Monday, April 28, 2008

Cognitive Limits on Progressivism

The limitations of progressivism are illusted in the limitations of progressivism's advocates, such as Peter Levine. Progressivism purports to reform the economy, but progressivism's advocates are not well-schooled in economic problems and constraints. Considerations that need to be integrated in fundamental thinking about society are the unforeseen effects of policy changes; the evolution of technology to render a given set of economic arrangements obsolete in shorter time frames than it takes to implement government reforms that work; the ability of individual employees and entrepreneurs to integrate information more flexibly and intelligently than can experts or central planners; the inability of deliberative processes to anticipate market and technological change; and the inability of deliberators to assess the true costs and benefits of the very changes they propose at the time and place that they propose them. Progressivism assumes unbounded rationality on the part of planners and executives. Yet, planners and executives err more often than they succeed. Progressivism does not anticipate the failure of the firms, technologies, reforms and policies that it proposes, so by definition it results in the institutionalism of antiquated and outdated process, technologies and ideas. There is little that can be new in the ideas that progressives propose; and the reforms that they propose stall progress.

Progressivism aims for contradictory ends and so cannot achieve its purported ends. It aims to increase centralization of authority by enhancing government power. But democracy depends on public participation which in turn depends on decentralization of authority. Progressivism aims for increasing public voice. But it bestows the opportunity for unitary authority on a centralized power. How can such an ideology achieve anything more than tyranny?

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