What Is Progressivism?

Progressivism is the same as socialism. Libertarian James Ostrowski, who has  “…that progressivism, properly understood as the belief that aggressive state violence in the form of various interventions into the market and private voluntary behavior will improve human life, is America’s ruling ideology…” For purposes of educating the public and understanding the gist of the libertarian and anti-libertarian positions, there’s no significant difference between his explanation of progressivism and my explanation of socialism. Furthermore, both are compatible with Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s definition of socialism: “…socialism…must be conceptualized as an institutionalized interference with or aggression against private property and private property claims.” (On p. 10 of Hoppe’s ““.)

Bernie Sanders is a socialist and a progressive. Either description tells the same story about where he stands: “…taking on the billionaire class, health care for all through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, raising the minimum wage to a living wage — 15 bucks an hour — demanding that the wealthy and the powerful start paying their fair share of taxes, dealing with climate change, etc.,…” He has every intention of intervening in the market and private voluntary behavior (Ostrowski’s words), or of having government take a controlling role in the production and distribution of goods (Rozeff’s words), or of launching aggression against private property (Hoppe’s words).

Furthermore, Bernie says “Our job, for the sake of our kids and grandchildren, is to bring our people together around a progressive agenda.”

In his own mind and words, socialism and progressivism are indistinguishable.

The web definition of progressivism is that of Wikipedia; this pops up first in a search on this term. It reads “Progressivism is the support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform.”

This definition leaves out two critical factors. “Reform” is to be carried out by the force of government; it won’t be voluntary, as 120 years of history show. Second, reforms can cover all and any aspects of human behavior, depending upon what the reformers think will be good for the people they intend to reform. In addition, “improvement of society” can only mean improvement of specific people. And “support” for such improvement can only be by persons who are calling for the reforms to be instituted by government.

That which sounds innocent in the idea of progressivism within this web definition is far from it. The introduction of reforms will always involve the socialist aspects of aggression, market interventions, invasions of property rights, and control over goods being shifted from one set of individual persons (those being reformed) to those who have the power (the reformers).

In terms of either having freedom (and exercising one’s rights) or not, the progressive is a socialist and the socialist is a progressive. Neither stands for the individual’s freedom or rights. Both stand for controlling the individual through the force of government.

History shows us all sorts of variations of the socialist and/or progressive, as different parties and blocs form in order to put forth different agendas hoping to gain power and attract adherents. There’s no need to be confused by this or to bend one’s libertarian philosophy to accommodate these ever-shifting currents, because they all are reducible to currents of control through illegitimate coercion; and this is what libertarians deplore.

MORE