In a rocky area of Colorado, just south of the Wyoming border, much of the land there contains massive boulders that project straight and tall from the hillsides that are otherwise covered in pine trees. Seeds from the pine trees find their way into cracks and crevices of the gigantic rocks and, amazingly, trees manage to emerge from there looking as if they’d grown straight from the rock itself. They grow out and then bend towards the sky or they grow sideways, but they grow. Certain seeds, once planted, have a way of thriving in spite of the odds. This is how it is with the seeds of progressivism.
Wikipedia defines progressivism as “A political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action.” If I may take the liberty of putting my own spin on that, I would say that progressivism is a movement whereby one group of citizens seeks to impose their will and their vision upon the rest of the country by misappropriating and manipulating the power of government. Under progressivism, the government gets progressively bigger and bigger.
I don’t know precisely when the seeds of progressivism blew into the cracks of our government, but the organized effort to nurture the seeds and help establish the roots in this country seems to have begun in earnest with Teddy Roosevelt’s inheritance of the presidency. The legislation, programs, and attitudes advanced by Roosevelt and others helped sow the idea that meddling in every aspect of our lives and businesses is a legitimate function of the federal government. That was all that was needed to establish the roots and base of what would soon grow to be a mighty tree. Other administrations came along and, seizing upon this notion that the force of government should be exploited to “solve” society’s every problem, they began adding their own layers to the tree. Progressivism begets more progressivism, and the laws, programs, regulations and agencies that grew out of the original “reforms” became the branches of the tree, and these in turn grew branches of their own.
Like any of those clubs and scams that are easy to join but require real effort to cancel, progressivism – once ingrained – works on auto pilot. When a tragic accident occurred recently at an air show resulting in numerous injuries and fatalities, the ink was not yet dry on the newsprint before the media began the standard cry for the government to DO something. And so another branch began to sprout from the now giant branch that represents the FAA. One more regulation. That’s what we need. It no longer occurs to people to simply accept the fact that there’s a certain amount of risk at air shows. If the perceived risk becomes too high and people stop buying tickets, the air show producers would be motivated to institute and advertise their own safety measures that would reduce the potential risk and bring their customers back. It is possible to solve certain problems without the giant hand of government.
One of the biggest ironies of progressivism is the tendency to look to government solutions to address the problems caused by…progressivism! Look at what’s happened with the “war on poverty” that was part of progressive Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” agenda and which now is a giant branch on the tree of progressivism. It’s led to hundreds of other branches in the form of acts, programs and agencies established to carry out this intentionally nebulous plan. Things like generational dependence on welfare and 40-plus million people currently on food stamps are among the unfortunate but predictable results. Looking for ways to curtail abuse of these programs, some have suggested micro-managing food stamps, forced sterilization programs and drug testing. In other words, let’s add yet more branches to the tree. And I have to confess that I’ve been guilty of this type of thinking at times. It’s a reflexive response when one is under the assumption that government is ultimately responsible for us. We’ve become so mired in trying to contain tenth-generation branches that we’ve lost sight of the real source of the problem which is the roots, the trunk and the primary branches.
It’s time to take an ax to the tree, striking as deeply into as we possibly can. It won’t be easy, as this tree now dwarfs anything you might find in the infamous redwood forests of California. To complicate matters, it’s completely surrounded by a sea of leftists who want to protect this particular tree at all costs. And the final rub? Our champion tree cutters – the folks we look to for leadership – are only armed with… herrings.
~CW, still looking for a hero with an axe (from an essay I first published in September, 2011)