Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Walter Russell Mead, Where We Are

Over at the American Thinker, Walter Russell Mead has an excellent post tracing the progressive ideal and its reforms from beneficial--"great white hope"--to destroyer.    The essay is as good a synthesis of where we are and how we got here as I've seen, but it strikes me as a little too kind to the idea of progressivism.  For if I read Mead correctly, then he is crediting progressivism with taking us out of the rather brutal realities of classical liberalism and only faulting it for not putting the brakes on itself. 

But progressivism was never a limited engagement.  That it produced more benefits than costs in its infancy is to be attributed to a) our system of checks and balances, b) that spending/transfer programs are going to start slowly, and to c) political life itself which is subject to very long feedback loops (see Social Security).  It isn't an aberrant, godzilla like form of progressivism that hasn't worked out, but that the whole idea of turning "modern life into something safe and tame" via "a bureaucratic and professional elite" was bound to fail.  And I would add, that the turning point isn't at the great white elephant stage as Mead puts it, but at the great white father stage.

At any rate, read the whole piece.

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