Part I - Progressivism From a Philosophy to a Religion

© 2020 Jim Spence - Progressivism is said to be a political philosophy in support of social reform. It is based on the idea of progress, in which advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition. In the next few columns we will explore the beginnings and the morphing of the philosophy of Progressivism, into a radical cult-like religion.
In the 21st century, progressivism exhibits all the signs of not just being a religion, but a religion with the infrastructure to grow its global footprint. Progressivism is now the fastest growing religion on the planet. And as is the case with many religions throughout human history, the leaders of the modern progressive movement, in their efforts to keep, attract, and control the congregation, often give in to their worst instincts.
Teddy Roosevelt was perhaps the first U.S. president who promoted what might loosely be called “progressive causes.” He created national parks setting aside millions of acres of land that were excluded from development. And Roosevelt, unlike any of his predecessors, vigorously enforced protections in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act on monopolies. These policies are hardly crazy or perverse ideas. However, these good ideas gave momentum to the horrific idea of allowing unaccountable bureaucrats to continuously increase their control over all things American in fundamental ways.
Woodrow Wilson followed Teddy Roosevelt with increasingly more powers conveyed to bureaucrats. Under Wilson the implementation of a federal income tax was enacted with the promise that it would remain a tiny percentage of income. More government agencies like the FTC were created with broad authority given to unaccountable bureaucrats to govern with a heavy hand.
Much like Barack Obama did, Franklin Roosevelt took the opportunity presented by an economic downturn to increase American citizen’s potential to become permanently dependent on the federal government. He got support from popular authors like John Steinbeck who wrote novels in the FDR era like, The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck portrayed business people's basic nature as very evil, and he portrayed government bureaucrats as very angelic. Business became the Church of Progressivism's proverbial satan and bureaucrats their saints and angels.
Ironically, rangers in Teddy Roosevelt’s national parks posted signs that prohibited park visitors from feeding the park’s non-human inhabitants. The park rules attempted to ensure the wildlife did not become hopelessly dependent on ill-advised handouts, instead of remaining self-reliant. Most presidents since Calvin Coolidge have governed in ways that have only increased the entitlement mentality in U.S. citizens. All the warning signs in the national parks were ignored.
Progressives who win elections have come to embrace absurd notions about the capabilities and motivations of bureaucrats simply because it was in their financial interests to do so. This process requires perverse interpretations on the U.S. Constitution that lead all progressives to suggest as a matter of reflex, that the solution to every problem is more laws, more rules, and more bureaucrats. To fund this march towards insanity, the tiny income tax rates of Woodrow Wilson became the economy choking income tax rates under Dwight Eisenhower.
John Kennedy's brief presidency became a high point in history, when the perverse morphing of progressivism faced utter rejection. In his inaugural address, JFK made his signature statement against the entitlement mentality created by progressivism, when he demanded, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Can you imagine what 21st Century progressives would say if any candidate ever adopted this JFK slogan? Those vying for control of the Church of Progressivism are tripping over each other every day on the campaign trail, with long lists of goodies our country can give to us........for......FREE!
JFK also slashed the top tax rates to free up capital flows and get the nation’s sluggish economy moving again. JFK demanded respect for our borders and immigration laws. He also created the Peace Corps to provide volunteers to help people from other countries in their countries. Instinctively JFK knew that progressivism was smothering America's productivity. JFK committed himself to illustrating the futility of enabling an entitlement mentality.
Lyndon Johnson was easily the WORST president in American history. He was the ultimate enabler. Unable to lead his own party, it was Republican leadership in the Senate that passed landmark civil rights legislation. LBJ committed hundreds of thousands of boys to the Viet Nam debacle. LBJ refused to let the military experts win the conflict by handcuffing all military processes in favor of political processes. Worst of all, LBJ accelerated the conversion of progressivism from a philosophy to a religion. When he actually created financial incentives for poor unmarried women to have children if they created dysfunctional single parent homes he began America's self-destruction. LBJ's so-called “War on Poverty,” actually created conditions that increased behaviors that lead to poverty. Inner cities in America have been imploding ever since thanks to LBJ's devotion to the Church of Progressivism.
In Part II of Progressivism - From a Philosophy to a Religion, we will explore many of the bizarre ways that the progressive movement has grown like a cancer on America. We will trace the processes that led to basic values being abandoned, scientific principles being perverted, and constitutional protections scoffed at. We will examine how progressives oppose freedom of speech, freedom of religion, respect for private property, and equal protections for every citizen.
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