"Progressivism" Didn't Work in the 1600s, Either

by | Aug 25, 2011

“Returning from the farce of coronation, Captain [John] Smith set himself to work to overcome the obstacles that beset the path of the man who ruled the community with intent to set the colony in the right way. Chief and most grievous was the communistic idea upon which the [early Virginia] colony was based. The […]

“Returning from the farce of coronation, Captain [John] Smith set himself to work to overcome the obstacles that beset the path of the man who ruled the community with intent to set the colony in the right way. Chief and most grievous was the communistic idea upon which the [early Virginia] colony was based. The profit of all labor went to the community, and the community in turn took care of its individuals. As an inevitable consequence, the lazy men had no incentive to work, being cared for in their idleness as well as in their activity, and the burden of all fell upon those few who were willing to take it upon themselves.”

The above was written in the early 1900s by historian Edwin Markham, writing in Volume IV of his beautifully written series, “The Real America in Romance.”

Although Markham is describing early colonial Virginia, he could just as easily be talking about the United States of America and Western Europe today.
The “profit of all labor going to the community.” How is this any different from Congress deeming trillions of dollars in private wealth their own, to spend as their political wishes demand? It’s true that most Americans are still allowed to keep most or much of what they earn. But none of it is really theirs. The President of the United States blames the national debt not on government spending too much, but on government seizing too little. Every time he does this, the implication is clear: The profit of labor belongs to the community. In more concise terms: Those who work and produce owe that production to the government. Yes, that’s a communistic idea. They call it “progressivism,” but it’s communism.

“The community in turn took care of its individuals.” Sounds like Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Barack Obama and, for that matter, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, doesn’t it. The question is: The community takes care of WHICH individuals? Those who “need help”? Not exactly. The community takes care of those individuals who don’t work. You’re not allowed to question why they’re not working. You’re to assume that the fact of their not working is proof enough that they cannot work. You dare not ask any other questions. That’s communism too. Or call it socialism. Or call it “progressivism.” It’s all the exact same thing.

“The lazy men had no incentive to work.” No kidding. If you’re lazy, then by definition you’re going to get out of work. If the government guarantees you a stipend, and you’re given a choice between working and not working, and if you’re lazy … well of course you’re going to take it. Is it possible that a lot of people getting government stipends are lazy? Would they survive without them, if they had to? Is it morally just to force those who labor to pay for those who do not labor — sight unseen, with no questions asked? To even ask these questions — indeed, to even utter the word “lazy” — is a moral crime of great significance in 2011. Apparently it wasn’t, back in colonial Virginia. Captain John Smith, according to historical reports, reversed course and made everyone work. This not only improved the colony, but it attracted good, bright and productive people to what had been previously a wilderness filled with lazy people.

Sounds like a good idea for 2011, doesn’t it? Where is our Captain John Smith? Where is the idea that morality does NOT consist of forcing the productive to pay the way for the nonproductive? What don’t the “brilliant” men of our time, the Geithners, the Bernankes and the Obamas, see the plain truth that communism/progressivism leads to the same thing, every single time it’s tried: Injustice, laziness and declining productivity?

“The burden of all fell upon those few who were willing to take it upon themselves.” That was the way back then, and that’s still the way now. That will always be the way. There will always, in nature, be more productive and less productive people. The productive, by definition, will always lift the less productive and the less capable. That’s just the way it is. That isn’t the problem. The problem is when government institutionalizes it. When government makes lack of productivity an entitlement, even an individual “right,” that’s when things go seriously wrong. It used to be called communism. The Soviets and others of their time proudly called it Communism. Today’s socialists call it “progressivism.”

No matter what you call it, it’s always wrong, always toxic, and always futile. It invariably leads to what you’re seeing in today’s headlines.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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