Inside Every Liberal Is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out

Our contest winner and runner-ups are announced.

Frontpage editors are pleased to announce the winner of our essay contest launched on April 5, 2013: "Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out."

The winner of the $1,000 first-place prize is N. A. Halkides. Mr. Halkides is a mathematician, systems analyst and freelance writer living in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. His essay, entitled Inside the Progressive Mind, is below.

Frontpage would also like to applaud two runners-up in the competition: Oleg Atbashian and Daniel Greenfield. Each of them will receive $500 for winning second-place and their essays will run consecutively in our following two issues.

Congratulations N.A. Halkides, Oleg Atbashian and Daniel Greenfield!


Inside the Progressive Mind
By N. A. Halkides

The Progressive believes in precisely two things:  his own magnificence and the constructive power of brute force.  In combination, they lead him naturally from the role of pestiferous busybody to brutal dictator.  Where the productive man dreams of the things he might create if only left alone by his fellows, the Progressive dreams of the world he could create if only the lives and property of his fellows were at his disposal.  The roots of his pathology lie in that oldest and most destructive of all human vices, the desire for the power to rule over other men.

As naked power-lust is a rather ugly motive, the Progressive rationalizes his desire to rule as a concern for human welfare, seeing himself as a great humanitarian, far superior morally to the lesser beings who pursue merely “materialist” ends such as their own prosperity and who frequently object to his program for achieving Utopia.  This assumed moral superiority spills over into fields of practical accomplishment, and the Progressive imagines himself capable of allocating resources and even directing entire industries far more efficiently than a free market, often despite not even having any business or scientific experience.  But despite what the Progressive believes about himself, the desire to compel others to obey his orders is what drives him forward.  To satisfy this desire, there is ultimately no limit to what actions he will take, for he respects none of the restrictions on government officials intended to guarantee individual freedom that have been developed and set forth in written or unwritten constitutions.

It is easy to make the mistake of judging Progressivism by its earlier and less-severe manifestations and to conclude that its petty and paternalistic restrictions, for example New York Mayor Michael “The Nanny” Bloomberg’s recent crusade against large-size soda drinks, are simply bothersome annoyances.  In fact the transformation from irritating but superficially benevolent nanny to ruthless dictator not only occurs rather quickly, it is a logical consequence of the Progressive’s zeal to usher in Utopia and of the means he must use to achieve the smallest of his goals - brute force.  We should recognize the following principle:  Once the Progressive is permitted to intrude however slightly into matters that are properly beyond the sphere of government, then all aspects of the individual’s life may be subjected to control.  Once any degree of coercion is permitted, then no level of force is out of bounds.

Let us see how this principle applies to the Bloomberg soda ban.  First, if the government has an interest in regulating the individual’s behavior in the name of assuring his health, no private decision the individual makes which could affect his health is beyond its power to control.  (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the “broccoli” argument that was raised in the court challenge of Obamacare by twenty-six states).  Second, since the government is to be permitted to use force to override the individual’s will, then it may use as much force as necessary to compel his obedience.  The punishment of merchants who refused to obey the Bloomberg ban was to be a $200 fine, which on the surface would probably not be thought of as extreme.  Note, however that this fine would probably have been sufficient to cause most restaurants to toe the line, and if it had proved inadequate there is no reason to believe Bloomberg would not have increased it to the point that no one would risk violating his edict.

If Bloomberg’s soda ban had been upheld (it was set aside by a judge during a rare moment when sanity prevailed in New York), the city could then have logically gone on to fine obese individuals or incarcerate them in “fat farms” where they would be forced to reduce, since nothing in principle would prevent this, and only the degree of public resistance might stand in the way of the ambitious politician determined to bring about these “superior health outcomes” - to use the modern technocrat’s jargon.  What specifically the Progressive attempts to control depends on his personal inclinations and just how far he senses he can push the general public.  Any weakness or lack of determination by the average citizen in resisting the nascent tyrant encourages him to push even further, whereas a determined resistance will often convince him to micro-manage some other aspect of our lives until a more propitious moment arrives to advance his original plan.  But in no case is the Progressive held back by any trace of self-restraint.

Now, packing unwilling citizens off to fat farms is only an example of how the Progressive might begin to move from “soft” to “hard” tyranny.  Do we have any examples in contemporary American politics in which Progressives have actually attempted something this obnoxious to personal liberty?  Consider the following characteristics of a “hard” tyranny such as Nazi Germany, the old Soviet Union, or Communist China today:

[1] Press Censorship - all media state controlled and opinions of which the government does not approve become punishable offenses.

[2] Complete Gun Control – only agents of the state are permitted to possess arms.

[3] One-Party Rule – this means an enforced hegemony, where if opposition parties are permitted to exist at all they are placed at such an extreme disadvantage they cannot truly challenge the ruling party.

[4] Control of the Nation’s Economy.

Let’s take these four one at a time and see what, if anything, Progressives have attempted along those specific lines.

[1] Press Censorship – in 2012, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats proposed gutting the First Amendment by removing its protections from citizens who band together to form corporations. This means that while an individual citizen might still literally get on his soap box and attack the government, publishers of newspapers, magazines, books, and web sites could be shut down by the ruling party.

[2] Complete Gun Control – while some of the more radical Progressives within the Democrat Party openly call for complete confiscation (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo considered the possibility in the run-up to the State’s infamous SAFE Act), most recognize the political danger that such a stand would put them in, and therefore advocate what they soothingly refer to as “common-sense” regulations meant to get us to the point of confiscation in slow and easy steps.  For example, Barack Obama pretends to believe in the 2nd Amendment, although we may well doubt that his views have changed from his days as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Chicago where he told John Lott that he didn’t believe Americans should be able to own guns.  Mayor Bloomberg himself has recently turned his attention from oversize soft drinks to gun control, confirming the tendency of the Progressive to go from nanny to tyrant.

[3] One-Party Rule – Progressive Democrats have not moved to officially ban other political parties, but the fact that in many cities and states Republicans can no longer win control of either the legislative or executive branches of government under any foreseeable circumstances is extremely troubling.  A full analysis would be too lengthy to present here, but it appears that in at least some of these places, Democrats have secured a permanent governing majority in every election by means of special favors and income redistribution.  Republicans cannot match Democrats there except by playing the same game and in effect becoming Democrats themselves.  Under such conditions, there is no need to officially ban the GOP.

[4] Control of the Nation’s Economy – the purpose of Obamacare was plainly to take control of one-sixth of the nation’s economy rather than improve health care or health insurance.  The other major bill the Democrats passed when they had the chance early in Obama’s first term was Dodd-Frank, which increased the Federal Government’s control of the financial sector to a degree unprecedented in our nation’s history.  Given the opportunity, there can be little doubt that Progressive Democrats would bring additional areas of the economy under the control of the government.

Let me reiterate that once government is permitted to use force at all in a given matter, any degree of force is allowed.  Bloomberg’s $200 “big gulp” fine, as noted earlier, may not seem draconian, but turning an innocent citizen into a felon for merely possessing a standard-size gun magazine certainly does.   We can only guess at what penalties Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Progressives would have imposed on those bold enough to criticize them had they been successful at sweeping away the First Amendment, but as the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act (an earlier attempt to limit free speech) provided for both fines and imprisonment, it is safe to say those penalties would have been quite heavy enough, and that inside every Progressive beats the heart of a true fascist.  And what is perhaps most frightening of all is that in the age of Obama, they’re not even trying very hard to hide it any more.


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