… is from page 5 of the original edition of Walter Lippmann’s sometimes flawed but deeply insightful and still-important 1937 book, The Good Society:
Though the progressives prefer to move gradually and with consideration, by persuading majorities to consent, the only instrument of progress in which they have faith is the coercive agency of government. They can, it would seem, imagine no alternative, nor can they remember how much of what they cherish as progressive has come by emancipation from political dominion, by the limitation of power, by the release of personal energy from authority and collective coercion. For virtually all that now passes for progressivism in countries like England and the United States calls for the increasing ascendancy of the state: always the cry is for more officials with more power over more and more of the activities of men.
DBx: A much more accurate name for “progressives” is “primitivists.” Progressives endorse the most primitive means known to animal existence: physical force and threats thereof. Progressives cannot seriously deny their reliance on force because all of their proposals are to use the state to achieve their goals. If a progressive does deny his or her reliance on force, simply ask if he or she is willing, say, to have minimum wages be mere recommendations issued by legislatures. Will the progressive agree to ‘redistribute’ income only by asking high-income earners to donate some of their earnings to low-income earners? How open is the progressive to have zoning boards simply request property owners not to use their real estate in these and those ways? Is the progressive willing to strip customs agents of the power to coercively extract tariff payments, leaving these agents with only the ability to request tariff payments?
Progressives have a fetish for force. Of course, progressives aren’t alone in fetishizing force. The only people without this fetish are classical liberals. (Indeed, refusal to join the crowd in fetishizing force can reasonably be said to be the defining characteristic of classical liberalism.)
Progressives, of course, justify their faith in force by pointing to the purity of their motives and the excellence of the outcomes they propose to engineer into existence. But here, too, progressives are primitive – or, perhaps better, juvenile. They condemn the world for not being exactly as they wish it to be. They refuse to accept the legitimacy of other people’s preferences if those preferences differ from the preferences of progressives. And, seeking ‘solutions,’ they have a maddening tendency to ignore the inescapability of trade-offs. Progressives, like children, are prone to see reality as a struggle between good people with good intentions and evil people with evil intentions.
There’s nothing remotely progressive (or liberal) about progressivism. From start to finish, top to bottom, inside and out, it’s primitivism.