Note: This is a recent syndicated column.
“We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who disagree.”
- Frank Meyer
I have a great many friends I do not agree with on a great many issues.
Once upon a time that statement would have been considered banal, and likely met with a “So what?”
Alas, in this day and age we seem to be self-segregating, not according to race or religion, but opinion. And those opinions are identified with certain professions and sectors of the economy.
For example what would you automatically assume if I told you, “I have a friend who is a sociology (English, liberal arts, humanities) professor”?
Friendships across ideological lines are getting harder to maintain these days, and that’s a pity. When we associate only with people we agree with, our ability to defend our opinions atrophies.
Recently I had a Facebook disagreement with a friend I’ve known since he was a boy. He identifies himself as a “progressive.”
I think he’s wrongheaded, naïve, and having known his parents I can’t conceive of how he got that way.
I think he’s well-meaning in his error – to a point. I also see in him motivations of envy towards “the rich” and an overwhelming desire to be important, which as e.e. cummings noted, is the source of a great deal of the harm in this world.
He’s a “progressive” you see. A position I heartily dislike, as much as I like him.
Why should that surprise anyone? Arch-conservative Winston Churchill maintained a long friendship with George Bernard Shaw, a socialist and one-time ardent admirer of both Hitler and Stalin. When Shaw died, Churchill genuinely mourned the passing of one of the few men who could match him in repartee.
What I owe my friend is, that he makes me think more deeply about why I believe what I do. He forces me to refine my argument. Not to convince him, but to clarify it for myself.
To being with, “progressives” – aren’t. They’re living in the past.
There is nothing progressive about the philosophy expressed by those who sail under that label.
Progressivism is a grab bag of very old ideas that have been tried many times before, and caused untold misery.
Progressives believe society must be directed from a head, that society is broken and needs to be fixed – by them.
Progressives believe in the rule of the wise. They have no concept of distributed knowledge, that the world works best when everybody is free to manage his or her little piece of it.
Thus progressives favor the government sector, fear and loathe the private sector.
Progressives see fortunes made from the production of concrete goods and services as tainted, evil. They see money made in sports, entertainment, information technology, law, and government connections as good, worthy, and well-deserved.
Progressives see nature as good, and mankind as separate from nature. A weaver bird building a nest is natural. A couple building a house is not.
Progressives would do anything for the working class – except join it.
It is very difficult to sustain the idea that the world owes you a living when you make your own living from the strength of your arm and the skill of your hands. You might wish it were so, but the aches in your muscles and the dirt under your fingernails tell you differently.
Progressives trust logic over experience. With logic, you can start with certain assumptions and reason to a conclusion that must be true – if your assumptions are correct. Experience is what puts those assumptions to the test.
This leads progressives to assume a conclusion, that a proposed program will achieve the results they say it will: cheap universal health care, high-quality education for all, world peace, etc.
But if the assumption is true, then any disagreement means you oppose the wonderful results.
If you argue a government takeover of medical care will result in poorer quality, less available, and more expensive medical care – they hear it as, “I oppose good quality, readily available, and cheaper medical care.”
And here we get to the heart of it. Progressives believe if you disagree, you’re not just wrong, you’re evil.