May 27, 2014

The perverse backwardness of progressivism

Progressivism, perversely, is regressive and backwards.  In a great post about the marvelous accomplishments of the 20th century and beyond, Yevgeniy Feyman claims out that the Golden Age is Now and points out the most every great advancement of the last 100+ years have come as a result of capitalism.  Feyman argues that technological progress comes from the economic freedom that market economies both provide and enable.
Simply put, technological progress is the key to these gains—and market economies have liberated, and rewarded, technological innovation.

People are not just living longer, but better—sometimes with government’s help, and sometimes despite it. Even people in the developing countries of Africa and Latin America are better educated and better fed than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of children who would have died during previous eras due to malnutrition are alive today. Here, we can thank massive advancements in agricultural production unleashed by the free market.
Progressives believe that markets need deeper regulation, that no one should be allowed to succeed too much and that success is a zero sum game where those who are successful must be achieving only at the expense of someone else.  Such a notion is absurd.  Centuries ago when someone was busy inventing the water mill, they were not making anyone's life more difficult by doing so.  They were in fact making it easier to cut lumber, grind flour and do numerous other tasks - thus enriching everyone's lives.  

Feyman points out many of the advances that have helped millions if not billions of people and notes that they come not from those who oppose technological progress but those who embrace it.  Free market capitalism embraces it.  What progressives are progressive about is social progress, a Utopian equality of outcome rather than a real equality of opportunity to which America and a few other countries are much closer to achieving.  

Progressives come down on the anti-business side of every issue - more red tape, more taxes, more superfluous climate protection are all prime examples of wanting to slam the brakes on progress.  Oh sure, progressives believe that they are helping humanity by taking these positions, but their belief is a blind and ill-considered belief.

Equality of opportunity is a much more worthy goal than equality of outcome.  Someone who wants to do nothing or very little all day will not achieve the same success as someone who wants to achieve something.  What drives that achiever is the opportunity to benefit from their hard work.  But they do not only benefit themselves.  Finding a cure for cancer will likely help even the lazy guy in our example.  The lazy guy benefits from the innovation because a cure he had nothing to do with now is available to him.  Take away the incentive to succeed and the cure does not get found.  In fact you lower the bar and encourage the achiever to become someone who does only what is necessary to survive and stop pursuing his dream.

Viewed another way, the removal of the incentives progressively halts technological progress and causes complete stagnation at some point. Everyone ends up equal, but in a less able society.  How anyone can call that progressive is incomprehensible.

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