Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Progressivism Contradicts progressivism

Progressivism was the ideology of early twentieth century American government. Its argument was based on the idea that big business had developed to a point where it was too powerful not to be regulated and that in order to counteract big business's power the limited federal government of the 19th century needed to be expanded. Progressivism was mainly concerned with how to best manage big business in the public interest. The Progressives were pro-large business. They did not think, as many business executives did not think, that private ownership of monopolies was necessarily appropriate. In many respects Progressivism was similar to Marxism in that it argued that big business was a natural historical development and that an increase in state power was necessary to manage the big business. The Progressives wanted to make certain that the efficiency potential of big business would be actualized and that efficiencies from big business would be managed in ways that weer conducive to the public interest.

The pro-big business attitude of the Progressives changed during the New Deal. Part of the reason was that the New Deal did not focus on the efficiency goal. This was viewed as having been achieved. As well, the New Deal emphasized the importance of finance as opposed to manufacturng, and its policies primarily reflected the interest of large financial firms. In order to accomplish this, the New Deal had to cloak its positive supports for finance with imagery related to social democracy. The New Deal is thus associated in the minds of historians and the public with Social Security, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Securities and Exchange Act and unemployment insurance. However, the chief and most far reaching reform of the New Deal was the abolition of the gold standard and the granting to the financial community the power to create fiat currency in its own interest unimpeded by the gold standard.

In order to justify this profoundly redistributive policy that served the interests of large corporations, real estate holders and stockholders as well as the commercial banks and Wall Street the New Deal needed to seem anti-business. This was accomplished by insisting on unionization of large manufacturing, which created short term political resistance from Alfred Sloan and other business leaders but in the long run (seven decades) provided little or no benefit to the working class. At first, the division between manufacturers and the Roosevelt administration made Roosevelt seem a traitor to his class. However, this is not the case. The financial arrangements Roosevelt created resulted in the largest gains and the longest gains that have accrued to capitalists in the history of the world. There is no other time in recorded history when the asset markets have risen so consistently and to the degree that they have since the New Deal, and there is no other time in American history when real wages have progressed so little.

The progressives lack the perspective of the Progressives because Progressivism held that economic growth depended on a set of social relations, to include big business, stabilized markets and efficiently run companies, and that social justice would flow if big business was managed appropriately. It recognized that efficiency and productivity necessarily preceded social justice. In contrast, the New Deal did not focus on efficiency and concerns. It saw its goals as primarily redistributive. In rhetoric, business executives were reactionaries who fought its redistributional goals and big business was therefore its enemy. The New Deal assumed that the problem of production had been solved. Its followers were not able to grasp the profoundly redistributive policy that the New Deal established of redistributing from the poor to the rich because they naively assumed that the regulatory sops that were thrown to the poor constituted a major redistributional program. But the New Deal gave $100 to the rich for every $1 it gave to the poor, and in public image broadcast the $1 while cloaking the $100 in arcane Keynesian lingo that served as a cloak to 19th century Populist ideas, namely Greenbackism and free silver.

Academics were only too happy to lend credence to Keynesian rhetoric and to serve the rich. Marxism and Keynesian were two ideologies which ultimately serve to cloak the interests of the financial community and alternatively serve to so cloak the academic community's true intersest in providing succor to the wealthy.

Second, progressive rhetoric depicted big business as the enemy rather than a necessary development. Without claiming to foster business progress, progressivism becomes a form of attack on the nation's source of wealth. Small p progressives do not articulate a theory of economic growth and advocate ideas, to include protectionism, income taxation, regulation and expansion of the state that can easily be shown to harm innovation and economic development. The progressives are not troubled by their assault on progress because of their quaint insistence that the problem of production despite the development of innovative production concepts in Japan that American firms have been unable to replicate and have been protected from replicated by the progressives' inflationist and government support policies for big business.

In fact, the progressives reserve their worst venom for the few innovative businesses, such as Wal-Mart, which have contributed to economic growth. Those that have not, from Wall Street to Detroit, are viewed with favor by the progressive movement.

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