THE MORALISM OF PROGRESSIVISM

In this brief essay I want to focus a little closer on social progressivism. First though, we need to lay out some preliminaries. The idea of a cluster of social issues is problematic in the very first instance. As Charles Cooke has pointed out in his book, “The Conservatarian Manifesto,” there is no logical connection between the various issues that are considered “social.” Under the general umbrella of social issues have been gathered, abortion, gay rights/marriage, transgenderism, drugs, the death penalty, gun control, evolution/creation, stem cell research (this issue has faded more recently, but one could add cloning). Just from the listing one could see how problematic it is. I could be opposed to abortion, but for gay marriage, and against the death penalty, and support gun control, or I could hold vice versa or any other combination. There are some people who are very consistent on each side, but I think most, more or less, have varying degrees on positions. But the main point I want to make is that there is no logical connection of social issues. Instead, what I want to focus on is the particular moral stance that is at the core of social progressivism, and that animates how a progressive would take an approach to the various political issues of his or her time, regardless of what issues are considered to be “social.”

Jonathan Merritt had a recent column in which he argued that moral relativism had been superseded by a new moral that is at the center of much of our cultural life. He argues that the core moral, what I would argue would be that of social progressivism, is discrimination, and more particularly anti-discrimination. This would be the oppressor/oppressed axis that Arnold Kling discusses in his book “The Three Languages of Politics.” That axis is the lens through which progressives see the world around them. Thus, the oppressor discriminates against the oppressed, and this must be rectified. Hence, the Christian baker, of my previous post, is the oppressor discriminating against the oppressed, and the state has the obligation to make sure that this discrimination does not take place.

In the last couple of years we have seen movements on college campuses for safe spaces, complaints of “microaggressions,” and other anti-free speech protests. These are anything but liberal protests. This is a movement that is against free speech because it is believed that free speech only benefits the “oppressor,” or those who currently hold power. Thus, speech must be regulated to ensure that speech power is equalized, and “bad” forms of speech are eliminated from the common lexicon. All forms of heresy must be suppressed. These kinds of views are closer to Puritanism than to any kind of modern liberalism. Discrimination is key here, because these all reflect views of the powerless, those who have been discriminated against and oppressed.

This is why it is my contention that progressive leftists are actually closer to some forms of conservatism that seek to force people to live by certain religious standards, than to genuine liberalism that seeks toleration in society for various lifestyles and beliefs. The point for liberalism is that the state is neutral towards the good life because the state is agnostic towards the good life. People may or may not be agnostic, but the state is because the state has now immediate way of determining what the good life is. The only thing the state can do is enforce one particular type of good life, or none at all. Now are there some goods that the state must protect? Yes, and these goods that it protects is what allows people to pursue their own ends, without state interference. And this is what I want to move my focus towards next time. We have to determine what is both necessary and sufficient to have a free society. What are the institutions and norms required to achieve and maintain a society that is generally and equally free for its members.

P.S. I want to add before closing, that the argument has often been made by conservatives that America is becoming much less moral, and is on the path to losing all moral notions and ending in moral nihilism. However, I hope this essay has made clear that exactly the opposite has been happening. If anything we have been becoming more moralistic, not less. Morals have shifted, but have not gone away. In many(if not most) cases, these morals have deep Christian roots, but have been reshaped and rethought around the progressive axis.

WIDESPREAD DISCRIMINATION

Article on Vox

In that way, the fight over Indiana’s law can only be so broad and so bitter because the stakes are quite low. If the stakes were higher — if the law really would lead to widespread discrimination against LGBT Americans — Republican Party elites wouldn’t touch it and the courts would probably destroy it. But the anger over the bill speaks to the fact that in many parts of the country, same-sex marriage is becoming law much faster than it’s becoming accepted.

The primary fight is no longer over whether gay marriage will be he law of the land. It’s how we can learn to live in a society with very divergent values.

MANDATORY VOTING

One of the virtues of living in a liberal democracy is I can just as easily register my displeasure by not voting, as I did in 2012. Making voting mandatory is antithetical to a liberal society that embraces individual liberty, where I have the freedom, not just to vote for who I choose, but not to vote as well. Having said that, there is no way(at least not at this time) that any bill to make voting mandatory would pass congress. Even if it did, I have a strong suspicion that the Supreme Court would overturn it.

THE GRIP OF THE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

George Will had a good piece recently about the Export-Import Bank, and how government programs easily get their tentacles so securely in place that they cannot be removed. Politicians that were once opposed, are now in favor because of their respective constituents who draw benefits from subsidies supplied by the bank, which began in 1934 during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal.

This is what happens with so many government programs that are either outdated and need reform, or need to be scrapped altogether, but are not because of vested interests. This makes the conservative and libertarian job nearly hopeless.

THE GOP’S ABSENCE AT SELMA

Charles Cooke of National Review argues that it is shameful that no republican leaders are attending the events to commemorate that march at Selma.

“This afternoon, in the hot center of the state of Alabama, a parade of Americans will pay homage to a historic march. Meeting on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, on which hundreds of black Americans were beaten for the crime of standing up to their government, Barack Obama will remember a heroic feat of rebellion, and a brutal act of repression. The president, the White House has announced, will speak personally “about what it means to stand on the spot where police beat and gassed 600 unarmed protestors,” and he will explain what the moment means to him as an African American.

And the Republican party’s current leadership will be nowhere to be seen.

By declining to join, Ohio representative Marsha Fudge told Politico, the GOP has “lost an opportunity to show the American people that they care.” Fudge is, of course, entirely correct. But the absence is far, far worse than that. By electing to skip the proceedings — and to send a former president and a handful of congressional representatives in lieu — the Republican leadership suggests that it does not recognize what Selma represents within America’s long history of public dissent…

If we are to regard the founding generation as being worthy of contemporary political lionization — and we most assuredly should — then we must consider those who marched at Selma to be so, too. If we are to put George Washington upon our plinths, and to eulogize him on our currency, we must agree to elevate Martin Luther King Jr. to the same dizzy heights. They are less famous, perhaps, but by virtue of their brave march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, John Lewis and Hosea Williams immortalized themselves into quintessential American heroes in the mold of Sam Adams and George Mason. To miss an opportunity to solemnize their daring is to blunder, disgracefully.

If all men really are created equal, the anniversary of Selma must be treated as a date every bit as important to American history as is the end of the Siege of Yorktown. As it would be unthinkable for the leadership of the Republican party to ignore July Fourth, it should be unthinkable for its luminaries not to celebrate the anniversary of the March to Montgomery either. Where have you gone, Speaker Boehner, a movement turns its lonely eyes to you.”

I couldn’t agree more. To miss the opportunity to honor this day, is to confirm in the minds of African-Americans that the GOP truly is the party of the old, rich white male. Martin Luther King Jr. is an American icon for a reason. His non-violent resistance is an important example for Americans and for Christians everywhere.

The entire piece is at National Review

CHRISTIANITY AND NON-VIOLENCE

Recently a Christian theologian was demoted for preaching non-violence to students at a Nazarene University in Kansas. Here are some excerpts from his message:

“I am just talking to those who would be followers of Jesus. This is not for those who don’t care about being a Christ follower. I am extremely troubled. I have been for a long time and I have hesitated to address this subject publicly, but I cannot keep silent about it any longer. Something happened recently that has really disturbed me.

As you know two movies came out recently. Selma, the story of one of the 20th century most influential Christian leaders, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a non-violent movement that changed the course of American History forever.

And American Sniper, the story of the most deadly Navy SEAL sniper in American history. Selma has made 29-30 million so far. American Sniper made over 103 million in the first 4 days. Gives you an idea about who our heroes are.

I don’t think it is an under-statement to say that our culture is addicted to violence, guns, war, revenge and retaliation.

Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians…

We have to be very careful about equating patriotism with Christianity. We never say God and…anything. God is above all, everything else is underneath.

I love my country and am thankful for freedom.

But the earliest Christian creed was very politically incorrect and dangerous.

Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.

We have put “our way of life”/freedom on the top rung.

If you mess with it I’ll blow your head off.

For a Christian what is on the top rung? Love for all.”

I think we do have a problem, when our answer for every manifestation of evil around the world is violence. When our loyalty is to Americans first, and everyone else second, I think we have a problem. ISIS is one of the few instances, where you have pure, unambiguous evil. They have mutilated people, destroyed lives, without even a second thought. A couple weeks ago, they put to death 21 coptic Christians. Our response should be completely counterintuitive. It should be to bless the persecutor, to pray for them, to love them, to turn the other cheek, and return evil with good and forgive. Instead, we wish to bomb and kill. I am in the military, but that doesn’t mean I think that our answer should always be the bomb. Polls show more and more Americans want to use even ground forces to reinvade Iraq to destroy ISIS. I am sympathetic. But Christians are called to follow a King who allowed his enemies to kill him rather than fight back. I really wrestle with this. It’s hard to follow a way of non-violence, but to me, it seems like it is the way of the cross, the cruciform life. It’s a paradoxical life, but it is the one Jesus called us to live when he said “come, follow me.”


  1. Before anyone asks, I don’t know what I would have done in World War II. I am not a pacifist. I think nations do have the right to go to war to defend themselves and follow their interests. If someone put a gun to my family and I had a firearm at hand, I’m not sure I wouldn’t shoot to protect my family. I’m just trying to work out what it means to follow Jesus, and it seems to be that the Church has been called to non-violence.

  2. I am more than willing to be wrong about this, but I can’t shake that most evangelical Christians place being an American higher than being a Christian. That we equate being a conservative, patriotic American, with following Jesus, and the two couldn’t be more different.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY A GOOD IDEA

An Open Letter
An open letter:
GREG MANKIW’S BLOG
Greg Mankiw
Mar 5, 2015, 10:00
March 5, 2015

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitchell McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Harry Reid
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Speaker, Mr. Leader, Madam Pelosi, and Senator Reid:
International trade is fundamentally good for the U.S. economy, beneficial to American families over time, and consonant with our domestic priorities. That is why we support the renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to make it possible for the United States to reach international agreements with our economic partners in Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and in Europe through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Trade Promotion Authority provides for an up or down vote on these agreements, without amendments, and thereby encourages our trade partners to put their best offers on the table.
Expanded trade through these agreements will contribute to higher incomes and stronger productivity growth over time in both the United States and other countries. U.S. businesses will enjoy improved access to overseas markets, while the greater variety of choices and lower prices trade brings will allow household budgets to go further to the benefit of American families.
Trade is beneficial for our society as a whole, but the benefits are unevenly distributed and some people are negatively affected by increased global competition. The economy-wide benefits resulting from increased trade provide resources to make progress on important social goals, including helping those who are adversely affected.
Increased global economic engagement will enhance U.S. global leadership in line with our values. Indeed, trade agreements signed under both Democratic and Republican Presidents have included provisions to combat corruption and to strengthen environment and labor standards.
It is not desirable for trade agreements to include provisions aimed at so-called currency manipulation. This is because monetary policy affects the value of currencies. Attempts to penalize countries for supposedly manipulating exchange rates would thus impose constraints on U.S. monetary policy, to the detriment of all Americans.
We believe that agreements to foster greater international trade are in our national economic and security interests, and support a renewal of Trade Promotion Authority.

Alan Greenspan

Charles L. Schultze

Martin Feldstein

Michael J. Boskin

Laura D’Andrea Tyson

Martin N. Baily

R. Glenn Hubbard

N. Gregory Mankiw

Harvey S. Rosen

Ben S. Bernanke

Edward P. Lazear

Christina D. Romer

Austan D. Goolsbee

Alan B. Krueger

The letter writers were chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

SPACECRAFT “DAWN” TO EXPLORE CERES

Vox has an article that lists six reasons why the upcoming spacecraft, “Dawn’s”, visit to Ceres is such a big deal. Personally, I think it’s a shame that so little is being invested in NASA and space research. We should be exploring more to understand the universe and our place within it. Our apathy is going to set us back, not just as a country, but as a human species, who, as far as we know, are the only living beings capable of this level of thought and exploration. We should be pushing the limits, and not just settling on our petty disputes.


  1. Ceres is in the asteroid belt, but might very well be a planet, or at the very least, a dwarf planet, with its own atmospher and possibly oceans.

THE NOT QUITE YET LIBERTARIAN MOMENT

Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) 
Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) 

Rand Paul came out on top in this years Conservative Political Action Conference, and while it is true that it doesn’t tell us much about next years election, it may give us clues into the near future. This is Rand Paul’s third win in a row, and his wins are buoyed by young voters mostly under 25, which is how it has been for several years now (his dad, Ron Paul, won two years in a row in 2010 and 2011). What this tells me at least, is that the future voters of the Republican Party are largely libertarian. As other writers have pointed out we have seen a strong resurgence of GOP Hawks, which can largely be attributed to ISIS. Most Americans, and especially conservative Republicans favor military action against. I think that this hawkish resurgence is more or less an aberration, rather not than a long-term trend. I do not think that right now is the libertarian moment. Rather, I think that moment is still to come. I think that we are coming upon a shift in electoral politics. If and when the libertarian moment emerges, it will not be purely libertarian, and it will not look like the tea party. But the main thrust will be libertarian. The main question is and will be, are you bottom-up, or are you top-down?

INTRODUCING… ANDROID PAY

Google to introduce Android Pay to replace Google Wallet.
Google to introduce Android Pay to replace Google Wallet.

According to Ars Technica and iDownload Blog, Google will be introducing Android Pay in May. Google has had Google Wallet for about four years now, so the revamp shows that a) Google Wallet has stagnated, and b) Apple Pay is having a huge impact, and Google needs to change in order to survive in the mobile payments market.

In my opinion, this is a win-win for everybody. Although the focus will be on the continuing competition between Apple and Google, this will open up more Android users to mobile payments. Combined Android and iOS users dominate the smartphone market and the more of their customers use mobile payments the more retailers and banks will have to get on board of NFC technology to support payments made with phones. America has needed a good kick in the direction of contactless payments, where Europe is actually ahead of us. This form of payment is far safer than the current regime of swiping debit and credit cards. Retialers hold on to these card numbers which allows for the rash of hackings we’ve seen recently, and bank members needing new cards every three months. If Android makes their payment system both secure and simple, this will be a huge step forward.


  1. Much to my chagrin, I have not had the opporunity to use Apple Pay because my bank is very slow technologically. They said it would be available soon, but that was in October, so I’m not holding my breath. I’m hoping Android Pay will push them to adopt both platforms sooner if enough people demand the service.