… is from page 255 of Deirdre McCloskey’s great 2019 book, Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All:
Poverty was massively caused, for example, by “protective” interventions by the state into labor markets, because the main effect of the protection is to keep the poor from competing with the middle class and the upper working class. That was the original purpose in Progressivism, I have noted, and was admirably well-achieved. For example, legislation in the 1920s in some states “protecting” women from working overtime automatically excluded them from supervisory jobs, because the little boss needs to come early and leave late.
DBx: Sad but so.
A great deal of legislation appears on its shiny surface to be exciting and “progressive” but, when examined under its hood, turns out to be an oily engine of oppression of the have-nots (or have-lesses) by the haves (or the have-mores). Yet very many people – including very many highly schooled, even decorated with doctorates, people – continue to be hypnotized by the shiny surface and never bother to look beneath the hood.
Minimum-wage statutes, tariffs, occupational-licensing restrictions, quite a few health and safety dictates, zoning and other restrictions on land-use, campaign-finance limits, and civil asset forfeiture – these are only some of the government policies advertised to the public as serving noble goals but which oppress the politically weak or naive in order to create artificial benefits for relatively small numbers of politically influential people.
“Progressive” intellectuals in the past typically understood the full consequences of the the policies they advocated and were largely honest about their goals – goals that we now recognize to be despicable. Not so with “Progressives” today.
“Progressive” intellectuals today seem not to understand the full consequences of the policies they advocate. While most “Progressive” intellectuals today are probably well-intentioned, they stubbornly refuse to see that oily and noxious engines churn beneath the shiny surfaces of interventionist legislation. Indeed, “Progressive” intellectuals today seem largely to be in the business of crafting clever – sometimes even sophistical – arguments in support of the notion that what you see on the shiny and exciting surface of interventionist legislation is all that there is to see. No need to look beneath the hood.