Sunday, April 13, 2008


There seems to be a paradox at the center of Progressive thought, and that is that Progressives appear to be opposed to progress. They support causes that impede progress and oppose those institutions that promote it. One need only consider the progressive position on the environment, government regulation of industry, education, social welfare programs, affirmative action, etc. to see evidence that this is the case.

The simple explanation of this apparent paradox is that progressives favor progress, not in the technological sense, but rather progress toward socialism as a desirable goal. This explanation does have some empirical appeal, but seems to skirt aorund the crux of the issue, and that is the fundamental aversion that progressives have regarding risk.

Socialism is not so much a method of distributing assets, as it is a method of reducing risk, in the most obvious case, the risk of abject poverty.
Much of the progressive agenda is directed toward things like universal healthcare, which spreads the financial risk of illness over the whole population; increasing minimum wages, which is perceived to reduce the risk of emplyed poverty (although at the unintended risk to job opportunity); and gun control, which seeks to implausibly reduce the risk of violence. Many of the undesirable consequences of socialism arise from the artificial and detrimental effects of eliminating exposure to risks in areas in which such exposure is beneficial. COnsider for example the effect on emplyee performance if substandard effort carries with it no risk of significant consequences.

One of the beneficial attributes of risk is that it provides incentive. Exposure to risk is also essential in the development of good judgment. Risk is a prelude to prudence. Furthermore, risk seems to be hard-wired into the psyche of a substatntial segment of the population. Risk can be addictive, as is evidenced by the conduct of cumpulsive gamblers, and recreational daredevils.

The fact is that risk is essential to progress and this is wherein lies the paradox. A society without risk of failure has no incentive to effort, a society without risk of privation has no incentive for effeciency or conservation. A society not subjected to risk of decay has no incentive to innovate or renew itself. A society that does not appreciate the role of risk in human life is a csociety that will cease to progress.

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