Green Room

Progress Into Entropy

posted at 1:25 am on February 22, 2010 by

In his keynote speech at CPAC, Glenn Beck invested an intriguing amount of effort in identifying “progressives” as the danger facing America. He criticized both Republicans and Democrats for accepting these dangerous progressive ideas. Writing on his Web site, Beck says:

The progressive idea of a big, bloated government has infected both parties. In a survey, 80 percent said “the main thing that influences what members of Congress do in office” is either “personal self-interest” or “special interests.”

But it’s not just Congress; state governments are doing it too. There are 21 states who currently have under-funded pensions and entitlements. And, even if you’re in a “safe zone,” it doesn’t mean you’re safe.

[...] Politicians don’t think the rules apply to them. They only think about getting themselves re-elected. They’ve run through the boundaries of the Constitution.

And what about us? We think we are entitled: This is America! We deserve it! But, just like Tiger Woods said, we were wrong. It’s got to stop. And it starts with us. And that’s what the president needs to tell the American people.

Washington needs to stop the spending, yes, but you have to make sacrifices too. I just mentioned the pensions. In what world does it make sense to continue to promise funding a system where this routinely happens.

It’s interesting to see the progressive label applied to the Left in a negative way. They often like to use the term for themselves as a compliment, flattering their intellectual vanity by praising themselves for looking forward, and following the inevitable flow of history. Beck might be waiting to pounce with the checkered history of the early 20th-century Progressive movement, including their infatuation with eugenics, if the Left responds to his CPAC speech by claiming they’re proud to wear the “progressive” mantle. I hope I don’t spoil his fun by discussing it now, but it’s a topic that has interested me for a long time. Safely navigating the end of the New Deal calls for an understanding of how it began… and why it was always doomed to end this way.

The great intellectual obsession of the early 20th century was the belief that scientific methods could be used to design a superior society. This is, without question, the most deadly and tragic falsehood the human race has ever talked itself into believing. Untold poverty, tyranny, murder, and warfare have resulted from it. From the perspective of the next century, it’s not hard to see why. After a society is designed, it must be constructed, and human beings suffer beneath the application of hammers and nails.

Every theory of social design – from fascism and communism, to the elitist grab bag of Progressivism, and the command economics rotting away the wealth of America and the West today – requires force to implement its programs. All of these designs assumed a powerful central State, a concept that seemed as natural and reasonable to the academics of the 1920s as the notion that a ship must have a helm. Nourished by the intellectual energy of collectivist thinkers, these growing States quickly realized they would have to compel obedience to their designs, because a substantial number of their citizens would never comply willingly. How many modern Americans would be happy to mail checks to the government, specifically to pay their share of TARP, the “stimulus” bill, or union subsidies?

These programs are advanced forms of the same cancer that produced Italian and German industrial policies in the 20s and 30s. In each case, a supposedly brilliant group of central planners set about imposing their theories and emotional preferences upon a populace that was required to trust them.

When the modern American Left identifies itself as “progressive,” it’s saying that a massive, growing government is our inevitable destiny – progress is measured solely by the growth of government power, and the only way to “care” about a social issue is to throw tax money at it. In reality, this is progress toward entropy, a system doomed to starve itself to death. As Glenn Beck puts it, after quoting the new Republican governor of New Jersey on the lucrative pension plans of state employees:

You pay $124,000 into the system and get $3.8 million out of the system? Forget about “fair,” how is that sustainable? It can’t last.

[...] We expect it. We assume big government will be there for us every step of the way.

Well, I hate to be the Friday buzz-kill, but it’s not always going to be there. America has been recklessly spending in the last few decades and it’s catching up to us rapidly.

Now, we’ve got a choice to make: Do we choose the fundamentally transform America to a Marxist, spread the wealth, cradle to grave nanny state? Where no one gets a boo-boo? And, as we have seen in country after country, is only sustainable through the barrel of a gun? Or do we come to our senses and realize that spending and taxing kills business? And stop with the pensions that literally pay out 30 times what we put into them!

The reason Big Government is unsustainable is that it really only has one coin to spend: compulsion. All of its resources are gained by extracting them from the citizens who produce them. The federal government doesn’t really spend money; it forces citizens to do so. Compulsion suffers from the law of diminishing returns – the more it’s used, the less value it can appropriate. In a relatively free society, clear and simple laws can generate enormous resources for the State. Here at the twilight of the New Deal, the acolytes of Big Government are reduced to proposing thousand-page bills that will regulate what kind of light bulbs you can use, or levy fines for failing to purchase government-approved health insurance.

Each of these increasingly desperate power grabs reduces the overall wealth of society, because wealth is a function of choice. It is only generated by free men. The slaves of a totalitarian State may be able to generate subsistence, but they don’t produce a significant amount of wealth. The more freedom government takes from its citizens, the weaker they become, dramatically worsening the problems a supposedly compassionate, progressive State claims it can solve.

You can read an example of this in the New York Times piece on the millions of people who might remain out of work for years to come. The Times tries to pin this on “institutional investors who crave swift profits,” and amazingly blames “the declining influence of unions” for making it “easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees.” Ah, yes, if only we had larger and more powerful labor unions, demanding unsustainable benefits and work contracts for everyone, and siphoning huge amounts of corporate cash into the pockets of union leadership. Employment would skyrocket! If only all businesses could produce a quality product… like the public schools, whose union workers won’t put in an extra half hour a day to resolve a crisis!

Progressives have no ideas beyond increasing State power, so their ideology is unable to cope with the dynamics of a vast economy. Look at the absurd Thomas Friedman, blubbering that “we’ve gone from the age of government handouts to the age of citizen givebacks,” and quoting a Johns Hopkins foreign-policy expert who says “the great task of government and leadership is going to be about taking things away from people.” Wrong. The great task of a resurgent America is taking things away from the government, and the intellectually bankrupt Left.

We will soon begin correcting the tragic error of progressive thought. Their “nation-building” days are over. A nation of free men and women builds its own future, with innovation and energy beyond the comprehension of a Left devoted to the belief that progress only runs in one direction: down into the ruin of a titanic, collapsing State. The current President offers himself as a hospice nurse, armed with fabulously expensive drugs that can ease the pain of a dying nation. His successor will be required to perform that service for a morbidly obese government that never should have been allowed to gorge itself on our liberty until its heart gave out.

Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.

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the great task of government and leadership is going to be about taking things away from people

From my cold, dead, well you get the idea. Great post. What happens when the GOP, once in control, decides not to listen again?

Free Constitution on February 22, 2010 at 1:36 AM

Part of this tragedy is the demagoguery that kept any gradual solution shouted down and out of honest debate. Slow change of unsustainable programs might have kept retired or chronically ill people protected, while allowing society precious time to adjust.

Leftists will tolerate no solution that moves power away from government and themselves. Voters can accept no more than their share of blame for this mess. The two parties played a lesser-of-evils game for permanent incumbents, with the Republicans promising not to circle the drain as fast as Democrats.

Meanwhile, the hyenas of prominent MSM gleefully engaged in campaigns of fear and deception to further the progressive cause. Like others, I used to take for granted that our First Amendment guaranteed easy access to the truth. What happened to journalism is still hard to believe in some ways.

The iron grip of the left is loosening on a mass media that now includes talk-radio and the Internet. My prayer is for a little more time for the remaining sane to take the controls and cushion a hard landing.

Feedie on February 22, 2010 at 5:30 AM

Well done again Doc.

It’s interesting how society can react to all the challenges thrown at it. At the personal/family/local level people seem to take pretty good care of each other just fine. Somehow the progressives must not be very involved at this level or they’d see it’s done by freedom of choice, not at the business end of a gun.

Robert17 on February 22, 2010 at 6:36 AM

I’m sure the Times would love to do away with their unions, after all, being so much more enlightened they would treat their employees so much better than a dirty capitalist. When they put down stock holders as evil they are talking about a lot of average Americans on the left and right. Eugenics is here in a kinder, gentler form called abortion on demand and if they pass the health care bill(what a misnomer) we’ll have death panels, too.

Kissmygrits on February 22, 2010 at 8:17 AM

Beck and the Doc together. Wow! A powerful force for good.

publiuspen on February 22, 2010 at 9:27 AM

The great intellectual obsession of the early 20th century was the belief that scientific methods could be used to design a superior society.

Winston Churchill, reflecting on events in his own country during the period we call the ‘Progressive Era’, and anticipating the havoc Socialism would wreak on his beloved empire wrote:

The main feature of our domestic politics since the War [WWI] has been the devouring of the Liberal Party by the Socialists and the presentation as an alternative Government of this powerful but strangely-assorted force with their dissolvent theories, with their dream of a civilization fundamentally different from the only one we have been able to evolve by centuries of trial and error.

Cannot the same be said of the Democratic Party? History has lessons to teach us. Will we learn?

potkas7 on February 22, 2010 at 9:54 AM

The headline piqued my interest, so I didn’t read the byline – then halfway thought I’m thinking – This HAS to be a Dr. Z column and sure enough, it was!

Well done sir!

When is you book coming out?

Chip on February 22, 2010 at 10:18 AM

When is your book coming out?

Chip on February 22, 2010 at 10:18 AM

Wrong. The great task of a resurgent America is taking things away from the government, and the intellectually bankrupt Left.

I love this line Doc.

The intellectually bankrupt left is on a mission to “socially and financially bankrupt” the individual, (each of us), for the sake of the individual.

Rovin on February 22, 2010 at 10:21 AM

The great task of a resurgent America is taking things away from the government, and the intellectually bankrupt Left.

Excellent. IMHO the best piece you’ve written yet.

rcl on February 22, 2010 at 10:31 AM

It’s interesting to see the progressive label applied to the Left in a negative way. They often like to use the term for themselves as a compliment, flattering their intellectual vanity by praising themselves for looking forward, and following the inevitable flow of history.

As Beck said, They’re running out of names – isn’t it curious that the left always has repackage itself so they can try to sell the same tired old idea of Statism again and again.
This should be a red flag to everyone, because if the Ideas of the left actually worked, there would be no need to repackage them or force them upon people.

The reason Big Government is unsustainable is that it really only has one coin to spend: compulsion.

This monopoly on force is the very reason Statism always fails, and it belies the falsehood of one of the labels the left likes to label itself – ‘Liberal’

Sorry to break it to the Leftists, but compulsion is anathema to Liberty or being ‘Liberal’.

Chip on February 22, 2010 at 10:31 AM

I’ve always been particularly aggravated by the self-congratulatory label of “progressive.” There’s nothing progressive about progressives. In fact, they’re a throw-back to feudalism, tribalism and primates fighting for control of the troop. In typically European fashion, the elitis aristocratics have been supplanted by the elitist bureaucrats at the top of the social heirarchy. That may have changed who gets the goods, but it does nothing to change the system and its impact on that most spiritually advanced and, yes, progressive idea, human liberty. It’s well to remember that this nation was founded on the idea that YOU are entitled to live your life and pursue your happiness as the ultimate social good and government’s job is merely to guard against those who would limit or control you. Progressives think so little of YOUR right to live your life that they believe their right to control YOUR life is paramount, not apparently realizing that their pursuit of happiness negates YOURS.

NNtrancer on February 22, 2010 at 1:16 PM

The great intellectual obsession of the early 20th century was the belief that scientific methods could be used to design a superior society. This is, without question, the most deadly and tragic falsehood the human race has ever talked itself into believing.

Not at all unlike the first great lie: that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would make Adam and Eve just like G-d!

It takes a staggering arrogance to seek to make oneself into another man’s god. This arrogance has a name: “progressivism.”

RegularJoe on February 22, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Another fantastic analysis!

Cinday Blackburn on February 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM

This post has been promoted to HotAir.com.

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on February 22, 2010 at 6:45 PM