mises.org / by Andrew Syrios / Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Progressives have a way with words that is truly impressive. Perhaps it started when they stole the word liberal from libertarians and since has snowballed out of control. From “social justice” to “pro-choice” (except with light bulbs) to various “isms” to describe their opponents, progressives are experts at such linguistic feats. And while conservatives and even libertarians unfortunately use many trite phrases in place of an argument as well, progressives are the all-time champions. The best proof of this is the termprogressive and their excessive use of it when referring to everything they support as being progressive and everything they oppose as more or less reactionary. This simple dichotomy is a pleasant fiction for those who like their politics boiled down to the most unsophisticated, partisan blather. However, the idea of progress coming on some gradient between reactionary conservative or libertarian and progressive liberal is blatantly fallacious.
Assuming progress is one way and reaction the other is a kind of two-dimensional thinking that breaks down very quickly. For example, the progressives of the early twentieth century generally believed things that would abhor progressives of today. Those progressives were the ones who rammed through Prohibition against those “economic conservatives who … pushed so hard for repeal” as historian Daniel Okrent put it. The famous progressive William Jennings Bryan was a staunch supporter of Prohibition. As his biographer Paolo Coletta noted,
Bryan epitomized the prohibitionist viewpoint: Protestant and nativist, hostile to the corporation and the evils of urban civilization, devoted to personal regeneration and the social gospel, he sincerely believed that prohibition would contribute to the physical health and moral improvement of the individual, stimulate civic progress, and end the notorious abuses connected with the liquor traffic.
Thanks to BrotherJohnF