We have to figure this out if we are going to survive.
Back in May, eugyppius wrote an excellent article where he works through the differences between liberalism, progressivism, and leftism. Eugyppius is a skilled political economist and he always makes a valuable contribution to the conversation.
In this article I’m going to attempt something similar although I use slightly different categories and reach different conclusions. These are broad brush strokes and crude generalizations that cover over a thousand years of history in just a few sentences. If any historians want to fill in additional details or corrections, I would welcome that in the comments.
Feudalism was the dominant economic system of the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, the black plague killed so many people that it shifted the balance of power between peasants and feudal Lords in ways that led to more rights and slightly better compensation for peasants.
Liberalism was a welcome reaction to feudalism. Smart people, who weren’t quite at the top of the hierarchy, advocated for economic liberalism (the right to trade goods on their own) and political liberalism (the right to have a voice in who runs the place). Over several centuries, those rights expanded to include more and more people.
The dirty little secret of classical liberalism is that it came to depend on both slavery and colonial empire to infuse wealth into the system. Adam Smith’s famed “butcher, baker, and brewer” got rich from being downstream of the enormous wealth generated when Scotland cornered the market for new world tobacco (which was slave-grown because indentured servants won’t do it — harvesting green tobacco makes people nauseous).
Marxism was a reaction against the failures of liberalism (think 3 year olds working as chimney sweeps and the abysmal conditions in newly industrialized cities). Marx’s writing partner Friedrich Engels wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 to dispel the myth that chronic illness amongst factory workers was the result of bad morals. In fact, factory workers were overworked, poorly paid, suffered from bad nutrition, and lived amidst horrific pollution in overcrowded slums. As cities addressed these concerns, the health of residents improved.
Progressivism was a reaction by the middle and upper classes against the failures of both liberalism and Marxism while attempting to retain the best aspects of both — seeking to preserve individual liberties while using the state to impose limits on corporate power. Progressive muckraker Upton Sinclair described the disgusting practices of meat packing plants in The Jungle and this led to the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Support for anti-trust action to break up large monopolies was another hallmark of progressivism.
And now the progressive regulatory state has failed because it was captured by the industries it was supposed to supervise. As the most glaring example, the FDA, CDC, and NIH all work directly for Pfizer, Moderna, Merck, GSK, and Sanofi.
Making matters significantly more complicated, the billionaires have taken over the political system and weaponized progressive values (equality, environmental protection) and institutions (U.N., W.H.O.) in the attempt to enslave the developed world. So we have an unholy alliance of the technocrats (the top 10% of well-educated people) + the predatory billionaires, using weaponized PR and elaborate psyops to force their twisted ideas upon us by any means necessary.