Monday, June 7, 2010

Progressive Tenets of Economics & Governance.

I came across an interesting article that outlines some core progressive tenets of economics and governance. Unlike socialists, most progressives do not call for the outright government ownership of businesses, but in their vision the government has a major role in regulating, coordinating and controlling larger economic forces. The movement of capital is not left to "wild market forces," but rather to the social and economic calculations of "wise planners" in the form of subsidies for favorable enterprises and penalties for unfavorable enterprises. And in order to achieve positive social and economic ends, the progressive state increasingly directs the more minute practices of private companies, from who they hire and how they fire them, to the extent of compensation, to the manner of production and even the cost of their products. Some of the goals that drive modern planners are: ensuring that private and public institutions are representative of our increasing diversity, income distribution is fair, vital goods and services are affordable and production is green. In addition, some seek to promote less tangible goods, like greater compassion. From era to era the goals and the titles of dirigistes may change, but their underlying principles do not: economic and social life should be driven more by public minded central planners and less by private initiative and impersonal market forces.

"Economic initiatives cannot be left to the arbitrary decisions of private, individual interests. Open competition, if not wisely directed and restricted (regulated), actually destroys wealth instead of creating it...The proper function of the that of supervising, regulating and arbitrating the relationship of capital and labor, employers and employees, individuals and associations, private interests and national interests...More important than the production of wealth is its right distribution, distribution which must benefit in the best possible ways all the classes of the nation, hence the nation itself. Private wealth belongs not only to the individual, but , in a symbolic sense, to the state as well..."

Now, guess were I found this progressive gem?

It's from Mario Palmieri's The Philosophy of Fascism (1936).

No, I am not saying that progressives are fascists (sorry Glenn Beck); most are supporters of civil liberties. Most have positive ends. After all, who does not want a greener, more equitable society, free from scarcity and poverty? But, progressives must be aware of the risks and limitations inherent in the means that they seek to employ. Although they are quite distinct fascism and progressivism has common corporatist roots. In the formal corporatist model, the state is focused less on the individual and more on corporate groups and interests. It's important to note that corporate does not only denote corporations, it also includes other social and economic bodies (corporis in Latin), be they social, ethnic or economic. The state is granted greater power in coordinating and enforcing social contracts between corporate groups, such as labor, business and bureaucratic interests. A recent example is seen in the push for health care reform in which the Obama Administration sought to negotiate (and later impose) health care mandates between entire industries and organizations, such as insurance firms, pharmaceuticals, businesses, bureaucracies and unions. Many conservatives look at these developments with alarm, not because they oppose Obama's goals, but rather because they are aware of the history of corporatism. More specifically, they like the founding fathers are aware of the dangers that corporatism poses to social and economic liberty, as well as long term prosperity.

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