Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the Day – Pecksniffian Progressive edition

George Will goes on a bit of a run today about "progressive puritanism." His current example is the attempt by California to limit minors from buying certain video games:

California officials argue that they should be allowed to limit minors’ ability to pick up violent video games on their own at retailers because of the purported damage they cause to the mental development of children.

The article Will references says that while the court seemed sympathetic to the aim of the law, it "has been reluctant to carve out exceptions to the First Amendment."

Interestingly, and as an aside, it brings us right back to the point about parents we discussed in the comments about the lip balm issue in North Carolina.

However, the point of the Will article is who it is that is constantly attempting to impose bans and restrictions on the rest of us and why. The money quote is:

Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.

Indeed, I agree that progressivism is faith based – AGW being the most recent example of faith in science replacing the healthy skepticism one should always bring to any scientific inquiry. Will points out that scares, such as the video game one now being pushed by the Democratically controlled California legislature, are all too common in our past and were inevitably pushed by progressives and based in questionable science.

As an example, Will points to Fredric Wertham’s crusade against comic books in the early ’50s.  Will describes Wertham as “Formerly chief resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, he was politically progressive: When he opened a clinic in Harlem, he named it for Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law who translated portions of "Das Kapital" into French, thereby facilitating the derangement of Parisian intellectuals.”

Since 1948, he had been campaigning against comic books, and his 1954 book, "Seduction of the Innocent," which was praised by the progressive sociologist C. Wright Mills, became a bestseller by postulating a causal connection between comic books and the desensitization of young criminals: "Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry."

Wertham was especially alarmed about the one-third of comic books that were horror comics, but his disapproval was capacious: Superman, who gave short shrift to due process in his crime-fighting, was a crypto-fascist. As for Batman and Robin, the "homoerotic tendencies" were patent.

This is important because if you read this carefully, you can identify within this old progressive campaign the blueprint for almost every other that has followed it.  Based on pseudo-science and faith in that pseudo science,  progressives feel both the right and duty to do what is necessary – by whatever means – to save us from ourselves.  Never mind, as in the case of the great comic book scare and many other subsequent scares have never panned out as feared.  That faith remains undiminished as witnessed by the the California legislature’s attempt to do precisely what the New York legislature tried to do back then – take control of the process and only allow what government deems to be “safe” to be produced “for the children”.

This is the lip balm story writ large.  And even if passed, it only means minors wouldn’t be able to pay for these games at the retail counter.  It doesn’t mean older brother or sister of legal age couldn’t buy it for them.  Or that they couldn’t rent it elsewhere or any of a huge list of ways minors could and would gain access.  It seems as if the law is more for the lawmakers to feel good about themselves instead of actually accomplishing anything.  Much like AGW – most scientists note that even if we were to put drastic limits on CO2 and implement an extensive and horribly expensive cap-and-trade system, it would hardly make any difference at all.  That doesn’t keep the progressives from continuing to pursue that goal though, does it?

Will’s article is another glimpse into the progressive psyche and his observation is dead on.  They are Pecksniffian – always have been.  No surprise there.  The hypocrisy doesn’t bother them.  They simply know better than do you.  And they certainly know how to better raise and protect your child. 

“For the children” is a fairly recent catch phrase for the progressive left – but, as is obvious, they’ve been trying their “for the children” gig for quite some time.  They’ll trot it or a form of it out at the drop of a hat.

But it’s not about the children.  It’s about, as Will notes, building a “perfect social environment”.  One they define as they wish, not you.  They have all the faith in the world they can build that utopia and they’re bound and determined to do so by any means necessary.  “Science” is their anchor to credibility in their pursuit.  Science, after all, simply can’t be disputed – except when it contradicts the wanted outcome.

It is indeed interesting to apply the comic book scare of the ‘50s to the various more recent attempts to apply the same sort of tactical blueprint to other progressive causes.  It helps one understand where they’re coming from and what their aim is.  And it isn’t freedom, liberty, or smaller and less intrusive government by any stretch.

~McQ

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20 Responses to Quote of the Day – Pecksniffian Progressive edition

  • California officials argue that they should be allowed to limit minors’ ability to pick up violent video games on their own at retailers because of the purported damage they cause to the mental development of children.

    >>>  But they can get an abortion without a problem.  Something doesn’t compute?

  • This always brings me back to the crusade in the mid 90′s by the CPSC to put safety warning on marbles.  The fact that any warning placed on the marbles would be unreadable was the only reason that hampered actually doing this.

  • What the ‘progressive’ Left shares with the religious Right is the tendency to point fingers of shame and to flick a whip for encouragement. At first blush, they appear to be fellow-sadists. But down deep–psychologically primal–the socialist Left and the religious Right share a fundamental distrust in the nature of human nature.

    When is the female nude (or comic book) a thing of beauty, or a pornography? She’s a beauty if you trust your fellow humans; she’s a pornography if you see humanity as inherently evil, selfish, greedy and prone to error.

    • Wow.  What a lode of happy bullsh*t.

    • The difference is that a religious group might fight for something annoying like blue laws, while the progressives will never stop until they have taken over your country, destroyed your economy, limited all contrary opinions, and turned everyone into slaves.

      • Rags,Kyle; the RR (and their predecessors)  has fought for much more than “annoying” laws, and have since the Puritans landed in this country.
        In case you missed it, there’s plenty of desire for a theocracy now, just as there has been for 300 years her in the (now) USA.

        • Uhh yes I did miss that, A desire for a theocracy? really? By whom? Care to site any sources for such a sweeping view? 

          I spent a lot of time as a religious conservative myself before I became a libertarian. And it is amazing to me when I hear people like you who are so frightened of them.  The vast majority of them are honest conservative people who feel that it is the secular society who have intruded into their rights.

          They are motivated primarily by just one thing Abortion. Very very way down the list are the other so called social issues.  Now, I parted company with them primarily on things like the war on drugs. But I NEVER, and I repeat, EVER heard anyone preach, or read anything from any major denomination or big church that called for establishing some sort of religion in America.

          What they wanted was for groups like the ACLU to strip trying to get public prayer, and Christmas trees thrown out of every public place.

          Now you can argue for those things if you want, but I hardly think that innocuous displays of our historical religious heritage, and non sectarian  prayers is the establishment of a theocracy.

          And I further accuse you of being disingenuous with such extreme rhetoric.

          • I have yet to meet a fundie who wants to establish a theocracy.

            There is an amazing unfounded fear of the religious right in this country.

    • I won’t waste too much time on this goat-trail, but…
      There are several commenters here who seem to have a real kink over religion.  I’m irreligious myself, but I have been very involved in a very doctrinal religion…about which none of you have anything to fear.  Nobody was trying to pass laws to make you believe the same way.  They would try to persuade you, but nobody thought that anyone could force their beliefs anyone else.
      aDuoist is a deeply confused individual if he/she actually believes what they wrote, and they are deeply confused over the Collective’s COMPULSORY drive, versus social pressure that they may receive from the RR.  Toughen up, people…
      A nude human being can be either a thing of beauty or pornography (high art or low debasement), and our view of humanity in general is not a deciding factor.
      A characteristic of the Collective is their perversion of language.  Calling a comic book “pornography” is a fine example.

      • I’m not religious, and I find the fear of religion that often comes out to be missplaced. Okay, Mormons will probably vote against gay marriage. BFD.

    • No. The right has a fundamental distrust of human nature, and believes that culture is required to keep humans behaving properly. The left thinks humans are inherently good, and wants to reform culture to achieve utopia.

  • hmmm liberals = comics are bad ! conservatives= sex education is bad ! seems like 2 sides of the same coin.

  • “Indeed, I agree that progressivism is faith based – AGW being the most recent example of faith in science replacing the healthy skepticism one should always bring to any scientific inquiry.”

    How do you get from A to AGW? 

    George Will points out that progressives invoke big government to conduct massive social reform as the solution for every ill ever.   This is pretty much as clear as possible a statement that there is no connection between science/reality and a progressive agenda. 

    You could ask a progressive for their response to the sky being green, the Sahara being flooded and the Pacific Ocean being dry.  You could ask them what should be done if the sky is blue, sand dunes are dry and water is wet.   The answer would remain the same – big government.  Reality or made up, no difference.  Progressives are faith based. 

    Yet somehow you “agree” and then say that progressivism is based on science.  How?

    “Science” is their anchor to credibility in their pursuit. 

    No, it really isn’t.  When progressives pose their eternal question – “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody got along in a perfectly egalitarian world?” – the scientific reality of our current existance is pretty much irrelevent.   

    • The left’s support for AGW is in fact faith based. The faith is in the scientists of global warming. Few leftists dig into the science, but they believe because the “great men of science” say it is so.

  • “It seems as if the law is more for the lawmakers to feel good about themselves instead of actually accomplishing anything.”

    See Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed.

  • The futile attempt to keep teen-agers and cigarettes apart has worked out very well.