Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Populism of Progressivism; or, If I Wanted Tyranny ...

A quote that lost popularity after 2008:  "People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."

It occurs to me that the Progressive push for moving from 1770s republican government (with its horrid checks and balances) to more direct expressions of popular wish fulfillment in government is a brilliant way to set up a society that votes not for those whose policies will ultimately benefit society best but for those whose policies promises them the redistribution favors they value most.  A government can actually purchase our freedoms from us, and charge the purchase price to our collective credit card.  And the beauty of it is that the more the government takes from us to do it, the more desperate we will be for whatever is promised (even if what is delivered is much less).

Think of all the opportunities to hold desperate people as hostages in order to bring in votes for a "Party of Yes."  Think of all the opportunities to then make more people desperate.  
When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.  - Ben Franklin 
Perhaps a little ironic since Progressivism saw overcoming Constitutional restrictions as fundamental to setting up the bureaucracies of intellectuals that would decide what is best for us all.  They would spend public funds promoting what was good for us so we would elect representatives that would enact them as laws, and then administrators would interpret the laws in sensible ways for our own good.  All socialist movements, whether fascist or communist, depended on populist movements to overthrow the conventional barriers to government intrusion.

You might be tempted to think that there's irony that the party now known as the Democrats used to be called Republicans (from the ranks of the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution).  The oldest political party, if its present configuration can be said to bear much of any resemblance to its original.  The name change coincides nicely with their complete ideological metamorphosis, from being the voice for small government and less federal intervention to the very opposite.

I periodically play the "If I Wanted to Create a Tyrannical Federal Government, I Would ..." game in my mind.  Aside from convincing the public to disarm themselves because the danger from themselves was worse than the danger from their rulers, a good one would be to provide more federal help to citizens than their respective states provided (or could provide, if it's deficit spending).  I would take more and more of people's paychecks over the years so that there was not much the states could even take to implement their own solutions to the problems, and the resultant bureaucratic waste would eat up so much and give so little for what it took in that there would be pressure for the government to assume complete control, making the states effectively federal districts, with the government eventually considering all income and all wealth within imminent domain for solving the national crisis.  To hedge my bets I would accelerate the accumulation of national debt by using a temporary crisis to redefine the "normal" level of spending until confidence in the dollar is lost.

In a tax system where 50% of the population pay 97% of the income tax, where 10% pay for 70% of the income tax, I would refer to tax breaks and tax cuts as "expenditures" and would take advantage of the fact that in a system where "the rich" are paying much more than their fair share, tax breaks and tax cuts will "unfairly" benefit them.  I would use "class warfare" rhetoric to rile people's sense of fairness to raise tax rates on the primary payers and thereby reduce the taxable income.  Deficit increases.  Blame the bad effects on predecessor's policies, and point out the obvious fact that now the top 10% are paying less (since they are making less of their income taxable) as further unfairness. Soak the rich some more!  Keep going until it's Germany before Hitler.

It seems extreme, but sometimes harsh policies are necessary to make a system where no one is better off than anyone else even if everyone is worse off.  Progress is fairness, and in Progressivism, Big Brother is here to control things until they become fair, even if that means that Big Brother becomes intrusive in order to make it happen.  

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