"You know, (liberal) is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom … that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual. Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head, and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century. I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive." .....Hillary Clinton, CNN/You Tube Debate 2008
“Progressivism was the reform movement that ran from the late 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century, during which leading intellectuals and social reformers in the United States sought to address the economic, political, and cultural questions that had arisen in the context of the rapid changes brought with the Industrial Revolution and the growth of modern capitalism in America.”
While those identified as Progressives disagreed on the nature of the problems and how to resolve them, in general, they shared the view that government, at every level must be actively involved in these reforms. They believed that the constitutional system was outdated and must be viewed as a living, continually evolving instrument of social change, assisted by scientific knowledge and administrative bureaucracy.
The old system was to be made more democratic. This view led, in 1913, to the direct elections of Senators (the 17th amendment). Also, because more revenue was needed to accomplish these goals, the 16th Amendment and the progressive income tax were introduced. At this time the Federal Reserve was also created.
The function of presidential leadership was to provide the unity of direction -- the vision needed for true progressive government.
"All that progressives ask or desire," wrote Woodrow Wilson, "is permission -- in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word -- to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine."
"Government," Wilson wrote in his book, The State, "does now, whatever experience permits or the times demand."
Wilson goes on to say, "No doubt, a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle."
In his 1890 essay, "Leaders of Men," Wilson explained that a "true leader" uses the masses like "tools." He must inflame their passions with little heed for the facts. "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."
Jane Addams, founder of Hull House in Chicago, said, "We must demand that the individual shall be willing to lose the sense of personal achievement, and shall be content to realize his activity only in connection to the activity of the many.”
"New forms of association must be created. Our disorganized competitive life must pass into an organic cooperative life. Individualism means tyranny." This was said by Walter Rauschenbush, a leading progressive theologian of the Social Gospel Movement, in 1896.
The philosopher John Dewey, New Republic founder Herbert Croly, and many other progressive intellectuals welcomed what Mr. Dewey called "the social possibilities of war."The war provided an opportunity to force Americans to, as journalist Frederick Lewis Allen put it, "lay by our good-natured individualism and march in step." Or as another progressive put it, "Laissez faire is dead. Long live social control."
Below are some of the pieces of the Progressive era ideology:
1. The Rejection of Nature and the Turn to History
John Dewey wrote that freedom is not "something that individuals have as a ready-made possession." It is "something to be achieved."
Freedom was a gift of the state. Man was a product of his own history, and through that history he collectively creates himself. Man was a social construct.
Progressivism said that human beings are not naturally free so there can be no natural rights or natural law. Progressives held that nature gives man little or nothing and that everything of value to human life is made by man, and concluded that there are no permanent standards of right.
Dewey spoke of "historical relativity” “ meaning that in all times, people have views of right and wrong that are tied to their particular times, but in our time, the views of the most enlightened are true because they are in conformity with where history is going.”
2. The Purpose of Government
For the Progressives, freedom was redefined as the fulfillment of human capacities, which becomes the primary task of the state.
Dewey writes, “The state has the responsibility for creating institutions under which individuals can effectively realize the potentialities that are theirs." So although "it is true that social arrangements, laws, institutions are made for man, rather than that man is made for them," these laws and institutions "are not means for obtaining something for individuals, not even happiness.
They are means of creating individuals…. Individuality in a social and moral sense is something to be wrought out."
3. The Progressives' Rejection of Consent and Compact as the Basis of Society
Charles Merriam, a leading Progressive political scientist, wrote:
“The individualistic ideas of the "natural right" school of political theory, indorsed in the Revolution, are discredited and repudiated…. The origin of the state is regarded, not as the result of a deliberate agreement among men, but as the result of historical development, instinctive rather than conscious; and rights are considered to have their source not in nature, but in law.”
For the Progressives, then, it was of no great importance whether or not government begins in consent as long as it serves its proper end of remolding man in such a way as to bring out his real capacities and aspirations.
4. God and Religion
John Burgess, a prominent Progressive political scientist, wrote that the purpose of the state is the "perfection of humanity, the civilization of the world; the perfect development of the human reason and its attainment to universal command over individualism; the apotheosis of man" (man becoming God).
5. Limits on Government and the Integrity of the Private Sphere
Because of the Progressives' tendency to view the state as divine and the natural as low, they no longer looked upon the private sphere as that which was to be protected by government. Instead, the realm of the private was seen as the realm of selfishness and oppression. Private property was especially singled out for criticism.
”Statehood was the original, absolute, unlimited, universal power over the individual subject, and all associations of subjects."
"You're a stranger here Miss Patches, and you don't know, that nothing can be hidden from our powerful Ruler's magic picture---nor from the watchful eyes of the humble Wizard of Oz"
"Nothing that happens in the Land of Oz escapes the notice of our wise Sorceress, Glinda the Good."...The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum...1914
6. Domestic Policy
In Progressivism, the domestic policy of government had two main concerns.
First, government must protect the poor and other victims of capitalism through redistribution of resources, anti-trust laws, government control over the details of commerce and production: i.e., dictating at what prices things must be sold, methods of manufacture, government participation in the banking system, and so on.
7. Foreign Policy
The Progressives believed that a historical process was leading all mankind to freedom, or at least the advanced nations. Following Hegel, they thought of the march of freedom in history as having a geographical basis. It was in Europe, not Asia or Africa, where modern science and the modern state had made their greatest advances. The nations where modern science had properly informed the political order were thought to be the proper leaders of the world.
The Progressives also believed that the scientifically educated leaders of the advanced nations (especially America, Britain, and France) should not hesitate to rule the less advanced nations in the interest of ultimately bringing the world into freedom, assuming that supposedly inferior peoples could be brought into the modern world at all. Political scientist Charles Merriam openly called for a policy of colonialism on a racial basis:
Progressives therefore embraced a much more active and indeed imperialistic foreign policy than the Founders did. In "Expansion and Peace" (1899), Theodore Roosevelt wrote that the best policy is imperialism on a global scale: "every expansion of a great civilized power means a victory for law, order, and righteousness."
T.R. believed the American occupation of the Philippines would enable "one more fair spot of the world's surface" to be "snatched from the forces of darkness. Fundamentally the cause of expansion is the cause of peace."
The trend to turn power over to multinational organizations also begins in this period, as may be seen in Wilson's plan for a League of Nations, under whose rules America would have delegated control over the deployment of its own armed forces to that body.
8. Who Should Rule, Experts or Representatives?
The Progressives wanted to sweep away what they regarded as this amateurism in politics. They had confidence that modern science had superseded the perspective of the liberally educated statesman. Only those educated in the top universities, preferably in the social sciences, were thought to be capable of governing. Politics was regarded as too complex for common sense to cope with.
Government had taken on the vast responsibility not merely of protecting the people against injuries, but of managing the entire economy as well as providing for the people's spiritual well-being. Only government agencies staffed by experts informed by the most advanced modern science could manage tasks previously handled within the private sphere. Government, it was thought, needed to be led by those who see where history is going, who understand the ever-evolving idea of human dignity.
Progressives believed the people would take power out of the hands of locally elected officials and political parties and place it instead into the hands of the central government, which would in turn establish administrative agencies run by neutral experts, scientifically trained, to translate the people's inchoate will into concrete policies.
Local politicians would be replaced by neutral city managers presiding over technically trained staffs. Politics in the sense of favoritism and self-interest would disappear and be replaced by the universal rule of enlightened bureaucracy.
"There were no poor people in the land of Oz, because there was no such thing as money, and all property of every sort belonged to the Ruler. Each person was given freely by his neighbors whatever he required for his use, which is as much as anyone may reasonably desire. Every one worked half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and to have something to do. There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or to find fault with them. So each one was proud to do all he could for his friends and neighbors, and was glad when they would accept the things he produced."
Now ... return to the top and reread the quote by Hillary Clinton.