The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that conservatives must use correct terms and discuss correct principles in order to better oppose progressivism. We all must realize that progressives are very quick to use our words against us; therefore, we must be honest and direct in our comments.
The Heritage Foundation blog "New Common Sense - Applying First Principles to the Issues of Today" posted the following statement about this subject. "American conservatives needlessly undermine their arguments by labeling every liberal program or policy as `socialism.' This claim is incorrect - American liberals are generally progressives, not socialists. Socialism, strictly speaking, involves the government's ownership of the means of production in a society. In a socialist economy, there are no private corporations that manufacture goods. Factories and companies belong to the state. By contrast, progressives are more insidious in allowing for markets and private ownership of corporations, while controlling them through extensive regulation and government spending.
"Conservatives need not rely on the S word to argue against liberals - there's plenty wrong with progressivism. Better yet, demonstrate what's wrong in principle and in practice with a particular liberal program instead of relying on a debatable label."
Socialists and progressives both want to control economic outcomes through government power. I believe that it is safe to claim that progressivism leads to socialism if it is not checked. I also believe that most progressives believe that progressivism will work in
but don't necessarily want to move down the road to socialism. America
Allen Guelzo wrote a special report for The Heritage Foundation entitled "Abraham Lincoln or the Progressives: Who was the real father of big government? (February 10, 2012).
Guelzo's abstract stated: "Early Progressives co-opted Abraham Lincoln's legacy to justify their program of expansive government powers over American life. In so doing, they obscured how their philosophy of government broke with
and the Founding to which he was
heir. Nevertheless, much conservative
and libertarian thinking today has assumed, at once and without serious reflection,
that the Progressives' appropriation of Lincoln (and the continued
appropriation of Lincoln by the American Left) was legitimate - rather like
mistaking a hostage taken by terrorists to be one of the terrorists himself. But Abraham Lincoln is not, and nor was his
Administration, any model for what today seems so objectionable in the modern
welfare state. His unwavering commitment
to natural rights and the Constitution's framework of limited government, as well
as the comparatively limited forces he called into the defense of the nation
during the Civil War, not only place him in philosophical opposition to the
Left, but dispel any notions that he set the stage for the expansion of
government in the 20th century." Lincoln
In his article Mr. Guelzo later wrote the following about Lincoln: "The complaint that Lincoln was the camel's nose of state centralization assumes that three premises are true: 1) That it can be shown what `centralization' means; 2) That Lincoln intended to initiate a process leading to `centralization' of the U.S. federal government; and 3) That the Civil War (and the Lincoln Administration) was a significant aspect of that process and was perhaps even intended to be the means of furthering that process.
"But do any of these premises survive under detailed historical scrutiny? Begin with the premise that `centralization' is a known quantity with a set of characteristics which are easily recognizable. One of the characteristics of an over-mighty `centralized' federal government might be the sheer numerical size of a government in terms of the number of its civil or military employees; another characteristics might be the size of the government's budget, representing the fiscal power it can wield in terms of both taxing and spending; yet a third might be the reach of the government, considered as the number of agencies it creates and the review-and-approval authority it claims to exercise over education, the economy, and freedom of speech, movement, religion, and assembly.
"In none of these ways can Lincoln or his Administration be shown to have promoted the characteristics of a `centralized' government, or at least not more `centralized' than the government he inherited from his predecessor, James Buchanan, or more `centralized' than the immediate circumstances of a large-scale insurrection would require."
Guelzo elaborates on the federal budget, the federal civilian workforce, the reach of the federal government, the transcontinental railroad, the Morrill and Homestead Acts, tariffs, federal income tax, the national banking act, progressivism and the birth of big government, Lincoln's defense of limited constitutional government, the centrality of natural rights, and the fiction of a right to secession. He then concluded his article with the following statement.
"There is nothing obtuse about seeking long-term causes for the emergence of a federal government that has grown to such a gargantuan size that the entire American system seems to have become a relentless, interfering bureaucracy rather than an of-by-and-for-the-people democracy. But the effort to hang this around
Lincoln's neck is both naïve and
ill-informed, and what is worse, it obscures the importance of the image for the
defense and promotion of democratic government. Lincoln
"There is no doubt that the wartime emergency of 1861 to 1865 called out a significant increase in the size and scope of the federal government; what is importance to notice, however, is that:  This increase was in response to a threat to the very life of the republic,  It bears no proportional resemblance to the scope of modern `big government,' and  The increase shrank back to its prewar proportions with no sense of having established a permanent precedent, much less a government-knows-best philosophy.
"This increase was the creature of an emergency and was never seen by Abraham Lincoln as anything but that. Moreover, emergencies are emergencies….
"If anything, what
demonstrates is that democratic
government, when assailed, is both strong enough to take the measure required
for its defense and strong enough to lay them down again when the danger has
passed. It is a mark of confidence in
our own principles, not the decay of their purity, that Americans are able to
do what an emergency requires for the survival of their republic and to put
those measures by when peace is restored.
There will always be legitimate alarm, even in an emergency…. What Lincoln 's
example means is that we neither allow the alarm to paralyze us nor become necessarily
"It is the misfortune of much conservative and libertarian thinking to have seen the Progressive appropriation of
and to have
assumed, at once and without serious reflection, that it was legitimate…." Lincoln
Just as Guelzo debunked the Progressive idea that Abraham Lincoln began the progressive movement, we must educate ourselves in order that we can show the errors of progressivism in other ways. I encourage you to read the entire article by Guelzo in order to understand better why
was not a progressive. Then join me in
attacking progressivism and destroying its roots in our nation instead of simply
shouting about Obama and his followers being socialist. Lincoln