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Thursday, November 5, 2009

A PROGRESSIVE MANIFESTO (Part 2 in a series)

This is the second installment in a series designed to present a broad overview of the progressive position on a wide array of current issues, designed to dispel any misconceptions conservatives, moderates, or independents may have about what we believe and where we are coming from.


Teddy Roosevelt was a very influential and immensely popular Republican President.
Republican Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive who firmly believed government had the right and the obligation to look out for and protect the best interests of all the people. In an Osawatomie, KS speech given on August 31, 1910, he declared, "The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so far as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens." With this statement, he defined the progressive belief that government is an entity whose major responsibility is making certain that ALL citizens' needs are met, not just those of a particular class or income level. This was further reinforced by another 1910 speech he gave to an audience at the Sorbonne in Paris, when he stated, "Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it." That statement, of course, also refers to government's role in regulating business, as he made clear in another speech, this one at the Progressive Party Convention in Chicago on June 17, 1912. "We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wage-workers and reasonable prices for the consumer", he said. By this time, his Republican Party had disagreed with him on the role of government, particularly as to how it related to business, so he had broken away from it to form a more progressive party, known back then as the Bull Moose Party.

Roosevelt's declarations stand in stark contrast to the beliefs of today's free-marketers and far-right conservative Republicans, who believe that government has no right at all to interfere with business and that the free market will fix whatever problems it encounters all, and best, by itself. We progressives believe this to be an errant, naive philosophy. Historical events prove OUR belief to be true, and theirs to be folly.

Wild, unregulated market speculation fueled by greed caused the crash of October, 1929, and led to the Great Depression. Similar wild unregulated speculation fueled by greed caused our summer of 2008 $4 per gallon gasoline problem, our mortgage banking problem, the failure of numerous banks, and contributed to our current Great Recession. In all these cases, had government been able to exercise a moderating influence on free market business initiatives, general prosperity would have been maintained rather than lost, and millions of people now unemployed would still have jobs. If rhe government had more power to regulate the health care industry, we would not have 1 of every 6.5 people in this country without health care insurance coverage, and the ever-rising costs of health care WOULDN'T be rising at a rate much higher than inflation or wages, and millions of citizens wouldn't be heading into bankruptcy due to medical costs. In all of these cases the lack of government regulation and the totally free exercise taken by unrestrained concentrated capital hurt, rather than helped, the public welfare. Each of these cases perfectly exposes the fallacy of private enterprise being able to take care of problems all on its own, without regulation.

We progressives believe that government has the inherent power to protect its citizenry from powerful enemies from without as well as from powerful entities within. You have every right to march and prance around as often and in any way you like, but should your marching and prancing be all over my toes and hurt my feet, we progressives say that your marching must be restricted, and that restriction should occur as a result of government regulation and supervision. That is only basic common sense, and so should it be with the marketplace. We do not believe that individuals or their businesses have the absolute right to do as they please without question; to force workers to work in unsafe conditions; to pay these workers, who actually produce the goods and services from which profit is made, very low wages while the company owner or CEO makes many hundreds of times that amount; or for an individual or business to be able to pollute the environment or endanger others in their pursuit of profit. In each case, we see the complete necessity of government to act as a regulator for the common good.

We progressives do not at all agree with Ronald Reagan's assertiion that government is the problem and not the solution. For government is the creator and enforcer of LAW, which is the underpinning of a stable and civilized nation. In the absence of law there is anarchy and constasnt civil disorder. Government is therefore an absolute necessity.

It is interesting to note the difference between the progressive and conservative perceptions on government. The conservative believes government is necessary to enforce absolute property rights and to protect the wealthy's holdings from being taken away by the lower classes. The progressive sees government as a necessary buffer to protect those in the middle and bottom from excesses and exploitation foisted on them by the wealthy. Conservatives therefore only see government's value in terms of its material protection, and see all other attributes as encumbrances. Yet, as Manifesto Joe of Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues ( so wisely pointed out in the comments section of the first installment of this series, "property rights exist BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT, not in spite of it." He further explains, "Government and law define what property is, how much of it one rightfully owns...a typical difference between progressive/modern liberal view and that of conservatives and libertarians is that the former consider property rights CONDITIONAL . The piblic interest comes first, and ownership of assets carries with it the condition of being accountable to that public interest." With these statements, Manifesto Joe has brilliantly reinforced that which Republican Teddy Roosevelt first laid out and practiced during his presidency from 1901-1909, and which subsequent progressive Presidents, among them FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ followed suit with.

Progressives believe government can and should be a good force working on behalf of the people and not just a vehicle for special interests to use and abuse for their own ends.



Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

It's a grand history lesson! Good post Jack!
You know... Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican because of Tammany Hall Democrats?

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Gwendolyn.
Yes, the corrupt Tammany Hall Democratic clique undoubtedly had an influence on his choice of political party. While not too enthralled with his imperialistic foreign policy adventures, I have always been fascinated with his pro-people and pro-worker antitrust moves, and the fact that he believed government had the obligation to stand up to the powerful monied interests of his day. His was an example Reagan and Bush II should have more closely followed.

TomCat said...

Well done, Jack. Government must serve as the mediator between competing interests within our society to assure a level playing field for all.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you, TomCat. That is a splendid statement, and one I will use as a quote attributed to you in the near future. Thanks again, my friend!

Mycue23 said...

Keep up the good work, Jack. People who scream about "big govenment" and their rights being infringed upon, need to be reminded that without that govenment they would have no rights upon which to be infringed.

Jack Jodell said...

Great point, Mycue23, and thanks for your support. Many of the folks you describe are those who think their money, position, or status automatically give them the right to do as they please, without regard or consequence for their actions. That, too, is why we need government: to protect the rest of us from their abuse of freedom.

Max's Dad said...

Can you imagine what this country would be like if progressives hadn't been around to change things? Shudder. Thanks for the post, Jack.

Jack Jodell said...

Max's Dad,
Yes, it would be a pretty nasty place. It's sad when you think how little time progressives have actually held major political power in this country relative to conservatives and big banks or big business, but our influence has been incredibly immense, beneficial, and lasting. There is still so much to achieve, and that is why we must keep pushing and never give up!

phil said...

wow, I wish I had your energy.

Jack Jodell said...

I wish I had even more energy! :)

TomCat said...

You're most welcome, Jack. That's just a brief summary of my view.

MadMike said...

Outstanding post! Perhaps I am a Progressive after all:-)I am a firm believer in government, at least to the extent that it serves a vital purpose by keeping the nation healthy, not necessarily in the literal sense (although it is these days) but with regard to national security and the infrastructure. In order to stay healthy the nation needs to pay taxes. I support tax increases, reasonable ones, to protect our nation and keep our roads, bridges, national parks, and etc. in good repair. I think it downright foolish to cut taxes during wartime and when the infrastructure is in such gross disrepair. Are these the attributes of a Progressive?

Oso said...

that is interesting and I think very valid,what you wrote about the Right wanting govt to protect their property rights and to keep the lower classes from taking their wealth,while the Left want govt to protect them from the excesses of the wealthy. I'll have to remember that. Thanks !

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, MadMike.
I would say, not only from what you write here, but also from what you have posted elsewhere in the time I've been reading you, that you qualify as a bona fide progressive. Your sense of economic fairness and common sense, plus your view of government as an activist, positive force for good certainly indicate your progressive, rather than indifferent, or regressive, beliefs. And I LIKE that, my friend. Keep up the great work!
I;m glad it proved relevant to you. I'd love to take credit for it, but the credit and thanks belong to Teddy Roosevelt, who laid the groundwork for today's progressivism, and also to the great implementers and further interpreters like FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, and, to a certain extent, Carter, Clinton, and President Obama, plus loads of other influential congresspersons over the years. I have simply laid out in a few paragraphs all that they conceived and fought for.

SJ said...

Oustanding reminders Jack.
This was an awesome read.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, SJ. There's even more to come...