.  This is the old George W. Bush extremist rhetorical argument, “If you are not with us, you are against us.”  If you are not pro-government, then you must be anti-all forms of government.  Libertarianism is about limited government that does nothing except enforce liberties without depriving any group of liberties.  There would still be police, lawyers, judges, courts, and prisons for violent offenders, but they would waste our money and infringe on our liberties by enforcing drug laws or other victimless crimes.  If there was a major problem that required a collective effort, people would vote on whether to fund it.  It would also have a mandatory sunset clause and then be up for voting again to continue funding it every say five years.  The problem with every single government program is that it goes on perpetually, and it becomes politically dangerous to defund it, because those profiting from it pay politicians to keep it going.  It is easier for a politician to abstain from action than to act.  Failed programs could easily die quietly whereas today, they exist perpetually and quietly.  People would be amazed at just how many archaic programs are still being funded. 

 The fundamental problem with Progressivism is the concept of punishing all, applying rules to all, just for the sake of keeping in line the few.  Let us say that all government social welfare programs suddenly disappeared along with the taxes to fund them.  After a few years of adjustment, how many people do you think would start giving their time and money to help those in need?  I believe it would be the vast majority.  What would we do about the small minority who don’t give?  A long time ago, we faced the same problem, and a long time ago, those who did not contribute to the common lot were often vilified, shamed, cast out, humiliated, pressured, and isolated.  If you think this is harsh, then what do you think prisons do?  By word-of-mouth, we figured out that Bob was a taker and never a giver.  So one day Bob’s house burns down.  Nobody helps Bob rebuild.  We also know that Jane is often a much bigger giver than taker, so one day Jane finds out she has cancer.  We all chip in to pay her medical bills.  That’s how we worked for hundreds of thousands of years.  Today, greedy Bob doesn’t even go to prison, because his wealth allows him to buy tax attorneys to protect him and hide his money.  Meanwhile, Jane goes bankrupt, because she can’t afford to pay her medical bills.  Do you see how twisted we have become?  Meanwhile, everyone who chipped in to pay Jane’s medical bills all feel good inside and valued and needed.  Today, paying taxes does not give us the same sense of accomplishment and reward.  In fact, when we feel that we pay too much in taxes that never really accomplishes anything, we start to feel entitled like Bob.  We become a society of Bob’s.  When we are forced to give, there is no endorphin bump.  In fact, there is resentment and entitlement.  “Well, I gave to government, so why should I pay for Jane’s medical bills?  Government should be able to help her out!” 

 The greatest victims of both modern civilization and Progressivism are women.  Unfortunately, women tend to support Progressivism, believing in the lie that the state will take care of women and children and protect them from scary men.  The opposite is true.  Never mind that there has been an 800% increase in the incarceration of women in the last 30 years of glorious Progressivism, but Progressivism’s oppression, incarceration, and impoverishment of poor men makes them even more violent, criminal, and dangerous to women.  Knowing that government will ultimately feed their kids, men are also much less inclined to provide child support or stay in a marriage and help raise the kids.  Government schools also have separated children from their fathers and taken away men’s critical role as teachers.  Why should men stick around when government educates and feeds their children?  Occupational and business licensing have also impoverished women and actually hurt them the most.  While men historically worked for the family income, people forget that women also created supplemental income through part-time quasi-work selling their garden food, selling clothes, selling pies, selling excess preserved food, being midwives, being amateur hairstylists or beauticians, etc.  Today, all this is illegal without excessive training, licensing, certification, regulation and taxation.  Just as bad, women were often valued in the community for their special skills and homemade crafts.  Every town had their treasured Martha Stewart.  Women were also valued herbalists, spiritualists, therapists, medicinal experts, and sages before being accused of witchcraft and hunted into extinction.  If anyone should be against Progressivism, it should be women.

 One of the most fascinating passages of the book is the assertion that had America stayed out of World War I, there would never have been a World War II as well as a Cold War between the US and Soviets that brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust and extended the tyranny of dictatorships which fueled terrorism.  Had America stayed out of World War I, the author argues, the Europeans would have agreed to a peace treaty which would have left Germany and Russia’s rulers still strong and in charge and capable of fighting off fascism and Communism.  Germany would have never suffered the humiliation of the Versailles, and Hitler would never have gained popularity. 

One of the recommendations of the book is to reclaim the term, “liberal” and dump “libertarian.”  The author also calls former liberals, “progressives” and also lumping modern conservatives under “progressives.”   

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