The Progressive Way—Legislating Kindness and Self-Esteem

September 12, 2011 07:24

That receiving free money discourages humans from working for money does not compute in the progressive worldview.

By Chuck Rogér

The free market is an awesome thing. It’s a place in which complete strangers productively interact. Economist Steven Horwitz contends that the free market encourages us to “treat strangers as ‘honorary friends.’” Yet progressives have an uncontrollable urge to force people to behave in unnatural ways.

How do progressives deal with natural feelings of conflict that arise when people are forced to engage in unnatural behaviors? With ever more complex and meddlesome laws designed to force the behaviors, of course.

When the electricity market won’t support wind or solar energy, the Barack Obamas of the world swing into action. In January 2008, Mr. Obama declared that he wanted to “get the American people to say [that ‘green’ energy] is really important and force their representatives to do the right thing” using laws and regulations that will make prices for coal-generated electricity “necessarily skyrocket.”

To the progressive, the “right thing” is whatever progressives say the right thing is. Inflicting pain in the form of “skyrocketing” coal electricity prices in order to force purchases of expensive “green” electricity exemplifies a “right thing” which people are deemed too stupid to embrace. Obamacare’s insurance mandate is another illustration. Government force is the preferred modus operandi of lefty intelligentsia.

Progressives do not see the free market as a viable alternative to the forced-behavioral model. Yet, as Horwitz points out, “by creating a default setting of dealing with others through negotiation rather than domination, markets get us in the habit of treating others with dignity.”

Ah, dignity. Progressives believe that dignity not only can be, but must be legislated. The welfare state employs precisely such manipulative thinking. But progressives reverse the cause-and-effect relationship between achievement and self-esteem.

Believing that contrived self-esteem creates a desire to go to work and earn a living, progressives push open-ended “aid” for the unemployed. That receiving free money discourages humans from working for money does not compute in the progressive worldview. The unemployment benefits stratagem is the same sort of flawed thinking that hatches relaxed school grading schemes. Making it easier to get an “A” allegedly makes kids “feel better about themselves.” The resulting artificial self-esteem is supposed to inspire learning. But “supposed to” doesn’t match a reality in which it is the satisfaction that flows from seeing the high grades that come from completing tough schoolwork that begets self-esteem.

In the real world, self-esteem flows from a sense of achievement. Phony trappings of imagined achievement bring, at best, underserved and overblown self-opinions. Said another way, people achieve lasting self-esteem by securing and staying dedicated to steady work and getting good results.

But feel-good progressives never examine results. Intention is everything. In the progressive mind, the free market is simply too cruel and leaves too much dependent on people’s skills, intelligence, and free will.

Because progressives will always be able to turn to government force, the human race will forever have to deal with laws and regulations that spring from the minds of people who bounce through life wearing reality blinders. Nonstop actions aimed at making people comply with utopian visions will do what such idiocies always do—turn “honorary friends” into government-enforced adversaries.

Chuck Rogér blogs at Clear Thinking

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