I’ve just been reading Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism. The theme of Goldberg’s book is that modern progressives are just like the progressives of the early 20 th Century. According to Goldberg, all progressives like using government power to achieve their ends, so all progressives are “liberal fascists.”
However, this shallow argument is based solely on means rather than ends. Just because early progressives liked using state power doesn’t mean they wanted to achieve the same things that modern progressives do, or that they were authoritarian in the same ways that modern progressives are. After all, if today’s progressives are just like those of the 1920s and 1930s, then why is modern society so different from what it was 80 years ago?
Here’s some important differences between early and modern progressives which Goldberg downplays and ignores:
Early progressives generally believed in promoting the interests of the majority/Modern progressives promote the interests of minorities
Early progressives wanted to get more native minorities into paid employment so they could support their families and contribute taxes/Modern progressives actively support affirmative action across a wide range of training courses, jobs and political positions, for both native and immigrant minorities.
Early progressives distrusted the financial sector and many were actively hostile towards it/Modern progressives are generally supportive of the financial sector
Early progressives tended to support farming and manufacturing/Modern progressives are apathetic about farming and manufacturing
Early progressives had mixed views about nationalism and protectionism/Most modern progressives actively promote free trade, open borders and global government
Early progressives supported energy independence and aggressively promoted large-scale infrastructure projects/Modern progressive are apathetic about energy independence and are heavily influenced by the thinking of environmentalists
Early progressives had little interest in introducing hate speech laws and saw censorship as something that conservatives did/Modern progressives strongly support hate speech laws and PC speech codes, and many believe right-wing intellectuals, jounalists and entertainers should be actively discriminated against.
Early progressives were interested in discussing human bio-diversity/Modern progressives are not interested in discussing human bio-diversity and criticise or censor those who are
Many early progressives supported eugenics or had an open mind about it /All modern progressives are strongly opposed to eugenics and arguably support dysgenics
Early progressives believed in IQ testing and meritocratic education/Modern progressives are opposed to IQ testing and strongly support egalitarian dogma in education
Early progressives tended to be cautious about immigration and many were immigration restrictionists/Almost all modern progressives are strongly critical of immigration restrictionists, oppose building border fences and off-shore detention camps, and are uncritical supporters of UN refugee quotas
Early progressives supported traditional nuclear families with government subsidies/Modern progressives are often hostile to the traditional nuclear family and give state handouts to single parents
Early progressives had mixed views about women in the workforce/Modern progressives believe in equal pay and subsidised child care so women can compete directly against men in the job market
Early progressives weren’t very concerned about gay rights/Modern progressives actively promote gay rights and homosexual parenting
Given the big differences between early and modern progressives in terms of political views, it’s a big stretch to say that modern progressives have similar agendas to their predecessors
I’d argue the reason people like Goldberg fixate on progressive means rather than ends, it that they actually support many of the ends of modern progressives and see the ends of early progressives as too fascist, elitist or conservative.