The Price of Progressive Policies - Technocracy

Frederick Winslow Taylor
Frederick Winslow Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the Progressive Era from the 1865-1935, the "progressive movement" supported eugenics and other "scientific" methods for improving the societies of humans. The rush to embrace the new and improved — the future — blinded many progressive thinkers from the risks of their ideology. They foresaw a technocratic class in charge of government, rule of the educated class. Like today, they wanted to ban unhealthy activities (Prohibition) and demand people accept the regulatory power of experts.

The caricature of the right, that it wished to go backwards, was and is generally inaccurate. Instead, most conservatives simply wanted to move ahead cautiously and with a conservative skepticism of the experts. Looking back now, the conservatives were right about more than a few things the Progressives promoted.

We should realize from experience that there is no one, universal, predictable path forward for any community. The Progressive reforms of government had serious unintended consequences, including an increased power of the "mob" via primaries and direct election of senators in the United States. Our system, designed to resist change, had many of its checks and balances removed in the name of progress.

Progressives believe they know best, because they believe in the value of credentials. Now, while professors complain about "credentialing culture" they forget that this is a direct result of the "scientific" management theories of Frederick Winslow Taylor. It isn't capitalism that led us to credentialing - it was Taylorism.

In an effort to ensure skills, the civil servants exams emerged. Credentials replaced favoritism and patronage. That wasn't a bad thing, but over time the good idea of merit was replaced by empty certificates, diplomas, and licenses. (Does a hair braiding service really need a license? No.)

Ask ourselves if the disfunction in government isn't a result of progressive ideals and, often, a reaction to those ideals.

Progressives cannot tolerate "states rights" and "local control" because there must be one, single, quantifiable, scientifically valid best way to do things. That's the conceit of progressive ideology: there is a perfect solution to problems. Also, the progressives assume they can define what is (and is not) a problem.

We ended up with a white-collar elite class. The elites in charge raise their children in this special caste. We know that statistics do reveal that in the United States your parents are a good predictor of your future. We have some mobility issues (though studies also show we shift from class to class, even today, at a surprising rate).

How did a movement dedicated to "social justice" contribute to inequality? Because compliance with the rules and regulations, the obtainment of credentials, and mastering the psuedo-scientific discourse of the progressives requires time and money. The requirements for admission into the elite caste changed… but there was still an elite class.

I'm for many of the progressive reforms, and opposed to others. I like free, compulsory education through high school. I also know you cannot force people to become teachers or to teach in the schools that need the most help. At best, you can offer incentives to potential teachers. I support some regulation. I like public parks. But, we must move cautiously and carefully when acting in the name of the public good.
The left holds up "equality" as a fundamental value. The means leftists propose to increase economic equality almost always increase political inequality, because these means consist of larger state programs: more resources and rules, coercion and surveillance in the hands of officials or state contractors, including in welfare-type programs. The welfare state is more pervasive now than it was a century ago, and we now have institutions like compulsory public education. These are achievements of the left, programs they are still trying enhance, but have they actually resulted in more equal societies? Quite the contrary, I believe: They have led to ever-more-frozen hierarchies. The mainstream left is a technocratic elite, with a cult of science and expertise and an ear for the unanimous catchphrase. This is anything but a meritocracy; it an entrenched intergenerational class hierarchy.

Progressives want time to continue to move forward or even want to accelerate it, taking us into a future bright with promise, while conservatives want time to stand still or even run backward to a golden age. … Putting it gently, the idea that one can retard or accelerate time has a certain … psychotic quality.

— The Left-Right Political Spectrum Is Bogus Crispin SartwellJune 20, 2014
There is no single right path forward. That's what progressives need to accept. Instead, we should encourage cities and states to experiment and discover what works best for their communities. What is best for where I live and work might not be best for New York or Los Angeles… or a farm town in Ohio.

It is possible that the "United States" is simply too large to manage from a central point. We need some core principles and some shared services, but progressives should also allow for more variation and let people decide how their communities will evolve.

If some progressives are correct, we should all end up in the same place.

(I don't believe that for one minute.)


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