While “progressive” is often used by posters on Daily Kos as a more polite way of saying “left-liberal,” the Progressive Movement was something quite different. It’s not even clear if progressivism is a left-of-center philosophy, or if it fits on the standard political axis at all.
The Progressive Movement wanted to destroy traditional frameworks of power and replace with a scientific, technocratic, open, and bureaucratic management of society. The last great progressive, B.F. Skinner, summed up much of the movement in his Beyond Freedom and Dignity. In general the response to Progressivism was incoherent or poetic, as the progressives tended to have scientific reasoning on their side. So in literature the anti-progressives published That Hideous Strength and The Lost Road. The progressives, originally blind to the corruption that their governmental institutions would become victim too, were eventually discredited, as their anti-Progressive foes still march on in Young-Earth Creationism (on the right) and the denial of race (the Creationism of the left).
Still, the collapse of Wall Street raises question about the folk wisdom of crowds, and makes many re-evaluate the Progressive cause. For instance, take these articles from David Brooks (h/t to Tom)
Op-Ed Columnist – The Establishment Lives! – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
If you wanted to devise a name for this approach, you might pick the phrase economist Arnold Kling has used: Progressive Corporatism. Weâ€™re not entering a phase in which government stands back and lets the chips fall. Weâ€™re not entering an era when the government pounds the powerful on behalf of the people. Weâ€™re entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable â€” and often oligarchic â€” framework for capitalist endeavor.
After a liberal era and then a conservative era, weâ€™re getting a glimpse of what comes next.
And Half Sigma:
Half Sigma: Winner-take-all markets revisited
This article co-written by Arnold Kling has made me think once again about winner-take-all markets.
The article correctly points out that â€œmore Americans may be engaging in a kind of gambling behavior in their choice of occupation.â€ The problem not mentioned in the article is that people have faulty decision-making-logic. The long-shot bias has been well documented by researchers. People consistently overvalue the chance of hitting a lucky long-shot. The news media makes this worse. The winners in winner-take-all markets are always written about, but you seldom hear much about the much larger number of losers. Many magazines are devoted to the stars of Hollywood, but the many equally talented but unemployed and unknown actors and actresses are rarely mentioned.
The end result of the long-shot bias is an inefficient allocation of societyâ€™s resources. Too many people are going into long-shot careers while not enough people are going into safe but still decently-paying careers. What can we do to fix this problem? High taxes on the very rich. This would lower the rewards of hitting it lucky, and result in a more proper allocation of resources. This actually sounds kind of like the Obama tax plan.
It’s been a long time since their was an intellectual debate between Progressives and those who support freedom. It will be interesting to watch.