Free Markets, Free People

The essence of “progressivism” distilled

Christopher Snowden writes an article that uses an example that is quite handy in defining the essence of the disease called “progressivism”.  He acknowledges that “liberal” has be coopted by the left but still has enough historical cache to be useful to both sides of the philosophical divide.  However, “progressive”, at least in the US, is uniquely the left’s.

Fast forward to a city soda tax under consideration in the “progressive bastion” of Berkley, CA where we find none other than little Robbie Reich (former Clinton Secretary of Labor) ensconced as Professor at UC Berkley and waxing enthusiastic about this proposed soda tax:

To see what the word progressive means today, consider the city of Berkeley, California. According to Robert Reich, a professor at UC Berkeley, it is‘the most progressive city in America’. It has also been described as a ‘liberal bastion’. How liberal is it? So liberal that it is illegal to smoke a cigarette in your own flat (sorry, ‘apartment’) and, at the city’s university, it is against the rules to chew tobacco or use e-cigarettes anywhere at all, including in the open air.

Berkeley is also seriously considering a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – aka a ‘soda tax’. A public vote will settle the matter next month, and, in the view of Robert Reich, ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’.

Well, yes, that’s correct.  But Reich’s claim is also a very useful tool for a little word substitution to show the insidiousness (and true intent) of  “progressivism”:

Consider that statement for a moment. If you didn’t know what the word ‘progressive’ meant – and you knew nothing about Berkeley – what could you infer from the context? If the sentence was changed to ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most oppressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’, it would make sense. If words like ‘tax-hungry’, ‘anti-business’, ‘puritanical’ or ‘illiberal’ were substituted for ‘progressive’, it would still read correctly.

If, however, the sentence was changed to ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most tolerant city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’, it would be incongruous. Words like ‘permissive’, ‘libertarian’, ‘easygoing’ and ‘broad-minded’ would also be confusing substitutes for ‘progressive’ in this context, and yet these are all adjectives that appear in the thesaurus under the word ‘liberal’. From this we might conclude either that soda taxes are not terribly liberal or that progressives are not terribly liberal. Or both.

At this point I’m chuckling because Snowden has made a very good point.  Reich is all but giddy about oppression and feels it is “progressive” to champion it.  Because, you know, the elite know best and hopefully have hammered those who should appreciate them and their ideas enough to vote “yes” and tax themselves.

Then there’s this:

In economics, unlike politics, the word ‘progressive’ has a fixed meaning. A progressive tax is one that takes a larger share of income from the rich than from the poor. The alternative is a regressive tax, one that takes a larger share of income from the poor than from the rich. Taxes on fizzy drinks are highly and indisputably regressive, not only because the rate of tax is the same for all income groups, but also because the poor tend to consume more of them in the first place. So while it is true that Berkeley is a bellwether city when it comes to eye-catching ‘public health’ initiatives, the adoption of punitive taxes on soft drinks would be a step towards it becoming America’s most regressive, not progressive, city in economic terms.

Oh my.  Snowden then asks the question of the day:

This is what confuses us, America. If a ‘liberal bastion’ – your ‘most progressive city’ – is one in which the government effectively fines people for drinking the wrong type of soft drink, what on earth are your illiberal bastions like?

Berkley (and New York and … ).

Glad you ask.


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19 Responses to The essence of “progressivism” distilled

  • Do they fine for marijuana?

    • The second they don’t need stoner support they will. The second stoners are perceived as an impediment to the success of the state, they’ll start executing people with marijuana.

  • Devouring their seed corn. When disaster strikes, they’ll feast on Soylent Green.

  • …what on earth are your illiberal bastions like?

    Well, in the little town where I do most of my shopping, you can smoke a cigar in one of the best Tex-Mex places I’ve ever seen, drink a good Margarita or several sodas, put salt on your food with “mother-may-I”.

    You can rub shoulders with other shoppers of all races, all of whom seem to manage to treat each other with respect. I can carry a pistol, if I’m inclined, concealed. I can carry a long gun right out in the open if I had some reason, but I never have. We can buy ammo over several counters around town, buy gas worth the money (compared to Berkley), go to a very good community college, and actually find work. We have doctors who won’t turn your records over to the Feds, and a VA clinic that won’t kill you. You can kiss a girl without a contract, and you will get due process if you are accused of a crime. I can and do leave my dog in the car in the cool of the year without being arrested while I shop.

    California is a gorgeous state. Nobody could pay me to live there.

    • Don’t be coy: where? Looking for a retirement community.

      • Look to the NW of Houston. You can drive into the BIG city for the symphony or opera, too!

        • An alternative is the ring of communities around Nashville. I like the ones south of the city: Franklin, Thompson Station, Spring Hill, and Columbia. But if you’re OK with a more rural (i.e. redneck) flavor, there are Lavergne and Smyrna to the southeast, Mt. Juliet and Lebanon to the east, Hendersonville and Gallatin on the north, Springfield to the northwest, Fairview and Dickson to the west.

          A lot of old Southern politeness are still here. Our sales tax is a bit above average, but property taxes are not bad and there’s no income tax. Gun laws are liberal. Overall cost of living is pretty good, especially for such a beautiful area close to a city with plenty to offer. If you hate hot, humid weather, we only have a few weeks of it in the middle of the summer (and sometimes none, as this year) whereas you might as well go naked around Houston for three or four months in the summer.

          Cookeville (about 90 miles east) is nice too. It’s cheaper to live in than the bedroom communities for Nashville, and is a college town for an engineering school. People are very nice, and it’s big enough that you rarely need to go to Nashville.

          There are various worthwhile places in East Tennessee too, especially if you love hilly or mountainous terrain, but don’t go down around Memphis. That’s our secret shame – way too much crime down there, and the city has been run by corrupt Democrats for generations.

          • Living in Texas isn’t for wussies.

            We use the weather as a wussie excluder. Like on a bee hive.

          • Dude, I have had Texan guests here in Sweden bitch and moan about the lack of AC in their hotel room on a sunny summer’s night 😉 Although I do concede that working outside in Texas is not without its challenges.

        • But I’m assuming you didn’t mean THAT far North West.

          It was just a word of warning, when I say Austin is weird, we’re talking San Francisco.

      • Yeah, Austin is weird. Pretty, but weird.

        • Pretty, but weird

          Aren’t all the best girls?

        • Meh. I lived in Austin for a while. Didn’t think it was all that pretty. I’ve seen much nicer looking places: Auburn, CA, Lexington, KY, Tillamook, OR, just to name a few. But to each his own, right?

  • Meanwhile, Houston is trying to silence believers in silly religions, like Christianity, as opposed to wise, pragmatic religions like Progressivism and Quantum Spirituality…

    • What…can’t Houston suspend the 1st Amendment whenever they like?
      Those Amendment thingies, aren’t they more like suggestions?

    • It’s just one religion (progressivism) trying to silence all the others.

      Islam does that in many Middle Eastern countries today, and various strains of Christianity have in the past as well.

      Maybe *that’s* why the left likes Islam so much. They admire Islam’s approach to heresy and apostasy, and wish they could do the same for their religion. Too bad those pesky laws and constitutions put some obstacles they have to overcome.

    • Oh, it isn’t limited to Christians! A LOT of people are against Mayor Porker’s ordinance.

      Note, too, that the black churches are against the ordinance, but are not targets of Mayor Porker’s subpoenas.


  • After we break up as a country, red states better enact strict immigration controls to ensure blue residents can’t enter and ruin the place, because you know the blues will go to sh-t right quickly..