Progressivism: a Primer on the Idea Destroying America, by James Ostrowski
“Progressivism” is not a neutral or objective book, make no mistake about that. It is a book written by a classical liberal that tries, and in my opinion succeeds, in explaining what progressivism as a political ideology really is and amounts to in practice, what it means for the existence of freedom, and how it ought to be battled.
Ostrowski goes through the political ideology of progressivism by explaining first how a certain type of people draw progressive conclusions about social issues, what reasons they have to come to those conclusions, the basis on which they feel the need to come to those conclusions, the veracity and rationality of those conclusions and how they are put into the kind of political policy that effects everyone’s lives.
He then proceeds to go through its history throughout the last couple of centuries, and explains its failures and why failures of progressive ideology persist.
Next up, Ostrowski goes into the set of political ideas that oppose progressivism: true liberalism and conservatism, making clear that as far as he is concerned true liberalism is the only feasible and rational system of thought, and that conservatism has been nothing but a failure both as a rational system of thought and in its effectiveness in stopping progressive politics. He also makes clear that true liberals (which are nowadays called libertarians) would do best to disassociate from conservatives completely.
War is the health of the state, Ostrowski argues, in order to make evident that war and progressive big government go hand in hand for several reasons. Ostrowski then makes clear how progressivism, rather than a rational system of thought, is in fact utopian, and puts its utopian ideals over the lives of the people affected by their ideas. Then he puts to the sword a short gallery of some of the most popular and highly esteemed progressive American presidents, by listing the large amount of their awful, destructive and lethal progressive policies and how they have served to help destroy the U.S. It is especially damning how these very admired and glorified progressive presidents have truly destroyed an abominably large amount of lives and property, all in the name of in irrational set of beliefs, and personal hunger for power and legacy.
Finally, Ostrowski makes clear what he feels needs to be done to stand a chance at combatting progressivism ideologically.
“Progressivism” is a book of relatively short to medium size. It reads easy and uncomplicated and makes it points in an easy to understand and rational way, while making no bones about its own point of view.
Ostrowski makes the point that progressivism as a set of beliefs, regards the state as a necessary and morally righteous institution to solve social problems, but that it has no rational or provable method to indicate how the state would accomplish this, what its stated specific goals are and in which time frame, and using which theory of cost. He explains that progressivism, rather than a reason-based political system, is entirely psychological in nature, based as it is not on an objective estimate of facts and reality, but on emotional needs of the progressive him or herself. Because it is based on emotional needs, it cannot be expected to adhere to evidence or facts but to wishful thinking. The blame of failure, which is virtually always the case if psychological need, and not reality is the basis for a political philosophy, is always put at the feet of ideological opponents, and would allegedly be rectified simply by doubling down and throwing even more government force and money at the problem. Because progressivism has no limiting principle, it invariable moves ever closer to totalitarianism.
Its opposite set of beliefs is called liberalism. This may be confusing to the reader but as Ostrowski goes through the trouble of explaining, liberalism is actually the philosophy that is historically tied to small government and large degrees of individual liberty, and has as a term been falsely appropriated by progressives (and I would say crony capitalists) at a later time. What is being called libertarianism now, has historically been properly called liberalism. The author goes on to explain just what original “classical” liberalism is, what is has to say about the role of government, and what its great achievements have been before progressivism insidiously took over state power.
Ostrowski then explains what conservatism is, what it really boils down to in reality, and how it intrinsically never stood a chance against progressivism. He also makes clear that there is nothing to be gained by liberals in associating with conservatives and the conservative set of principles. Basically, conservatism is not so much a rational political philosophy as it is an attitude; an aversion to rapid social change. The problem is that conservative do not oppose progressive social change and progressive methods of achieving it, so much as the pace and degree with which progressives do it. Invariably, however, conservatives embrace the status quo and are therefore prone to eventually embrace the change that progressivism has inflicted upon society. Conservatism does not have a problem with government power being used to impose the will of some on the lives of others, and thus has no real weapon in its arsenal to consistently oppose progressivism. It merely becomes a debate not about the means, but about the end toward which the state ought to be imposed on society. But in a battle between moving in a certain direction and standstill, there will always be movement. And so in the long run, conservatism allows itself to be dragged toward progressive big government and progressive society.
The rest of the book basically serves to drive home the points that Ostrowski has made in the earlier sections of the book with specific examples.
For those who reject the ideas and policies of progressivism, but who never truly seem able to understand what drives the progressive mindset, I regard this book to be invaluable. Individual commentators consistently know how to point their finger at the progressive’s emotion behavior as a response to their ideological opponents, as well as their cognitive dissonance in dealing with facts, evidence, logic and reality. Yet it is usually been hard to properly explain from which this attitude is ultimately derived. Ostrowski helps make clear that psychological and emotional need is what drives progressivism.
Regardless of the consequences for others, progressivism serves as a form of self-therapy for progressives, who find themselves unable to accept the harsh reality and chaotic nature of life. A profound lack of a sense of control informs the need to embrace a political set of beliefs that would allow them to have this sense of control, through the use of government force over others. Because having control over one’s life and as a consequence over society and even reality itself is the progressive’s aim, it is easy for him or her to identify with others also seeking to have more control. Those who are equipped to deal with life and with reality, through specific qualities, strengths or talents are regarded with distrust, envy and even contempt. This inequality is regarded as profoundly unjust, through which the concept of “equality of outcome” is justified, at the expense of liberties, rights and property of others. The more unjust the inequalities in life are regarded by progressives, the more lengths they are willing to go to, to equalize life through government force. It then also becomes obvious why failure of progressive policies must not be inherently part of those policies and of reality, but of those that continue not conforming to the progressive’s needs.
Because the progressive’s needs are not rational, evidence-based, or realistic, but purely psychological and emotional, the progressive cannot accept failure. The progressive’s ego demands success in order to feel secure, and such trifle things as evidence, logic and reality cannot be allowed to stand in the way.
Once one understands this basic analysis, every otherwise nonsensical seeming behavior of the progressive becomes clear: the hypocrisy, the feeling of moral superiority, the virtue signalling, the doubling down even in the face of failure, the need for social engineering, the love of big government and government power, the emotional responses to failure and to political opponents, the usage of sophistry, the unabashed lying, the relativism and moral double standard regarding different cultures, the unceasing animosity toward people with differing political opinions, the love of censorship, and every other behavioral characteristic that indicated a refusal to deal with truth and reality.
James Ostrowski has written a great book for those looking to understand progressivism not from the progressive’s own emotion-based point of view, but from an analytical and rational point of view. He goes through the entire belief system and its impact upon the world, but the most important part and contribution is its understanding of the foundational beliefs and needs behind progressivism.
I regard the book to be required reading for anyone hoping to understand this belief system while not subscribing to it.
Final Score: 10/10