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'Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.' Alasdair Gray

Welcome to The NeoProgressive, where people of all political persuasions can debate vigorously within a framework of basic American values and mutual respect -- NeoProgressivism.

VISITORS: PLEASE COMMENT! I want to stimulate discussion, not be a voice in the wilderness.

(NeoProgBlog, The Neoprogressive, The Neoprogressive Magazine, and original material © 2005, 2006.)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Welcome to the

What the heck are Neoprogressives?

We're not "liberal" (a good word that's been turned into an expletive -- and who wants to nationalize the steel industry anymore anyway?) or "conservative" (another good word stolen by people who are not conservative at all). Nor are we necessarily "centrist" or "moderate" (which implies centrism or compromise on every issue; most issues require moderation and compromise but some demand unbending commitment to the moral position, and a wise person understands which are which).

Or, more accurately, we're all of those things, and more: liberal on human rights, the march of progress, the rule of law, the soundness of science, and the preservation of representative democracy; conservative about the public fisc, resource conservation, and the dangers of foreign military adventurism and the extension of imperial power; libertarian in our personal affairs, but committed to community and convinced that government can and should act (and act competently) in the community's interest whenever it can do so effectively; tolerant of others, appreciative of balance, centrist when centrism is wise, but unstinting and even extreme in the defense of basic democratic and human values when those values are under attack; idealistic without being naive.

A hundred years ago, we would have been called "progressives." But that word's been bastardized beyond recognition, used as a synonym for "liberal" (which is a fine word and should be able to stand on its own). Only political historians would really understand what we meant if we called ourselves simply "progressives."

So today I'm taking ownership, if not inventing, a new term: NeoProgressive. NeoProg.

Yes, neoprog already is a kind of music. It's also been used to describe a school of education theory in the 1960s and 1970s, and occasionally pops up as a derogatory on some neoconservative websites. But what I'm staking claim to, under this name, is a specific vision of postmodern political thought rooted ideologically and intellectually in the progressivism of the early 1900s, informed by humanity's subsequent experience and knowledge, expressly bipartisan (though it may realistically use party alliances to advance its nonpartisan agenda), and committed to resisting any efforts either to define it down as merely a kind of liberalism or to co-opt it for partisan purposes by partisan hacks. The word "neoprogressive" has been used before, just as the words "democrat" and "republican" were used long before those parties existed. But NeoProgressivism, so far as I can tell, is a new thing, as much as any new thing can be. What I hope we start building here isn't just neoprogressivism, but NeoProgressivism, an American NeoProgressive Movement, its platform and ideology.

The NeoProgressive Movement. Remember, you heard it here first.

As the blog unfolds, I hope to accomplish three things:

1. Develop a "neoprogressive manifesto" that explains systematically what neoprogressives believe;

2. Apply those principles to current events by linking to relevant news stories and discussing them from a neoprogressive perspective; and

3. Hopefully, ignite a new progressive movement in America that helps regular citizens recapture both parties from the wingnuts, Macchiavels, demagogues and cowards who currently lead them.

Let me amplify that last point. America doesn't need a third political party. Third parties never succeed; in fact, last century's progressive movement died precisely because Teddy Roosevelt sidetracked it into the Bull Moose party, which was soundly trounced at the polls and left the field open to one-sided liberals and conservatives who turned discourse into duality, with disastrous results.

Instead, we need to reestablish a progressive movement that includes both parties and leads them back into a constructive dialectic. If it works, we'll have two, ideologically distinct, political parties, in constructive tension with each other, in constant dialogue and even contentious dispute, but both respectful of the other, committed to fundamental American values, and focused on addressing the problems of the American people instead of simply winning against the other.

I'll grab my hammer and pound nails as often as I can to erect the framework of this site and this movement and give you things to chew on. The rest will be up to you, the readers who comment, challenge, amplify, brainstorm, etc. I'm hoping that, collaboratively, we can build a movement that redefines political discourse in America. And you're in at the beginning. Fun, huh?

And important.

Let's roll up our sleeves.

Nov. 10, 2005


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I agree with you that terms like liberal and conservative have changed meaning. It's interesting that it is the "liberals" and "progressives" of today who want to do things like allow government to take private property to hand it over to a corporation that will pay more taxes. However I'm afraid I'm not as optimistic as you that "neoprogressive" won't suffer the same fate. Sadly, most any political lablel is subject to that. I've come to the conclusion that such words no longer really communicate political beliefs, rather they communicate what someone wants to appear to be. If we really want to communicate our beliefs we probably have to resort to description of said beliefs.

As to the political objectives you express, I mostly agree with them with the exception of your claim that government should do (if I understand correctly) anything it can effectively do for the benefit of the people. "government can and should act (and act competently) in the community's interest whenever it can do so effectively;" Sorry, I regard government as similar to fire, it is useful in its place but terribly dangerous if not banked and controlled. Such a stance as you've described is an invitation to more government power and intervention. I believe government should do only those things people cannot reasonably do for themselves. The more power we give it, the more opportunities for abuse there are. And contrary to private efforts, we have no choice with government, it dictates the terms and takes our money and freedom regardless of how well spent the money or how effective and reasonable the regulations.


11/11/2005 9:35 AM  
Blogger OsakaJack said...

Its my estimation that people, all over the world, are generally very simple and practical. A very few think in terms of 'ideology' or 'political party.' I am aware that people throw those terms around but the ones who actually consider those ideas are rare.

Most folks vote with what they are comfortable with. Hell, even protestors rally behind causes that aggregate a lot of people. Very few actually care what the hell the issue is. Case in point: the anti-war riot in San Francisco which lead to a burning police car. Most of the kids out there had token knowledge of the issue ("protest the war") but beyond that, they were just along for the crazy fun as it were.

Do I sound cynical? That's because I am.

11/12/2005 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>My original proposition was intended to rebut those
>neoconservatives who paint all government as a bad thing.


My time is limited so I'm not going to attempt to respond
to the entire blog. However I don't know any "neoconservatives" who think all government is a bad thing. I do know many people who think government, especially the federal government, has too much power. Indeed I don't think Reagan or the others you mention would really claim that we should have no government. That is the province of the anarchists and that is a self contradictory position.

However if we are going to have a sensible discussion about this, we need to separate the topic into federal, state and local. There was good reason for the founders to give us a federal form of government. Unfortunately the 10th amendment is essentially dead today. The commerce clause has been so mis-interpreted as to allow federal control of not only interstate commerce but *all* commerce (and to call most any activity commerce). Want to grow wheat on our own property and use it there to feed the chickens or eat yourself? Sorry, that's interstate commerce by the current definition since they say you won't be buying wheat on the regular market. The federal government will tell you if you can grow that wheat or not.

Why is this important to your goal of efficient, effective and responsive government? It's a simple matter of human nature. Responsibility gets diluted in large organizations, and the larger the organization the easier it is to, either deliberately or inadvertently, escape the feeling of responsibility. This manifests itself in two forms:

1. It is easy to think that if a large organization does it, it must be OK. Be that organization a company cheating the little guy or a government taking property against the will of the owner to benefit a favored business, it somehow seems more just than if an individual did it. This is the mob effect made legal (but legal does not mean ethical).

2. People are more likely to take advantage of a large, amorphous
organization with things like cheating on taxes or the insurance company. Some who would not think of stealing from an individual seem to think it is quite all right to cheat the government, the large employer etc. I call this the reverse mob effect.

With regard to 1 above, the mob effect, it is ironic that this discussion is taking place so soon after the death of Rosa Parks. I am old enough to remember that incident and Thomas Sowell has recently reminded readers of it in one of his columns. I suspect most younger people today do not know the cause of the rule she violated. She was breaking a law, not a rule imposed by the private owners of the bus line. The rule that she had to sit in the back and give up her seat to a white man was a government edict, like the rest of the Jim Crow laws. And like the rest of the Jim Crow laws somehow our courts claimed it did not violate the 14th amendment. That and similar decisions destroy my faith in our court system when it comes to paying attention to the actual constitution instead of what they want it to say. (If you want a good description of the problems with the supreme court, read “Men in Black” by Levin.) Each justice on the US supreme court is effectively one fifth of a dictatorship, accountable to no-one. That is one reason I think we need justices who believe in judicial restraint.

There are some things that require a large organization. National defense and the automotive industry are examples, you cannot do either effectively in small groups. However government functions such as schools are more effectively done by local juristictions.

>Nor do I agree with HL’s statement that “contrary to
>private efforts, we have no choice with government,
>it dictates the terms and takes our money and freedom
>regardless of how well spent the money or how
>effective and reasonable the regulations.” Quite the
>opposite. I have no control over how private individuals
>or industries conduct their affairs.

You misunderstand. I did not say we control private enterprise and indeed I believe that, excpet for a few necessary restrictions, we should not control them. I said we have no choice, quite a different word. If I don't like Ford I can buy from GM, Chrysler, or Toyota. If I don't like any of them I can ride a bike or walk. However if I don't want to send my kids to the cesspool that passes for a public school, I still have to pay them and only if I can afford it after making that payment can I send them to a private school

> If a landowner upstream from me clearcuts the riverbank,
> then my land will silt up.

Keeping streams clean that flow out of the property of the polluter is quite a reasonable function of government. If that water crosses a state line, it is a proper function of the federal government.

>Microsoft and Halliburton do as they please with little
>regard for the concerns of their minority shareholders,
>let alone non-shareholder citizens.

One reason I'm typing this on a Linux machine. Private business gives me that option. As for Halliburton (though they are not as bad as many claim, in many cases they are the only ones with the capability to do the job), their monopoly is government granted you may have noticed.

> On the other hand, I am an owner of my government. If
>I believe my government is misspending my money or
>infringing my freedoms or enacting ineffective and
>unreasonable regulations, I have recourse at the ballot
>box, in the press, in the courts, and in my ability to
>run for office myself.

Yeah, right! That's why a single judge (appointed by another judge who thinks his own property was adversly affected by the measure) threw out Oregon's measure 37 after it won a large victory from the voters. The judges have as much right as anyone to not like that measure but they at least ought to follow the constitution. I don't know how the supreme court will decide but given their past record I'm not optimistic.

And what of the Gorge Commission, those unaccountable people who rule with an iron hand in the Columbia River Gorge? Even after a court order they tried to block a property owner from building a house cause they think somehow the property owners owe people a particular view. I wonder how many of the same people who don't want to see houses there will go to Pittock Mansion and say it should be preserved? Of course that commission finally did agree that hospitality establishments in the gorge could host weddings, what a consession! I fail to see why such affairs are any business of government.


>Norquist and his ilk have expressly stated that
>government overreaches every time it regulates
>private commerce, protects worker safety, or
>regulates private property to protect species
>from extinction.

Unless that business is engaged in interstate commerce, he is right. The constitution prohibits federal meddling in intra-state affairs. Of course if the business in in interstate commerce the feds may regulate it but let's leave some responsibility to the states.

>Janice Rogers Brown, a federal judicial nominee over
>whom there was much acrimony in the Senate, has stated
>that she would overturn substantially all federal
>environmental, child labor, workplace safety, and civil
>rights legislation enacted since 1937

Again, unless this involves interstate commerce, that should be a state regulation. This is similar to laws against robbery and murder, they are not federal offenses (unless federal property is involved). I doubt anybody wants to see murder legalized but I don't see any movement to make it a federal offense. Regulation of intrastate business should be the domain of the state where it is located.


>1. We Have Met The Government, And It Is Us.

Sometimes. However we do have unaccountable parts of our government like the Gorge Commission and the supreme court. The latter unfortunately now includes some justices who seem to think that foreign law is a sound basis for judicial decisions in this countries. They seem to have forgotten that we fought a war about 230 years ago to free ourselves from rule by others.


Well, I need to go but just one comment on your contention that somehow government has a right to condemn property for a private business. Sorry, if one landowner holds out against the mall builder, he has a right to do so and darn few malls are going to be seriously harmed by it. What will happen is that the holdout will lose long term until his heirs or someone else decide to sell. It is quite easy to modify the design of a typical business to go around a plot of property. The exceptions would be quasipublic things like power lines or pipelines and I have no problem with condemnation being used carefully for them.


11/15/2005 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Arabella said...

I just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your post on atrios about dangerous religious fanatic GWB.

12/03/2005 4:55 AM  

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