Thursday, 25 March 2010

First they came for the word ‘progress’ …

There’s a word out of history that’s come back to haunt us.  It’s called “Progressive,” and it’s pure poison.

A decade ago if you’d got a dollar for every time you heard the word ‘Progressive,’ you’d still be in the poorhouse. Now? You hear the word on every street corner, and in every internet chat room. If you had only half a dollar for every time you heard it (which is all today’s dollar is worth anyway) you’d still quite easily make Forbes’ list of billionaires.

So what happened, and when. As Google Trends indicates In 2004, something happened to turn it all around and bring back a word from a hundred years ago. Take a look:


Clearly it’s a new thing, and clearly it’s being used to delineate the same, or similar characteristics, as the world socialist . . .


. . . and the word “liberal.” (NB: You’ve got to be careful checking Google Trends for “liberal” since you’re liable to wind up measuring Tony Abbott’s mates in Australia.)

So what happened in 2004?  Any theories? To rule out just one theory: it’s not Glenn Beck, if that’s what you’re thinking. He didn’t take off until last year.


So what’s the explanation?

Here’s one theory.

At the turn of the century, the advocates of big government picked up the word “progress” and started to bandy it around.  “Progressive” they called themselves when they started to implement government daycare, ban alcohol, and set up government control of the banking system and wartime central planning of the commanding heights of the economy—despite none of these representing any kind of progress but the government gaining ground and liberty being forced to yield.

Socialists laid claim to the world “progress,” just as they laid claim to the notion that socialism was “scientific” –- and their Old Right and “liberal” opponents sat back let them do it.

What a victory! 

By masquerading as being in the vanguard of progress, they made their opponents, by implication, appear as the apostles of reaction.  Of the antediluvian.  Of the status quo.  It made their opponents look like dinosaurs, and their opponents stood back and let them do it.

What an underhanded victory!

So why, later on, did they drop the nomenclature? Not because they had no right to it. They dropped it because they saw something better. 

Just as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt and their fellow travellers stole the word “progress” when they had no right to it, Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow-travellers stole the word “liberal” even though they had no right to that. But no matter. They saw it was no longer being used, they picked it up, and they used it for all it was worth even though it was the last way to describe their aims.

Where liberalism used to mean the belief in small governments and the importance of liberty and equality before the law—a belief that had flowered in the sweet, liberal air of the freest time in human history, the nineteenth century--now in the mid-twentieth century it was held to mean being made equal by the law. By law wielded by big government.

Quite some sleight of hand, that one.  Exchanging “negative liberties” for “positive liberties, and making small government = big government, and all by the use of one word.

What could be more ingenious!

But now, after a century-and-counting of never-ending Square Deals and Fair Deals-- of New Deals, Great Societies and Fascist New Frontiers—and ever bigger and ever-more intrusive government to remedy the never-ending failure of every promised Utopia to arrive, it was clear that particular jig was up.  Up for good.  It was clear even to moronic numb-nuts and Democratic Party planners (but I repeat myself) that modern “liberalism” is nothing more than old-style socialism, with all the incumbent failures and bad aroma thereof.

Something had to be done to add perfume to the stink of failure so the Grand Old Project could go on as before.

Enter (stage left) Hope. And Change.  And the return of an old friend: “Progressivism.”

You think it’s a coincidence that Mr “Hope and Change” arrived on your doorstep at the same time as that revivified old word did?


This was one dog that learned from all the old tricks in the Alinsky-Gramsci toolbox.  One young dog who knew how his prior masters had tamed the populace with the help of a word, and wanted to work the same magic. He grabbed the mantle of “progress,” and once again his opponents let him get away with it.

And just as it was Religion that gave the first generation of American Progressivism its legs, now–-via the oxymoron of “social justice” and the religiously inspired “duty” to be your brother’s keeper—it’s that old-time religion again that’s being used to bury liberty for good, just as surely as if it were a hatchet being buried in its back

So how does that sound as a theory?

And what are you going to do about it?

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