Rebutting Progressives

I recently got forwarded an email from a person who is a political progressive. Here is my rebut to that person’s email.

Progressive writes,

“The USA was stolen from Native Americans and built with African slave labor.”

Do you somehow think this discredits the libertarian position? On the contrary, a proper adherence to libertarian principals would have absolutely prohibited these actions. Indians and Africans should have been shown respect for their property rights. Of course, it would have been alright for pilgrims to homestead land that the Indians weren’t living on. There was certainly plenty of such land.

Interestingly, a president that many progressives and conservatives alike admire, and that libertarians tend to despise is Abraham Lincoln. One of the things that I personally have always found reprehensible about Lincoln was his hanging of 39 Native Americans from the Santee Sioux of Minnesota tribe on December 26, 1862. It was the largest single day mass execution in American history. The Sioux attacked some settlers because Lincoln, and the Federal government, refused to pay the Natives for their land. Very unlibertarian.

Let us not forget the words that Lincoln spoke in his First Inaugural address to the nation on March 4, 1861,

“Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Another tidbit is that the famous southern general Robert E. Lee was an abolitionist.

While on the topic of race, let us not forget that Lyndon Johnson, progressive democrat, architect of the Great Society, stood by idly for years while blacks were being lynched and jailed in the south. He did pass legislation in Washington but he never sent in the federal troops to protect people and property. Finally, he had the FBI spy on Martin Luther King, Jr. because he came out against the Vietnam war.

Actually, racism and land stealing have been a part of the of the progressive paradigm from the beginning. The original progressive statesman was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt. He was a racist and a war monger. Even though he’s earned a reputation as a trust buster, he was quite friendly with industrialists. This all came to together in he and William McKinley’s policy of invading and occupying the Philippine Islands. They operated on the theory that the industrial American economy could only grow if they opened up new markets. Their fear was that without a continuing manifest destiny, the American experiment would founder. So, they fought the Spanish American war in order to create markets for large American industrial firms. The Filipinos were happy to be free from the Spanish but didn’t want to live under American imperialism either. The natives rose up in revolt against their new occupiers but were put down brutally. It is estimated that 34,000 Filipino soldiers lost their lives and that as many as 200,000 civilians were killed by the progressive Roosevelt regime.

Here is a revealing quote from the original progressive, Theodore Roosevelt,

“Of course, our whole national history has been one of expansion….That the barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows their retrogression or conquest, is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway.”

This goes against everything that libertarians stand for.

Progressive writes,

“The Robber Barons are now ascending to absolute power once again.”

The Robber Barons are not just now ascending to power. They ascended to power a long time ago. It was the progressive president, Woodrow Wilson, that did more than any other president to boost that assent.

It is a well know fact among historians that both Woodrow Wilson and his sidekick Colonel Edward M. House had very strong connections to the J.P. Morgan interests. Indeed, it was World War I that made J.P. Morgan the global powerhouse that he became. Morgan was the sole buyer of American arms for the British during the war. He made a killing on this by using his monopoly privilege to charge outrageous prices. Also, his firm was responsible for selling British and French government bonds to investors in the United States. In other words, Morgan financed World War I. If the British and French side had lost, Morgan would have been ruined. Thankfully for Morgan, Woodrow Wilson, against the wishes of the American people, stepped in and helped the British and French win the war. Morgan emerged as won of the most powerful Robber Barons in history.

But that’s not all that Wilson did. He also passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This put in a place a permanent mechanism for bailing out Wall St. firms. The Federal Reserve for ever after could debase the currency and drive up prices on regular people in order to keep powerful interests flush with credit. The effects of that are still being felt today.

Let us also not forget that Barack Obama’s biggest campaign contributor was and is Goldman Sachs.

Ironically, while fighting World War I to “make the world safe for democracy,” the famous progressive, Wilson, was jailing dissidents in the United States for speaking out against the war. My favorite socialist, hero of the working man, Eugene V. Debs gave a speech on June 16, 1918 in which he said,

“And here let me emphasize the fact – and it cannot be repeated too often – that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace.”

For this speech, Wilson sentenced Debs to ten years in prison. Barack Obama truly is Wilson’s heir in supporting the Patriot Act and imprisoning Bradley Manning in solitary confinement before giving the young private a fair trial.

Progressive writes,

“Progressives and Ron Paul may agree on how to handle Afghanistan.”

This is false. Ron Paul is on record as saying that he wants to bring all troops home from Afghanistan immediately. Progressives want to try to win the war somehow through the use of drone campaigns and diplomacy with the brutal dictators that govern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Progressive writes,

“What they don’t agree on is whether they care about other people dying. On the campaign trail, President Obama said that he’s not opposed to all wars; he’s opposed to dumb wars. That is an inherently progressive ideology.”

To say that libertarians don’t care about people dying is a baseless accusation. The difference is that libertarians see governments themselves as a very great threat to life. Libertarians are for trying to keep governments from killing people.

Progressive politicians have been incredibly cynical and murderous.

Here is an excerpt from an interview done with Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. The topic was the Clinton Administration’s sanctions against Iraq, a country that at the time did not threaten the United States in any way.

“Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

Economic sanctions have been traditionally considered as acts of war under international law.

We also see in this example a common occurrence when the government intervenes. While trying to carry out some purportedly humanitarian policy of destabilizing the Hussein regime, the United States government actually caused more deaths than the dictator himself was causing. Talk about dumb.

Barack Obama has carried out a continuous drone campaign within Pakistani Borders without receiving a declaration war from congress. Pakistan, a nuclear power, and the lynchpin of the entire, absurd, Middle East and Central Asian policy, is being destabilized by this ridiculous campaign. Recently, a drone strike killed 25 Pakistani soldiers and brought the relationship close to a breaking point. This is smart?

If it were a Republican carrying out this campaign, progressives would be crying bloody hell. Since its Barack Obama, it is automatically blessed as an intellectual approach. Only libertarians consistently complain about violations of international law, and frankly idiotic policies, regardless of which party is in power.

Progressive writes,

“Intervention peacekeeping at best, outright war at worst is a strongly founded progressive value and always has been. For progressives, the question of whether or not to intervene hinges not on whether interventionism is inherently good or bad; rather, the question is whether on balance, the intervention will bring about a net positive result.”

In this statement we see a core principal of progressives on display: cynicism. They are not against war and intervention per se, only against wars that on balance that will bring about “a positive net result.”

Can somebody please define “positive net result”? Does it mean less death and destruction? Does it mean an advancement of American interests?

If it is less death and destruction, that is all to the good. The only problem is that the historical record clearly shows that when the governments intervene, death and destruction are generally increased not decreased. The law of unintended consequences is very real.

This is true regardless of party affiliation or philosophical outlook. Progressive president Lyndon Johnson took the United States to war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. According to the Progressive war calculation metric, all we have to do is ask: will this war, on balance, bring about a net positive result? At the time you certainly could have made the argument that it would. Stopping the spread of communism may have kept a lot of countries and people out of the communist orbit. So, killing about a million Vietnamese people and tens of thousands of Americans, could have been construed as a good idea on net balance.

Of course it ended up being a complete nightmare and one of the worst wars in American history.

By the same token, the Iraq war was pitched to the American public as something of a smart war by the Republicans. They said it would be over quickly, it would only cost a few billion dollars and be financed by oil sales. We all know how that war turned out. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, millions more displaced, and thousands of American troops deceased, not to mention the financial strain it has put on the American economy.

So, yes, libertarians are against wars and interventions in absolute terms. Wars and military action are viewed as evils, although necessary evils at times; something akin to amputating a leg to combat gangrene. You should only do it under the most sever circumstances.

Progressive writes,

“Progressives now often oppose our intervention in Afghanistan because we are spending fortunes and doing more harm than good for an objective that is poorly understood, even if it is obtainable.”

The fact is that Ron Paul voted for the war in Afghanistan with the understanding that the military was to go after Al Qaeda. That was the objective and it could have been achieved without occupying the country for 10 years. As soon as Paul saw that this was not the true objective of the war party, he began to oppose the war. Ron Paul first starting speaking out against the war in Afgahnistan as far back as 2002.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama made support for the Afghanistan war a key part of his campaign message during the 2008 election. Progressives are just now coming around to what libertarians realized almost from the very beginning; that the war in Afganistan is “doing more harm than good for an objective that is poorly understood.”

The reason that libertarians are able to spot these things so far out in advance is that they are skeptical not only about the purity of the government’s motivations but also the government’s ability to competently achieve it’s own stated objectives. This applies to Republicans as well as Democratic administrations. There was no harsher and more consistent critic of Bush than Ron Paul.

The opposite can be said for progressives who believe that Democratic politicians generally have pure motives and the skill to carry out their plans.

Progressive writes,

“However, few sensible progressives would argue, for instance, that fighting the Nazis was a bad idea.”

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of America was against sending troops to fight the Nazis. In fact, in 1940 after the war had already started, FDR ran on the platform that he would keep America out of the European war. Speaking in Boston on October 30, 1940 the President assured his audinence,

“I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

FDR won a landslide election on that message. Of course it was all a ruse. He had secretly been plotting to get the United States into the war for quite some time. After the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States declared war on Japan, and Germany in turn declared war on the United States. The U.S. was drawn into another European power struggle.

World War II is incredibly complex and can’t be considered in isolation. Most historians now contend that World War I and World War II were nothing but the continuation of a single war over the control of Europe.

World War I was being fought to a draw when the United States intervened in 1917. Wilson, like FDR in 1940, had run on a peace platform in 1916. His slogan was “he kept us out of war”. No sooner was the election over than the progressive Wilson took the United States to war on the side of Britain and France. Public opinion was strongly against this. There was no moral reason to choose Britain and France over Germany. The whole thing was accurately viewed by the American public as a tragic, European clash for control of the continent; not something the US had any reason to take part in.

The entry of U.S. forces into the war tipped the balances against the Germans, securing victory for the British and French. In the aftermath of the great struggle, the Treat of Versailles was fastened upon the German people. It required unconditional surrender, disarmament, and the acceptance of moral and financial culpability for the war by the Germans. Reparations were to be paid by the German people to rebuild France and England. At first the German politicians refused to accept. But the British navy blockaded German ports starving tens of thousands of woman and children to death. In the face of seeing more German civilians die horrible deaths, the German representatives caved and signed the Treaty.

With their economy in shambles, the Germans were in no position to meet the obligations imposed on them by the Treaty. They twice suffered hyperinflation trying to print money to pay their bills. However, it was to no avail. Germany couldn’t make the payments. As a consequence of what France viewed as a violation of the treaty, the French felt justified in militarily occupying and taking over the Ruhr, Germany’s most productive industrial center. This drove the German people even further into crushing poverty.

As a result of the circumstances during the interwar period, Adolph Hitler rose to power. He ran on a platform of rebuilding Germany. He promised to abolish the Treaty of Versailles, take back the German lands that had been stolen by the British and French, and restore national pride to its former greatness. Hitler was also a madman who espoused a philosophy of racial superiority. He blamed the hated Jews for Germany’s problems and planned a program of extermination.

Had the Germans, the British, and the French been allowed to fight to a draw in World War I, we could have avoided all that followed.

Intervening in World War I was certainly not a libertarian policy. Woodrow Wilson was THE progressive president. Surely he thought intervening would be a good thing on net balance. He was wrong. Once again, we see law of the unintended consequences of government intervention at work.

Progressive writes,

“Ron Paul, does not have anywhere close to that level of progressive humanist values: he simply does not want any of his time and resources spent on preventing others from dying, no matter whether that intervention seems to be a good idea from a progressive perspective or not.”

This is a baseless claim. Ron Paul is a medical doctor who has delivered over 4000 babies. He is on record as saying that any time a poor person came to his clinic, he’d treat them for free. He was a flight surgeon during the Vietnam war. It is obvious that he has spent a great deal of “time and resources….on preventing others from dying.”

His position is that the American government doesn’t have the legal or moral authority, not to mention the financial resources, to go around the world policing the internal affairs of other countries. It almost always turns out bad for everybody involved. More people tend to die than would have had the American government done nothing.

A recent study shows that American citizens donated three times more money abroad than did the US government. That is the libertarian position. Private citizens should be and are very charitable. Once the government gets involved, people feel that since the government is taking care of it, they don’t have to contribute.

Further, the government squanders an unimaginable amount of money. Only one fifth of the tax revenues allocated to government welfare programs actually make it to the people that receive government aid.

Progressive writes,

“Consequently, he opposes our continued presence in Afghanistan, but also thinks that saving the Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis was none of our business.”

As discussed above, Ron Paul started opposing the war in Afghanistan back in 2002 not because he was against spending resources on going after Al Qaeda. The problem was that he became aware that going after Al Qaeda wasn’t actually what the American government had in mind. The Bush administration was more intent on occupying the country for the sake of playing power politics than going after the people responsible for 9/11. The same can be said of the Obama Administration.

The claim that Ron Paul thinks that “saving the Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis was none of our business” is just total nonsense.

First of all, World War II was not fought to save the Jews. It was fought to save England and France. It was fought to free China from Japan and defeat the Japanese. It was fought to expand American influence. Saving the Jews was a secondary, although wonderful, consequence of the war.

Secondly, in order to beat the Nazis, the United States had to team up with Stalin and the Communists. They were every bit the horror that the Nazis were and then some. They had no problems killing Jews, Christians, Muslims, or people of any other religion. In fact, they outlawed all religion altogether because they saw it as diverting loyalty from the Soviet state.

Because Russia emerged victorious over Germany, the United States was then forced to engage in a costly and deadly cold war with the USSR for the next 50 years.

What does the progressive calculation index say? Was it better on net to support the Soviets or the Nazis? The truth is that there is just no way to know.

But to make a blanket statement that Ron Paul believes that “saving the Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis was none of our business”, is a rhetorical tactic of the worst sort.

Thousands of scholars have written millions and millions of words on the topic. Many have come to the conclusion, after a thorough examination of the material, that getting involved in World War II went against the wishes of the American people and ultimately was the wrong decision. Some historians think that Hitler and Stalin would have taken each other out had the Americans not gotten involved.

The truly libertarian/revisionist position is that World War II never would have even happened had Woodrow Wilson not intervened in World War I.

To conclude, I would like to make clear that the libertarian position is not a heartless anti-humanist one. It is a philosophy that takes a very different view of the role of government then is commonly held.

Whereas progressives believe in the sincere motives of politicians and the ability of the government to achieve its goals, libertarians believe just the opposite. Politicians are human beings like the rest of us. They have base desires and are willing to lie and cheat to fulfill those desires. Due to the bureaucratic, inefficient, and highly politicized nature of government, the libertarian also finds it dubious that the government will actually be able to realize its aims.

Further, for a group that loves to talk so much about democracy, the progressive movement seems to have a proclivity for ignoring public opinion. Even if you think intervening somewhere in the world is the right thing to do, if the majority of the country is against it, and there is no congressional declaration of war, mustn’t the government yield to the people? Libertarians say absolutely yes, the government must yield. Progressives tend to turn a blind eye as long as the politician conducting the war sits on the proper side of the aisle.

But in the final analysis, libertarianism is a belief in property rights and volunteerism. If a single individual is against a war, for whatever reason, libertarians believe that the person has a right not to participate. No government should be allowed to institute a draft or take money from a person against their will.

If a politician or a government wants to take a country to war, they must rely on the justice of the cause and the strength of their arguments to convince people. If that fails, by all means the individual politician and his supports may feel free to raise money from private sources and go risk their own life and property fighting for the cause they believe so strongly in. If they are unwilling to do that, why should the rest of us?

Finally, the libertarian philosophy is a philosophy of peace. The proper way to spread ideas and ideologies is not at the point of a gun. It is through setting a good example and providing rational explanations. Dropping bombs or imposing sanctions will only beget more violence and hostilities. Force must be restricted to self-defense. Intervening is a slippery slope with often unpredictable consequences.


3 Responses to Rebutting Progressives

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have good news for you. You can still pay Native Americans and Africans for their land and labor. Why don’t you send them a check today? Or support social programs to aid them? Paleolithic people needed ALL the land for their lifestyle to survive. There was no EXTRA land in America. It was all being used. Ron Paul’s ancestors and their cohorts killed about 80 million natives I read recently.

    I make no efforts to promote Lincoln, but he did free the slaves. Robert E Lee never made any progress in that direction. Your tidbits are off subject. They do nothing to address my points. Same for the Roosevelts, same for Wilson. The real progressives hated Wilson. I’m talking about the Wobblies. And I never voted for Obama. I vote Green.

    I don’t think you actually know any Progressives. I don’t know a single one that supports the war in Afganistan or Iraq. Obama is not a Progressive, he just seems like one to the ill informed because he’s black and not a raging right winger. But obviously, he’s a friend of Wall Street. (as is Romney)

    And actually, when I said few people would agree that the USA should not have intervened against the extermination of the Jews in Europe I wasn’t talking about myself. I agree with you. The USA should have let Germany and Russia fight to a draw. But most Progressives wouldn’t agree (although they didn’t manage to help Rwanda)

    So, how much money are you going to send to the disenfranchised of America? If it’s enough cash, I’ll take your advice seriously.

    • Hi Joe,

      What charity do you recommend? I might actually send them some money. I’ve done plenty of volunteering and made charitable contributions to various causes in the past. I don’t know think its just to hold people responsible for the sins of their ancestors though, and I don’t have much money. Just a working man trying to keep his head above water. Come to think of it, I’m actually 1/32 native american so that must offset some of it. But I might make a donation just for the sake of improving your image of libertarians.

      Lee freed the slaves he inherited from his father and did some other work to support abolition. That information is easily accessible.

      I apologize if I misinterpreted your views on Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt. I too am a big fan of some enlightened progressives. My favorite progressive writer is Glenn Greenwald. I also am a huge fan of old progressives in the mold of Robert La Follette and George Norris. However, you must acknowledge that mainstream progressives for the last 100 years or so have tended to worship Wilson.

      I applaud you for voting Green. Ron Paul and Ralph Nader have actually become good friends over the past few years. But again, you must admit, that most mainstream progressives voted and will vote for Barack Obama.

      I do know many progressives, I read progressive publications, I listen to Air America from time to time, and the views that I expressed are a sincere representation of my experiences from my interactions with progressives. If they seem inaccurate to you, I apologize for that too. I did not mean to offend, only to speak my truth.

      I must comment though, that your comments surely made it seem to me like you don’t actually know any principled libertarians.

      Your comment “However, few sensible progressives would argue, for instance, that fighting the Nazis was a bad idea. Ron Paul, does not have anywhere close to that level of progressive humanist values: he simply does not want any of his time and resources spent on preventing others from dying, no matter whether that intervention seems to be a good idea from a progressive perspective or not. Consequently, he opposes our continued presence in Afghanistan, but also thinks that saving the Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis was none of our business” sure made it seem like you supported American intervention against Germany. Again, sorry for the misunderstanding. It looks like you and Ron Paul actually agree on the issue of intervening against the Nazis in World War II :).

      Send me some information on good charities. Are there any that you donate to often that you can recommend? I really don’t have much money but I’ll see what I can manage.

      Again, sorry if I misrepresented you in any way. I’m glad to know that we do agree on some points though.

      All the best Joe.


      • ellen says:

        Adam — wonderdul, clear thinking. I love your brain … and your energy with language and history! Write on!!!

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