Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Trump: Progressive or Anti-Progressive?

 

Trump-Profile“Is ‘right-wing progressivism’ too much of an oxymoron?” one member recently asked. “Because that’s kind of how I see the Trump movement.” In response, another member said “In this case it is. There are quite a fair number of Trump supporters who are in that situation reluctantly, who are in no way progressives. Give credit to these people, they honestly see Hillary as worse, and putting them down for taking that view won’t persuade them otherwise.” Reluctant supporters strike me as quite different, though, from enthusiastic supporters. It’s not hard to argue that Trump is a “right wing” progressive. But Trump also strikes so many people as anti-progressive. Why is this?

“Progress” as such, beyond the bare minimum necessary to sustain a Christian worldview (the Christian story inevitably gives history some direction), is not something I really believe in. Sure, I call technological improvements “advancements” or “progress,” because that’s what everybody calls them. But the vision of history progressing toward some secular goal is not one I believe in. The idea that it’s the proper function of the State to promote this “progress” is one I believe in even less.

I don’t think Trump is an ideologue, but I think his very deep intuition is that the State, if run successfully, should be an instrument of “progress.” Not social-justice-warrior “progress,” but “real progress,” “successful progress,” “patriotic progress,” “American progress.” I don’t think Trump is capable of questioning this intuition, just as many of us have other intuitions we cannot, or do not, question.

But if what you hate about modern progressives isn’t bare-bones progressivism as such (the State facilitating this “progress” rather than standing aside so people can freely associate according to their own notions of “progress” or lack thereof), but something else, then I think it’s possible to see Trump as an anti-progressive.

If you think the worst thing about progressives is that they’re cry-bullies, and that it’s their cry-bullying — not their centralizing — that’s destroying America, then the fact that Trump can beat cry-bullies at their own game makes him anti-progressive.

If you think the worst thing about progressives is that they punish normalcy, masculinity, majority status, and success, and you think Trump champions normalcy, masculinity, majority status, and success, then Trump seems anti-progressive to you. And if you think the worst thing about progressives is their anti-Americanism, then Trump’s stated interest in making deals that put America first is also anti-progressive.

I think it’s possible for forms of progressivism to be anti-SJW, pro-virility, pro-normalcy, pro-majority, pro-success (though only for limited values of success, since it’s impossible to anticipate – thus encourage – success in all its forms), and pro-American. So if you see Trump as the avatar of all those things, I understand it, but that won’t convince me he’s not a progressive. After all, consider America’s own early progressives, like Teddy Roosevelt.

Many Americans admire Teddy Roosevelt, though. Once I was able to divorce awe for the man himself from his politics, I found I could not admire his politics. But it doesn’t surprise me that others can.

Given the options currently available, it’s perhaps not surprising that some who’d oppose even TR-style progressivism are supporting Trump. Some may support Trump because they believe his kind of progressivism as president would be so obnoxious that Americans would finally get serious about dismantling progressivism. Many more may believe that, once current progressive pieties are attacked, the rest of the progressive edifice will become more vulnerable. And many may have simply resigned themselves to the existence of the progressive edifice, believing all that is possible now is to remodel the edifice slightly so that it at least works better for regular Americans.

That people support Trump for anti-progressive reasons does not convince me that Trump is not a progressive. But neither does Trump’s progressivism mean that these anti-progressive reasons don’t exist.

There are 55 comments.

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  1. TKC1101 Inactive

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but unlike a lot of intellectual conservatives who view our current government as the result of incorrect construction starting in say 1933, and desire to rebuild from the original plans, I think Trump reacts as a real builder.

    He is not an intellectual conservative, he is a patriot who likes getting things done and likes the freedom the American system creates to do it. Simple but I think honest beliefs. I also think he exhibits honest compassion for the neglected citizens based on feedback I get from folks who work with him.

    He looks at the government like he looks at property. It is there already and a complete teardown and rebuild is crazy, It takes too long and cost too much, so he approaches it as “How do I use it as it is to get done what I need done to deliver the promises I made?”

    He is looking more at an interior rebuild with some additions and maybe firing the current staff and turning it over to some professionals.

    Any President who tried to really restructure the mess we have would never move the mass before their single term ran out.

    He may succeed or fail, but a true conservative who actually tried to do the tear down and rebuild would choke.

    Ideal situation is some very clever pragmatic conservatives work with Trump like Kissinger worked with Nixon to put in place some enduring changes that can propagate for future change in the executive branch.

    In many ways I am glad the globalist elitist open borders crowd of conservative intellectuals are taking themselves off the board and some more hard headed nationalist conservatives will emerge to help set the direction. If I had to chose between a John Bolton or a Charles Krauthammer on foreign policy, I would go with Bolton.

    • #1
    • May 13, 2016, at 1:45 PM PST
    • 1 like
  2. Profile Photo Member

    This is one of those areas where our system of labeling doesn’t help us and we have to dig back into the philosophies the labels describe to see what’s happening.

    Trump does not believe that the government that governs best governs least. He is also not the utopian believer that the only real enemy of our perfect world is Society with its evil rules that get in the way of the Brotherhood of Man (or Personhood of Person?).

    When people say that Trump is a Nationalist, I think that’s right. Since it leaves people with differing views of what is good for the nation, you don’t have the ideological imperatives to constantly smash everything disrupting Utopia like in Progressivism, but you also don’t have the ideological guardrails to keep certain courses of action off the table like one might for, say, a believer in Natural Rights.

    • #2
    • May 13, 2016, at 1:49 PM PST
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  3. Judge Mental Member

    Quinn the Eskimo:This is one of those areas where our system of labeling doesn’t help us and we have to dig back into the philosophies the labels describe to see what’s happening.

    Trump does not believe that the government that governs best governs least. He is also not the utopian believer that the only real enemy of our perfect world is Society with its evil rules that get in the way of the Brotherhood of Man (or Personhood of Person?).

    When people say that Trump is a Nationalist, I think that’s right. Since it leaves people with differing views of what is good for the nation, you don’t have the ideological imperatives to constantly smash everything disrupting Utopia like in Progressivism, but you also don’t have the ideological guardrails to keep certain courses of action off the table like one might for, say, a believer in Natural Rights.

    At the same time, the Nationalist label is unhelpful. Too many people go from there to National Socialist in one step, ignoring the actual Socialists on the other side, one open and one not.

    • #3
    • May 13, 2016, at 1:52 PM PST
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  4. Franco Member

    Quinn the Eskimo: This is one of those areas where our system of labeling doesn’t help us and we have to dig back into the philosophies the labels describe to see what’s happening.

    I’m reminded of debates I’ve had here advocating for some of Rand Paul’s policies. Very quickly the term libertarian is introduced and coupled with ‘wacky’ libertarian ideas and people, and therefore a rejection of these policies is deemed logical. Then these people talk like electing Rand Paul would bring about full isolationism. It’s just not realistic thinking

    The second fallacy that people seem to operate under is that our country and the world can pivot from being globalist to nationalist in 4 or 8 years. Or the USA can become a libertarian paradise if a Paul gets elected. The message of America First resonates because there has been too much America Last from both parties.

    I think it’s more useful to look at this in terms of direction.

    Does the US need to be a bit more libertarian? I think so. Does the US need to be a bit less globalist? Definitely in my opinion.

    Will that lead us to Kristalnacht? At this point that kind of forecast is pure paranoia, and it also doesn’t speak well for these folks understanding of our political system and their views on the nature of the overwhelming majority of Americans of all backgrounds.

    • #4
    • May 13, 2016, at 2:21 PM PST
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  5. Severely Ltd. Inactive

    If Trump is a loose cannon pointed roughly the right way, think of Hillary as a howitzer with all the latest gadgetry. We might suffer some friendly fire from Trump but Hillary will be aiming right at us.

    • #5
    • May 13, 2016, at 2:49 PM PST
    • 1 like
  6. RightAngles Member

    Quinn the Eskimo:This is one of those areas where our system of labeling doesn’t help us and we have to dig back into the philosophies the labels describe to see what’s happening.

    I agree. No label really fits Trump. I didn’t vote for him, but I think we should all fasten our seatbelts and hope the GOP can educate him on our core principles, and that he will have good counselors and advisors around him. I wouldn’t put too much stock in what he says at this point, because he obviously has never thought about any of it before. And we should never forget that there are actual dead bodies around the Clintons.

    • #6
    • May 13, 2016, at 2:54 PM PST
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  7. SkipSul Moderator

    Franco: Will that lead us to Kristalnacht? At this point that kind of forecast is pure paranoia, and it also doesn’t speak well for these folks understanding of our political system and their views on the nature of the overwhelming majority of Americans of all backgrounds.

    There are those even here on Rico who have expressed the opinion that if you do not utterly oppose Trump or nationalism, then you are beneath contempt.

    • #7
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:10 PM PST
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  8. SkipSul Moderator

    For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    • #8
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  9. RightAngles Member

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    I liked it a lot. A different perspective which resonated with me.

    • #9
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:15 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Lily Bart Inactive

    skipsul:

    Franco: Will that lead us to Kristalnacht? At this point that kind of forecast is pure paranoia, and it also doesn’t speak well for these folks understanding of our political system and their views on the nature of the overwhelming majority of Americans of all backgrounds.

    There are those even here on Rico who have expressed the opinion that if you do not utterly oppose Trump or nationalism, then you are beneath contempt.

    There are those even here on Rico who have expressed the opinion that if you do not utterly oppose support Trump or nationalism, then you are beneath contempt and also sanctimonious.

    • #10
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:15 PM PST
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  11. Lily Bart Inactive

    RightAngles:

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    I liked it a lot. A different perspective which resonated with me.

    You all give this man so much more credit than he deserves.

    • #11
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:16 PM PST
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  12. Lily Bart Inactive

    .

    • #12
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:18 PM PST
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  13. RightAngles Member

    Lily Bart:

    RightAngles:

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    I liked it a lot. A different perspective which resonated with me.

    You all give this man so much more credit than he deserves.

    I don’t see it that way, I mean I think we’re just making the best of a bad situation. I think we’re more focused on stopping Hillary by any means necessary than on finding fault with our nominee. It’s not the first time I’ve been disgusted with our nominee. I’m used to it.

    • #13
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:18 PM PST
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  14. SkipSul Moderator

    Lily Bart:

    skipsul:

    Franco: Will that lead us to Kristalnacht? At this point that kind of forecast is pure paranoia, and it also doesn’t speak well for these folks understanding of our political system and their views on the nature of the overwhelming majority of Americans of all backgrounds.

    There are those even here on Rico who have expressed the opinion that if you do not utterly oppose Trump or nationalism, then you are beneath contempt.

    There are those even here on Rico who have expressed the opinion that if you do not utterly oppose support Trump or nationalism, then you are beneath contempt and also sanctimonious.

    If you are expecting me to defend the “sanctimonious” essay, I will decline.

    • #14
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:20 PM PST
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  15. Profile Photo Member

    Judge Mental: At the same time, the Nationalist label is unhelpful. Too many people go from there to National Socialist in one step, ignoring the actual Socialists on the other side, one open and one not.

    I think of Nationalism as quasi-Pragmatic. A bit like the “I only look at the facts” attitude of Progressive, but with more of actually looking at the facts. I think one can be a Nationalist without being a National Socialist. At least that is my conception of it. It’s not a precise doctrine of policies, but I don’t think it is supposed to be.

    • #15
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:21 PM PST
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  16. SkipSul Moderator

    Lily Bart:

    RightAngles:

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    I liked it a lot. A different perspective which resonated with me.

    You all give this man so much more credit than he deserves.

    Not really – I give him credit for fighting an unconventional fight and actually gaining ground against Hildabeast, something I do not think any other candidate could have done.

    • #16
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:22 PM PST
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  17. Bob Thompson Member

    I agree that the ‘nationalist’ label is not helpful to explain Trump’s strong preference to act in the interests of the people of the United States because it gets construed beyond what he means. My sense of what he means to do is that it is patriotic, in the best traditional sense, and is what has been totally missing for the term of the Obama presidency.

    One major feature of progressives is adherence to a practice of egalitarianism that I don’t see in Trump. And since Trump is not ideological he has points of belief that will not fall on the spectrum as those who are might expect.

    • #17
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:24 PM PST
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  18. Profile Photo Member

    Franco: I’m reminded of debates I’ve had here advocating for some of Rand Paul’s policies. Very quickly the term libertarian is introduced and coupled with ‘wacky’ libertarian ideas and people, and therefore a rejection of these policies is deemed logical. Then these people talk like electing Rand Paul would bring about full isolationism. It’s just not realistic thinking

    I understand completely. Labels are supposed to be more helpful to a discussion, but often in politics they cut off the discussion rather than help it. Sometimes people are just never going to agree, but that kind of labeling isn’t really even an argument.

    • #18
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:30 PM PST
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  19. Jason Rudert Member

    It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    • #19
    • May 13, 2016, at 3:46 PM PST
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  20. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I agree it was one of FDR’s strength, but to what end?

    • #20
    • May 13, 2016, at 4:08 PM PST
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  21. Salvatore Padula Inactive

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I think there is a big difference between inscrutability and incoherence. FDR presumably knew what he was thinking. I’m skeptical that that is true of Trump.

    • #21
    • May 13, 2016, at 4:13 PM PST
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  22. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Lily Bart:

    RightAngles:

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    I liked it a lot. A different perspective which resonated with me.

    You all give this man so much more credit than he deserves.

    Mainly, I’m just trying to understand Trump supporters, especially conservative Trump supporters.

    I am myself pessimistic about Trump, but I want to see if I understand why others are optimistic about him.

    So far, TKC has given the answer that fits most obviously into one of my surmises – that “many may have simply resigned themselves to the existence of the progressive edifice, believing all that is possible now is to remodel the edifice slightly so that it at least works better for regular Americans”:

    TKC1101:He looks at the government like he looks at property. It is there already and a complete teardown and rebuild is crazy, It takes too long and cost too much, so he approaches it as “How do I use it as it is to get done what I need done to deliver the promises I made?”

    He is looking more at an interior rebuild with some additions and maybe firing the current staff and turning it over to some professionals.

    Any President who tried to really restructure the mess we have would never move the mass before their single term ran out.

    He may succeed or fail, but a true conservative who actually tried to do the tear down and rebuild would choke.

    • #22
    • May 13, 2016, at 4:37 PM PST
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  23. BrentB67 Inactive

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I don’t know if it is a secret weapon on strength, but it darn sure is true.

    • #23
    • May 13, 2016, at 4:56 PM PST
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  24. BrentB67 Inactive

    Salvatore Padula:

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I think there is a big difference between inscrutability and incoherence. FDR presumably knew what he was thinking. I’m skeptical that that is true of Trump.

    Trump seems to be a series of very well floated trial balloons during rallies. He appears to have an ironclad memory for what tag lines generate the biggest response and then those get played on loop during cable news interviews and subsequent rallies.

    • #24
    • May 13, 2016, at 4:58 PM PST
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  25. Jason Rudert Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I agree it was one of FDR’s strength, but to what end?

    The President does what he wants, everybody else can only react and watch it happen, and then historians will do whatever mythologizing is necessary to fit it into some sort of ideological framework. For Trump, the important thing is that he is the one making the decisions, just as it should be!

    • #25
    • May 13, 2016, at 5:39 PM PST
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  26. drlorentz Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: “Progress” as such, beyond the bare minimum necessary to sustain a Christian worldview (the Christian story inevitably gives history some direction), is not something I really believe in. Sure, I call technological improvements “advancements” or “progress,” because that’s what everybody calls them. But the vision of history progressing toward some secular goal is not one I believe in.

    Upon reflection, you might want to revise this. The minimum necessary to sustain a Christian worldview means no cars, no effective medication, poor housing, almost everyone living in abject poverty, very little individual liberty, high infant mortality, and average life expectancy of about 30 years. After all, a Christian worldview was sustained quite nicely in the Middle Ages. Oh, and did I forget to mention plague?

    To me, the word progress means the movement of humanity towards improvements in quality and quantity of life: less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff in the paragraph above. Most of these improvements have been of recent vintage and enabled by the rise of capitalism, respect for private property, and the rule of law. Only the last of these has a plausible connection to Christianity. At times, the teachings of Christianity have been hostile to the other two (viz. the current Pope). Yet I would argue that these changes do constitute progress to be celebrated and encouraged even though they are secular. The role of the state is to keep out of the way.

    • #26
    • May 13, 2016, at 5:48 PM PST
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  27. Palaeologus Inactive

    Salvatore Padula:

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I think there is a big difference between inscrutability and incoherence. FDR presumably knew what he was thinking. I’m skeptical that that is true of Trump.

    I agree. At least, that’s the most obvious way to square the circle: nobody knows where Trump stands yet he always “tells it like it is.”

    Jamal Rudert:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Jamal Rudert:It’s said that one of FDR’s strengths, or maybe even secret weapons, was that nobody ever quite knew what he was thinking or where he stood. Mr. Trump may also have this characteristic.

    I agree it was one of FDR’s strength, but to what end?

    The President does what he wants, everybody else can only react and watch it happen, and then historians will do whatever mythologizing is necessary to fit it into some sort of ideological framework. For Trump, the important thing is that he is the one making the decisions, just as it should be!

    Perhaps, but I rather doubt that is so important to him. It seems… unlikely… that a man with his track record actually relishes the inherent responsibility.

    I think the key thing for him is to be seen as the guy in charge.

    • #27
    • May 13, 2016, at 6:54 PM PST
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  28. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive

    Let’s don’t confuse Progressivism for mere teleology. While there may be an attraction between the two, they are orthogonal.

    • #28
    • May 13, 2016, at 8:32 PM PST
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  29. TKC1101 Inactive

    skipsul:For those who are interested, I have put up something of a response to Midge’s post – I’ve been contemplating it for a while, but Midge’s essay seemed as good a time as any to put it up.

    https://ricochet.com/general-ulysses-s-trump/#comment-3316589

    Heartily recommend this!

    • #29
    • May 13, 2016, at 9:19 PM PST
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  30. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    drlorentz:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: “Progress” as such, beyond the bare minimum necessary to sustain a Christian worldview (the Christian story inevitably gives history some direction), is not something I really believe in. Sure, I call technological improvements “advancements” or “progress,” because that’s what everybody calls them. But the vision of history progressing toward some secular goal is not one I believe in.

    Upon reflection, you might want to revise this.

    Nope, not here. As you can see from what I wrote above, I distinguished technological improvements – which I very much like – from “progress”, since “progress” in this context doesn’t mean improvement, but this notion that history has and should have just one direction, and that it’s the duty of all right-thinking people to get on board to make sure history progresses in that direction.

    The minimum necessary to sustain a Christian worldview means no cars, no effective medication, poor housing, almost everyone living in abject poverty… Oh, and did I forget to mention plague?

    The evolution of technology and markets is awesome! I love it! But if I remember what evolutionary biologists say correctly, evolution has no “direction”. Evolutionary processes do not make “progress” as such.

    To me, the word progress means the movement of humanity towards improvements in quality and quantity of life: less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff in the paragraph above. Most of these improvements have been of recent vintage and enabled by the rise of capitalism, respect for private property, and the rule of law.

    I agree with your notion of “less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff”, about the role of property, rule of law, and capitalism in facilitating it, and appreciate that you think of it as progress, but disagree that this is “progress” in the political sense.

    • #30
    • May 13, 2016, at 10:59 PM PST
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