Are Today’s Progressives Actually Totalitarians?

Are Today’s Progressives Actually Totalitarians?

By Ralph Benko Possibly the most powerful, and dangerous, euphemism in politics today is “progressive.” This writer has many cherished progressive friends.  He considers them beautiful… but, often, misguided. Yet perhaps they are more “guided” than he has supposed. Perhaps progressives, many of them, are precision guided.  A pattern is emerging.  That pattern is to assert government control over, well, everything.  Government control … in the name of social and economic justice, of course. There’s another word for this: totalitarian. Tōˌtaliˈte(ə)rēən. The New American Oxford Dictionary defines totalitarian as: of or relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state : a totalitarian regime. a person advocating such a system of government. Might this be the progressives’ precision-guided purpose? The progressive flagship magazine, The Progressive, defines its mission: winning back for the people the complete power over government —national, state, and municipal—which has been lost to them.” [LaFollette] attacked private greed in the form of corporate monopolies that hoarded power. He championed the public interest, campaigning for social and economic justice. The stated ends (although by no means the means) of the progressive mission are identical to those of classical liberals, libertarians and principled conservatives: power of the people over government; opposition to corporate monopolies; in favor of the public interest; social and economic justice. It was shrewd of the progressives to appropriate these values and gain prestige thereby.  Yet the means — and the real outcomes — are as important as the stated ends.  And the reigning progressive means now — one hopes temporarily (in a center right America) — are becoming an Orwellian creature....

Constitution 201: Restoring Constitutional Government

This lesson is taught by Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College.  Under Dr. Arnn’s leadership, Hillsdale established the Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, DC.  At Hillsdale, Dr. Arnn combines administration duties with teaching.  The subjects of his courses include Aristotle, Winston Churchill, and the American Constitution.  Dr. Arnn is on the Board of Directors of both the Heritage Foundation and the Claremont Institute.  He is the author of Liberty and Learning:  The Evolution of American Education.  Dr. Arnn received his BA from Arkansas State, and his MA and PhD from Claremont Graduate School.  This is the final lesson in this most valuable series.  If you would like to experience this webinar for yourselves, register at the Hillsdale.constitution.edu website.  There is no charge.   “About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful.  It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day; and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.  But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter.  If all men are created equal, that is final.  If they are endowed with unalienable rights, that is final.  If government derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.  No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.  If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but...

Constitution 201: Case Study—Religious Liberty in the Administrative State

This lesson is taught by Dr. Thomas West, the Paul & Dawn Potter Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College.  Dr. West has taught at Hillsdale since 2011, and from 1974-2011 at the University of Dallas.  His courses on American politics include the U.S. Constitution, civil rights, foreign policy, and the political thought of the American Founding.  He also teaches political philosophy, with a focus on Aquinas, Locke, and Hobbes.  Dr. West is a Senior Fellow at Claremont Institute, where he instructs in the Institute’s Publius and Lincoln fellows summer program.  He is the author of “Vindicating the Founders:  Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America.”  Dr. West received his BA from Cornell University, and his PhD from Claremont Graduate University. The Founders believed religious liberty to be the most important single unalienable right because the most crucial outcome of life is the ultimate destiny of the soul, the relation between man and his conscientious understanding of God.  When government stands in the way, it is doing the very worst thing it can do.  The more common understanding in those times in almost all the nations was that government should oppose any religion not sanctioned by that government.  Even in the colonies, there were cases of religious repression.  In 1774, Baptists were imprisoned in Virginia for preaching their faith without a government issued license.  Situations like this offended the advocates of religious liberty, such as Jefferson and Madison.  When Virginia issued its own Declaration of Independence in 1776, protection of religious liberty was an important guarantee. Fast forward to today.  Obamacare mandates that employees must be provided...

Constitution 201: Post 1960’s Progressivism

This lesson is taught by Dr. John Grant, Assistant Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College.  Dr. Grant teaches courses in early modern political philosophy and American political thought.  He received his BA from Eureka College, and his MA and PhD in Politics from the University of Dallas.  Dr. Grant’s research interests include natural law tradition, American foreign policy, and the relationship between theology and politics.  He is an Adjunct Fellow at the Claremont Institute. The Great Society of the mid-1960’s was the culmination of the Old Progressive vision.  President Johnson was within that tradition.  Guided by our government experts, and with no help from “nature’s God,” we would fulfill all human aspirations, material and spiritual.  We would address our racial issues through special attention to the historical conditions that made fair competition impossible for blacks as a group.  Government experts would redistribute resources into newly empowered black communities to lift up the disadvantaged people and strengthen the black family.  We would protect and improve our environment to meet our human spiritual needs.  We would end poverty and rebuild our civilization, accomplishing ends never even believed possible by those who came before us.  All this brought to us by government administrators who knew how to work the levers of reform for the benefit of the people. That boundless faith in the science of government to meet any and all human needs was about to be replaced by a New Progressivism, a modern “liberalism,” that brought new ideas to the Progressive project.  There are continuities and discontinuities in the ideas of the old and new Progressives, and it is worthwhile to...

Constitution 201: The Transformation of America’s Political Institutions

This lesson is taught by Dr. Kevin Portteus, Associate Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, and faculty advisor for Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program.  Dr. Portteus teaches courses in American political thought, and American political institutions.  He is also a visiting graduate faculty member at Ashland University.  Dr. Portteus’ book, Executive Details:  Public Administration and American Constitutionalism, is under review for publication.  He received his BA from Ashland University, his MA and PhD in Politics from the University of Dallas.  Those interested in seeing and hearing this lecture, or any of the others in the series, may register at constitution.hillsdale.edu.  There is no fee. Progressives divide government into two essential parts:  Politics, which is representation of the will of the people; and Administration, which is the development and implementation of civic policies and programs.  When we are taught about the Progressive Era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in our high school history classes, there is focus on Progressive reforms that made government more directly representative:  direct election of senators; initiatives and referendums; and party primaries.  This brought politics closer to the people and improved their ability to express their will for change—especially progressive changes beyond Constitutional limitations.  Yet, Progressives’ more important contribution to American government was the concept of the administrative state, where bureaucrats, relatively free from political control, would ply their specialized expertise in the implementation of that popular will.  The Progressive vision was a politics of broad social policy (“We want clean water and air!”), resulting in declarations of objectives from representative government (a Clean Air and Clean Water Act specifying the broad objectives and not much...