Liberalism, Socialism, and Progressive Ideology… Not the Same Thing
Liberalism, Socialism, and Progressive Ideology are not the same thing even if they are largely thought to be by some including the writer above.
I am a “conservative” classical liberal. I believe all humans have equal rights including unborn babies when they reach the age of viability. Classical liberalism is reflected in the nomenclature… liberty. It rests in a belief system whose roots hail back to the Reformation, that all humans regardless of race, age, gender, etc. have unalienable rights, since they are all created by the same God. While the USA has become a far more “secular” nation, the concept of rights which are unalienable is a core value that classical liberals from all sides of the political debate embrace.
For example, as a conservative Republican I find myself often agreeing with Alan Dershowitz a well known liberal on social issues. I think the vast majority of Americans believe in classical liberalism. We may differ on the fringes on issues like abortion, the death penalty, or when minors have the full rights of adults including the rights to drink, own a gun, smoke, etc, but those limitations are not based on age, race, religious belief, or gender. Republicans and Democrats that embrace classical liberalism still have plenty to disagree over including fiscal issues, but when someone tells me they disagree because as a conservative I do not under the issue, well that is nonsense.
Socialism in its purest form is not “democratic” socialism or autocratic socialism, those are manifestation of socialism. Instead it implies a system where goods and services in a society are distributed based on need and not on the ability to pay. Almost all Americans support some degree of socialism, but nearly every successful example of socialism relies on capitalism or natural resources for funding.
If you are lucky, you live in a resource rich country without to many people like Norway or Canada which can fund many of their socialist entitlement programs through royalties on resources paid by foreigner when they purchase the exports of these countries. But otherwise, socialism generally relies on either taxes or straight out government seizures of property to create a “distributable surplus”.
History teaches that autocratic socialism where the state owns and operates the means of production rarely produces a “distributable surplus” and that is why those countries virtually always rely on property seizure to function. While a great deal of government corruption is blamed when these countries eventually fail, it is not the cause. The cause is simply, capitalism better harnesses the energy of people people to produce goods and services than socialism does.
“Democratic” socialism generally works better than autocratic socialism does since it uses capitalism as the underlying source of goods and services that it distributes to those in need. But to be “sustainable”, these democratic socialist forms of government must limit themselves to only redistributing what the “taxpayers” are willing to share in the form of tax revenues.
Because most advanced economies produce “surpluses” and their corresponding populations have also embraced varying degrees of democratic socialism is almost goes hand in hand that entitlement systems designed to provide for the needs of the poor exist. But the tension of how much democratic socialism a nation is willing to support is an on going point of friction and often a central theme of “party” differences within the country itself.
But as I have written elsewhere, a good measure of “sustainable socialism” is one where a government does not run perpetual deficits. Systemic and perpetual budgetary deficits are a marker for cognitive dissonance between taxpayers and politicians with respect to the distributing of a nation’s “surplus”. Failure to recognize this cognitive dissonance inevitability leads to some form of financial failure as an economy and restructuring of the country’s entitlements as part of a nationwide “austerity” action.
Modern Progressive ideology has no consistent logic to it. It is an aggregation of ideas largely spewed forth by a group of powerful elite that argues a country can operate best when a powerful elite determines what is right and wrong. It relies on this “powerful” elite to have been educated to hold the “right” values. Core and central to its “grip” on power is an entitlement system in which enough voters are dependent on those entitlements to insure the powerful elite can remain in power as long as they “share” the wealth with the poor (not necessarily their wealth, but the nation’s wealth).
An example of the inconsistent logic of progressive ideology can be seen in the laws surrounding Affirmative Action initiatives. Progressive ideology rejects “white racism”, but it embraces racism against Asian minorities in the pursuit of racial “balancing” for college admissions. While one could argue that exercising restraint on the “race” controlling the admissions process is only fair to prevent that race from putting their own ahead of others, it does not hold water when a minority is being discriminated against simply because of their economic success even though they have no political power behind it.
As such affirmative action that works against Asians in California universities even after the liberal courts of California have rejected it as “racist” shows how progressives simply ignore laws and individual civil liberties in favor of some sort of racial identity equality. As the father of four daughters and one son, I believe anyone who commits a sexual assault should be punished. But we live in a country of civil liberties where the idea of “equal justice” and “innocence until proven guilty” guilty are core values. But that does not apply in sexual assault cases tried before “progressive” boards reviewing such cases in universities today. Instead, the woman’s testimony is often taken as “truth”. But that infers unequal rights between genders on sexual assault crimes. What is the basis for that, how is that different from the “old South” where a white woman’s testimony was taken over an African American male’s testimony. Have we traded in one form of discrimination for another more politically correct form of discrimination?
Because progressive ideology is often not defensible on any other basis than it reflects the “consensus” of those who determine “progressive” ideology it often cannot stand up to rigorous debate. And so disagree with the group is frowned upon and you are a “cretin” or deplorable or a racist or a fascist if you do. Silencing dissent by hurling “character” assassinating terms are the standard way of preventing “progressive” ideology from being debated by its opposition. It simply cannot handle the more rigorous challenges that have historically occurred with respect to policies based on a more internally consistent ideology like capitalism, socialism, classical liberalism, etc.
That is why progressive ideology as an ideology better suited to a single party system, than either traditional representative democracy or even democratic “socialism”. In a sense, a political system like that in Communist China today, is far more able to force people to comply to policies which are made for their “own good”. Individual liberties are subordinated in order to promote the collective interests of society as determined by this single party system. While those “in control” tend to reward themselves handsomely, they argue that the nation as a whole benefits by them being in charge and so justifies actions intended to insure they remain in charge. Since their personal power and economic well being comes from being part of the “body” that makes “the rules”, they are loathed to surrender power.
Understanding that the terms liberal, progressive, and socialism do not mean the same thing is an important first step in figuring out exactly where you stand on the issues of the day. While the media seems to focus more on personality and less on policy, it is policy that impacts are lives. I usually vote Republican, but have crossed the aisle to vote for fiscally conservative, classical liberals, who believe in serving their voters first and their party second.
As a republican I embrace democratic socialism where we, the people, decide the entitlements we are willing to pay for through the process by which we agree to the taxes we are willing to pay. Unfunded entitlements are simply not acceptable over the long term and forcing higher taxes on a public opposed to them simply does not work. I do not agree that democratic socialism automatically means you support single payer health care, the “green new deal”, or open borders. It does mean that I am prepared to see some portion of my taxes go towards those in need in my society.
Realizing that most of us hold classical liberalism views and believe in some form of democratic socialism means that we have far more in common, then politicians who feed on schism suggest. Food for thought I hope…