What Have Progressives Got Against Progress?

Liberals don’t want to be called liberal anymore. They prefer to be referred to as “progressive.”

Conservatives don’t mind being called conservative. In fact, most conservatives are proud to be conservative (and equally proud to be American). And why not? Starting with the vision of our founding fathers, the traditional conservative values of independence, individualism, and self-determination motivated the early settlers and pioneers and, later, the industrialists and entrepreneurs who built this country into the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.

But why are liberals suddenly ashamed of the word liberal? Why do they feel the need to redefine themselves as something else? And why have they chosen the singularly inappropriate term “progressive” to describe themselves? It almost seems as if they’re begging the question. After all, what is progress? Reviewing the history of civilization, progress has traditionally been marked by significant advances that made the cultures that developed them more efficient and productive, enabling them to prosper and to expand their territory and culture.

More advanced civilizations often used their technological sophistication to conquer less advanced civilizations and, historically, it was largely as a result of war that progress spread from culture to culture. The conquering armies have not always been the aggressors. It was Japan that attacked the U.S. in WWII. But Japan would not be the major economic power it is today if the U.S. had not defeated it, and rebuilt it as a modern industrial/technological nation.

There have been episodes in history when more advanced civilizations have been overrun by less advanced civilizations that were more focused on military progress. That’s one reason why a nation should never allow itself to become weak militarily, no matter how advanced it may be in other areas. Mr. Obama recently promised to “cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” “slow our development of future combat systems,” and make “deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.” Conservatives cringed, but liberals loved it.

All types of progress entail tradeoffs. As vast tracts of land are cultivated, the native species on those lands must either find new environments, adapt, or die. The extraction of raw materials from the earth causes disruption of habitats. The production of metals, plastics, paper, and the manufacture of goods all cause various forms of pollution. But without these trade-offs, civilization as we know it would not be possible.

Liberals don’t believe in trade-offs. They continually seek to enact regulations to curtail any kind of progress that impacts the environment. They want to sequester vast extents of land into national wilderness areas, preventing the extraction of natural resources like minerals, timber, or oil. They want to enact cap and trade regulations that will jack up the costs of the energy we require to live our daily lives, and which is also required to fuel all types of industrial and technological progress.

Progress is always a result of trial and error. Significant advances require significant investments in time, effort, and money, and entail enormous risks because there is no guarantee of success. Who has the kind of money to invest in making progress possible? Capitalists. Why would they be willing to take those enormous risks? Because there’s a possibility of an enormous payoff. They calculate the risk/benefit ratio and, only if the potential rewards significantly outweigh the risks, does it make sense to invest. Yet liberals don’t think anyone deserves such enormous rewards, and would tax their profits to the point where it’s no longer worth the risk to invest. Without capital investment, progress cannot occur.

Liberals like to point out that the income gap between rich and poor is getting greater all the time. But they ignore the fact that the standard of living of the poor gets greater all the time, too. The poorest people today have a higher standard of living than the vast majority of people had a hundred years ago. And the reason they do is all the industrial and technological advances made possible by capitalism. That is true progress. And it benefits the poor as well as the wealthy.

Despite what liberals believe, capitalism is not a zero sum game. When new industries evolve, new opportunities are created. The fact that some people get very rich doesn’t mean other people have to get poor. But those who don’t have the motivation to work hard, better themselves, and pursue opportunities, will always be poor. And the easier the government makes it to be poor, by subsidizing poverty, the more people will take the easy way out.

Liberal ideology is consistently opposed to progress. They continually demand regulations that stymie progress, and they want the government to take more money away from those who fuel the scientific, industrial, and technological advances that define progress. They believe that money should be redistributed to those who don’t contribute to progress, but are its beneficiaries.

Since liberals are so opposed to progress, why is it they want to be known as “progressives?”

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Economics Lessons for Liberals: Minimum Wage

A year ago, the minimum wage went up from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour. Last week, it went up to $6.55. Next year, it will go up to $7.25. That’s more than a 40% increase in two years.

My friends on the left tell me that’s a good thing. What could possibly be bad about legislating raises for poor people? They’re absolutely incredulous that anybody could be against it. After all, it doesn’t come out of your pocket, so why should you begrudge it to others?

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #1. Profit is revenue minus expenses. If expenses go up, without a commensurate increase in revenue, profits go down. Profits are necessary to stay in business. In today’s economy, many businesses, particularly small businesses, are just hanging on. Small businesses hire a lot of minimum wage workers, because that’s all they can afford. They also generate less revenue than larger businesses, so they’re more sensitive to higher expenses. Smaller businesses are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, and may find their profit margin squeezed so thin they can no longer sustain their business.

When we see a rash of local businesses closing their doors, my liberal friends always shake their heads and blame it on the encroachment of big chain stores. They prefer not to acknowledge the role that increased labor costs play in their favorite local businesses being unable to compete any longer. Yet they still defend every increase in minimum wage because they think it “helps poor people.” Meanwhile, as more local businesses go under, more minimum wage employees are left without jobs.

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #2. There are two only two ways to increase profits. Increase revenue or cut expenses. When faced with a significant increase in the cost of labor, a business has two options to recoup the immediate loss of profits. They can either lay people off or raise prices. Both have negative impacts on the economy. One causes unemployment and the other causes inflation.

Nobody likes to lay people off but, when labor costs go up by 40%, many employers are forced to cut their work force by up to 40% to offset the higher cost per employee. When an employee is given a raise based on merit, the expense is offset by the fact that their high productivity contributes to increased revenue. But, when legislation raises wages arbitrarily and unilaterally, there is no increase in revenue to offset the increased expense, so it’s an out and out loss to the business. Furthermore, a significant reduction in work force usually results in reduced revenue, so the small business is squeezed from both ends. First, they cut to the bone; then they raise prices to make up the difference.

In some businesses, cutting back on labor isn’t an option. For example, in agriculture, cutting back on labor would leave produce rotting in the fields. In such cases, the employer has no choice but to raise prices to offset the increased labor costs. Many basic materials, from which other products are made, are produced by low-skilled, low-wage workers. When the prices of those materials go up, due to increased labor costs, it drives up the prices of all the products that depend on them, directly or indirectly, creating a ripple effect of rising prices throughout the economy.

Economics for Liberals, Lesson #3. The real value of a dollar is its purchasing power. When prices go up, your purchasing power, and the value of every dollar you have, goes down. This is known as inflation. Rising labor costs aren’t the only cause of inflation, but even the most basic understanding of economics tells us they cannot help but fuel it. In the short term, the people at the bottom of the pay scale will have more buying power. But, as the ripple effect permeates the economy, everybody ends up having less. In an economy where inflation is already getting out of control, the last thing we need is to fuel it faster.

Raising the minimum wage results in higher prices, fewer jobs, and more businesses closing their doors. — But, if that’s true, why would our elected representatives continue to do it? They do it because most of their constituents have no understanding of economics, and more money always sounds good, so promising more money gets them more votes. And getting votes is more important than the economy.

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America Sucks

It baffles me why so many Americans readily accept that, in any conflict with foreign interests, America must be at fault. To these people, all of our enemies are actually our victims, and are justified in hating us because America’s a big bully. They seem to believe the rest of the world is full of peaceful, good-natured people and, if the terrorists want to destroy us, it must be because we’ve done them wrong. If those who have declared us their enemies commit inconceivably vicious acts of barbaric violence, it’s only out of desperation because we have somehow driven them to it.

Those who want to believe in our culpability insist that the attacks on (and prior to) 9/11 were only retribution for our “meddling” in the Middle East. The flaw in that reasoning is that, if you look at the history of the Islamic extremists, they do not only attack those who “interfere” with them. They have an impressive track record, throughout the world, of ruthlessly attacking and oppressing those who don’t buy into their ideology. But it’s convenient to ignore that historical perspective if it runs counter to one’s agenda. On the other hand, perhaps all the nations and peoples against whom they’ve committed brutal acts of violence and terrorism are somehow also responsible, and only the terrorists are victims.

The people whose agenda it suits to blame America refuse to consider the possibility that the terrorists might actually hate us for the reasons they claim to hate us. — Because we are the great Satan, and they see our culture as an abomination to Allah. Their law requires victims of rape to be stoned and beaten. They torture and execute homosexuals. They arrest and imprison women for showing their faces, arms, or ankles in public, or for talking to any man to whom they are not related. They execute people for speaking out against their government. In a culture where these affronts to human liberty are strictly enforced by law, why is it so hard to conceive that they find our culture, with all the freedoms we cherish, to be an abomination? Until and unless we’re willing to give up the inalienable rights that we hold to be self-evident, and submit to Shari’a, we will continue to offend.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who hold on so tightly to these romantic notions of our enemies have ever been outside of this country. They seem to assume the rest of the world enjoys the same fundamental rights and freedoms we take for granted here. They seem to assume that everything bad they hear about our enemies is just political rhetoric, and that those governments are really no worse than ours. (In fact, they seem to assume ours is the worst.) This is not just naivete, but willfull naivete.

I’d like to ask those people who really think we’re the bad guys the following questions. 

  • Do you believe they don’t really treat women as property, and punish them for crimes committed against them, or do you believe that’s ok?
  • Do you believe they don’t really torture and kill homosexuals for offending Allah, or do you believe that’s ok?
  • Do you believe they don’t really execute people for being critical of their government, or do you believe that’s ok?
  • Do you believe they don’t really fund and train terrorists to blow up international civilian targets, or do you believe that’s ok?

I’m just curious, do you not believe these things really happen, or do you not believe they’re evil? Or do you believe that they happen, and that they’re evil, but that we are somehow worse than they are?

There really are bad guys out there in the world. And the Jihadists really are bad guys. They are not innocent victims of America’s rapacious hegemony. Nevertheless, people will believe what they want to believe. But why they want to believe that America is always the villain is truly an enigma to me.

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Published in: on February 16, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Comments (59)  
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Which America Do You Believe In?

Conservatives believe in smaller government, more personal responsibility, an individual’s right to self-determination, and the inviolability of private property.

Liberals believe in bigger government, government assuming responsibility for the welfare of the people, and the “equitable” redistribution of private property  (e.g., higher taxes, social welfare programs, land use regulations).

Conservatives see Americans as strong enough, resourceful enough, and intelligent enough to forge their own destinies, viewing hardships as challenges and taking pride in overcoming them.

Liberals see Americans as hapless children who can’t be expected to take responsibility for their own welfare, or that of their families, who must be provided for and sheltered from hardship and privation.

Conservatives believe Americans are generous enough to give a hand up to those who are truly in need, of their own volition, out of a spirit of genuine altruism.

Liberals believe Americans are greedy and uncaring, and that the government must extract money from those who have it to bestow upon those who need to be preserved from hardship and the struggle for existence.

Conservatives believe the fundamental role of the government is to protect the citizens from each other, from external enemies, and from abuse of power by the government itself.

Liberals believe it’s the role of government to protect the people from themselves, and from their own bad judgement.

Conservatives believe each individual is responsible enough to make their own choices and live their own lives with minimal government intervention.

Liberals believe Daddy knows best.

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