Do we continue the Progressive Experiment?
Despite the daily issues that liberals and conservatives take up like swords with which to jab at each other—oil spills, health care, immigration—the real bottom line comes down to one question. Everyone must answer. If you can’t give one, then you need to take a long vacation and figure it out. The question is, are you:
A. A believer in the constitution, as written, as the governing document of this nation, or
B. Someone who believes the constitution was a good start, and that we need to take a “Darwinian” approach to governing, adapting the laws and powers of the government to societal evolution.
Really, it comes down to that. Every other argument is merely a distraction. Yes, there are variations to the theme within both groups. Not all conservatives believe in a strong overseas military presence. Not all liberals support abortion. In fact, if you turn back the clock, you’ll find many of these issues have flipped from liberal to conservative and from conservative to liberal. They are current issues for the most part, not basic principles.
We’ve also had ample time to test each approach to government. From the founding of this nation through the early years of the 20th century, the constitution was pretty much the guiding force behind decisions made in this country (we won’t get into a Civil War discussion here, mayve another day). Laissez-faire, or conservative, economics was the driving force in our nation. The government played a limited role, allowing the “invisible hand” of economics to bring about boom years and bust. The pioneering spirit of our forefathers withstood the economic storms involved in this type of system, and most accepted the risk and responsibility that came with unfettered freedom. Feel free to travel west, but the arrows come with the territory.
Since 1912 or so, the progressive experiment has been at the forefront. While Italy, Germany, and Russia were conducting their own social engineering in Europe, leaders in the U.S. also became enthralled with the same philosophers that drove Europeans into the hunt for a utopian society. While the three aforementioned nations dove right into variations of the socialist theme, with disastrous results, the U.S. took on the “baby steps” approach. Though it could be argued that Woodrow Wilson had one hell of a baby stride. As did FDR and Johnson. The progressive movement of the last century brought us programs like social security, medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and so on. Though the costs of these programs are enormous, the presumption is that the long term benefits outweigh the costs.
So now, as we sit in 2010, with another progressive president taking even larger baby strides than his predecessors, we in America find ourselves in a dilemma. As we face unsustainable debt, with an eye on Europe like miners watching a canary, we are asking ourselves how to proceed. Do we continue with the progressive experiment, hoping that it will all work out with just a few more programs in place? Or do we scrap the plan and get back to a constitutional form of government? The first choice may be herding us toward a cliff. The second means many hard years of undoing programs that we’ve become quite comfortable with. Neither is attractive to this generation. Which is why we find ourselves in such a heated debate amongst ourselves and in Washington.
I think it’s clear where I stand. “Plan B” has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. Social engineering is one step away from playing God. Indeed, it takes great faith to believe that mere mortals can determine the economic outcome of an entire society. To continue down the path begun early in the last century can only lead to the ruin of our nation. Europe is our canary in the mine. She’s gasping now. Do we wait until she falls to newsprint or do we get out while there’s still air?
I’m not naïve. I understand perfectly what a reversal means to me and this generation. We’ll lose many of our beloved social benefits that we’ve already paid into. I will not be able to retire at 65 and spend my days fishing. If I get sick, I have to find a way to pay for it on my own. Many will be financially ruined. Many, but not all. If someone can show me a “Plan C,” I’m listening. But the longer we take to make a decision, the more drastic the necessary measures will be. Greece is the result of waiting until we can see the waves pounding the rocks below. We in America can hear the surf, but still have a few long baby steps remaining before we’re standing on the same scenic overlook.
We can turn around now and make an organized retreat, one that will result in fewer casualties. But each of us must make the choice where we stand. Do we return to “Plan A” or continue headlong into “Plan B”?
Once you know the answer to that question, you will no longer be distracted by the issues of the day. So where do you stand?