The Euro Failure - Progressivism is Enlightened Ignorance
Doesn't it seem odd now. Every pundit, analyst, commenter, and Joe SixPack seems to agree that the Euro was destined to fail. You can't run a common monetary policy without a common fiscal/political policy. How obvious it is. Which of course begs the question:
How did all these brilliant Europeans come up with such a ridiculous idea?
It's a question that aches at the heart of the modern society. The answer is pretty systemic if you ask me. It is at the heart of progressivism. Note by progressivism, I don't just mean 'leftest'. Progressivism stretches far into the right as well.
Essentially, the core of progressivm bases its roots in the idea that 'might has always made right'. There are no 'natural rights.' Everything is just a man made system we impose on ourselves. So we should not tie ourselves to any political ideology (like communism or libertarianism or capitalism...). We should simply do whatever it takes to advance society. Progressive thought dictates that since 'might always makes right anyways' we should just give up, and simply put the best people in charge. The smartest and brightest and most intelligent of society should of course then be placed in positions of power. I mean, if society is destined to be ruled by the rich or the warlords... we might as well preempt all that and have society be led by those whose mission is progress (academics, scientists, bureaucrats, teachers, economists, bankers...)
That is essentially the core of progressive thought. Behind the rather appealing idea, is actually a crucial flaw. They reject any notion of rights, human nature, history... It decides to be ignorant of everything that is human. Preferring humanity to be thought of as perfectly malleable. The same way that we can mold steel into any shape we want. So too, can we mold society into what the progressives want.
I call it Enlightened Ignorance.
What do I mean. Let's start with something seemingly benign. Progressives believe in the idea of rational administration. That is to say the smartest and brightest should lead society. So we apply it to the field of say transit. The expert in transit, looks at a city and decides we need to do the following for optimal transit usage.
- Build high density residential
- Build high speed rail connecting cities
- Build subway and light rail to connect people
- Will people be willing to pay the higher taxes to support the infrastructure
- What will you do about zoning where people don't want to live in high density
- How do you plan to curtail the power of public sector unions that run this massive transportation system. You create systemic risk of your society being completely shutdown on the whim of a union demand.
Such was the case with the Euro. Some academics and elites drew up a plan of how the new Europe would be. They designed rules and systems and institutions all carefully worked out. Except of course... they completely ignored the human factor. What happens if a government, elected by the people doesn't want to obey the rules of the Eurozone? For example, the 3% deficit rule was ignored. What happens if they choose not to be subject to the dictates of the Eurozone, as we see in Greece now? Can you really have all Greeks and Italians behave like the Germans? Will the Germans be willing to give of their wealth to the Greeks? Will the Greeks be willing to take the austerity measures?...
The result is obvious. Their best laid plans are destined to collapse.
Again, progressives view society to be as malleable as everything else in nature. The problem is humans are not so easily malleable. What happens when a human doesn't agree with you. Can you force them? Protests, social unrest, rebellion, have been pretty common in human history. Indeed, such was the reason for the mass atrocities of Communism. People didn't agree... so you might have to slaughter tens of millions of people. I see no appetite for such slaughter among progressives... so they simply have these grande plans that cannot be implemented in the greater whole of society.
The worst part of progressivism is their tendency to design grande schemes, which as I say cannot often be implemented over the long term, but to accomplish them, they have to destroy the current system. The end result is actually a system that is worse off.
I often liken this to some of the failed colonial projects. Suppose you have a primitive society that has its backwards ways, but they're living as a society. Some colonial power comes along... decides that this is too backwards and we need to 'fix this society'. To do so, they first destroy the local structure... and then attempt to impose a new system wholesale upon it. When that new system fails, the people are left in a worse off position. The new system is broken and causes strife... and they don't have the old system which at least kept society moving.
Such is one of the biggest problem with progressives is their inability to move slowly. To introduce new ideas into society slowly, see how they play out, and adjust accordingly taking into account the human factors.Going back to the transit example above. A solution that takes into account human factors would be far more resilient. You would for example acknowledge the automobile as a resilient aspect that let's your society function without being behold to a transit union. Instead of solely focusing on transit efficiency, you also take into account resiliency.
Progressivism is enlightened ignorance. Nothing is easier than thinking if you can just implement your plan of society, that everything would be great. Everyone you meet seems to think so. Every king, dictator, warlord, theocracy, supreme council, first year university student... Everyone can think up the perfect transit, healthcare, education, space research... plan. The hard part is and has always been dealing with the human factors. Who gets to rule? Who gets this job? Who gets how much?...
That simple question 'Who gets to rule' is probably the most important question. Again, it is simply denied by progressives. They prefer the administrative state where agencies rule apart from society. Democracy is a mere inconvenience for progressives. Who better to know about your healthcare than experts on healthcare? They think in terms of institutions and systems... not in terms of people. Yet society is composed of the people. How do control these agencies, or who ends up in them is not something progressives bother themselves with.
This is even more true as progressives deal handle money. Progressives tend not to view money as a means of exchange. Money is merely a tool to get people to get to do what they want. Hence the progressives manipulate the world of finance by complexity and debt schemes. However, people themselves view money as a means of exchange. Money really only has value as a means of exchange. Or should I say, people only value money as a means of exchange. Who cares if you were paid a million dollars a year, if you couldn't buy anything with it or if you couldn't live a better life than someone else.
In a sense, money is a representation of the distribution question. Who gets how much for doing what.
And like I said, progressives choose simply to be ignorant of such question. They ignore the most fundamental questions that are important to the people. To a progressive, it doesn't matter. Who gets that nice public sector job with a government pension... and who gets to work in the service sector paying high taxes to pay for that pension? Progressives... simply choose not to even have that question. The 'free-market' provides an answer by letting anyone provide a service and letting people buy services from whoever they want. Socialism attempts as best as possible to provide everyone with the same benefits and labor conditions (at least in theory).
Progressivism is the very denial of the most important questions that have existed for thousands of years of civilization. However they frame this behind a veneer of intellectual pragmatism. They claim to be pragmatic and not beholden to any political ideology. Yet, they do not do this by being pragmatic. They do this by denial of all human factors. If they took human factors into account, they'd be then forced to address the eternal questions of politics and rule, and would then cease to be progressive.
The point I'll make here is that whatever efficiencies/improvement you think are gained by progressivism are miniscule compared to the reality that they choose to ignore all human factors and thus have built up a huge set of even greater problems for society.
Again this is not just a problem on the 'left'. The whole economic collapse was due to progressivism on the 'right'. We all recall Alan Greenspans famous words regretting his belief that financial institutions beholden to shareholder value would be in the best position to regulate themselves. What a complete abject failure. The reason... as a progressive, Greenspan rejected any notion of humanity.
- The mortgage broker as a person doesn't give a rats behind about long term stability of the financial institution, they care about making their money. So even if the goal of the 'institution is to enhance share holder value', that has nothing to do when on the ground, the mortgage broker doesn't care.
- They preferred to trust in models of the financial academics and completely ignore the human factors like greed, desire, risk aversion, fraud...
The same can be said for progressive support of immigration. They didn't bother taking into account human factors. How would the numbers and sources of immigrants affect their integration and values. How do they build on or conflict with the value system that built Western society... All ignored as progressives choose to be ignorant. Rather, they only wish to talk about easy to measure and politically correct measurements, like income and poverty.
More libertarian arguments place a heavy value on human factors. They probably talk too much about the nature of humanity, while acknowledging their desire to leave outcomes to what each person, group, society, makes of it. I came to side with liberty not out of a 'natural' right regime, but out of a pragmatic approach that looks like overall outcomes and includes human factor. Rights and blind justice and rules are the best way society has to organize itself taking into account the humanity of individuals.
Progressives by in large live with tunnel vision within a specific field, unable to gain a holistic view of society. It is such irony that an ideology premised on such intellectualism can be so ignorant... hence.
Progressivism is Enlightened Ignorance