Progressives have a superiority complex.
Progressives claim that society is steadily progressing, becoming smarter and smarter, and that old social mores are outdated and must constantly be replaced as people journey ever closer to perfection.
That’s what they claim. But it’s not really what they believe. What they really believe in is their own superiority and that the benighted masses cannot be entrusted with their own lives. Only they, the enlightened, can cure social ills, by removing choice and forcing people to make the decisions that progressives deem right.
Contrary to what they would have us believe, there is nothing new in this. The socialist elites have been working under this assumption for a very long time. Their claims of altruism are as shallow as they are false.
Bastiat summed it up nicely, when he referred to the apparent superman complex of the socialist legislator,
The claims of these organizers of humanity raise another question which I have often asked them and which, so far as I know, they have never answered: If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind? The organizers maintain that society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse. The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and to give it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority.
Of course, they can’t prove this superiority. We are to take it on faith.
Need examples? Consider New York City, where the mayor, in his infinite wisdom, decreed that no soda shall be sold in 32oz containers. It’s for his constituents own good, he explains. There is an obesity problem (especially among those poor ignorant minorities.) Such people are incapable of making good choices, (never mind the implied racism) so bad choices must be legislated away.
Similarly, state hospital emergency rooms are directed to curtail the dispensing of pain medication. The doctors who work in these hospitals are evidently incapable of making decisions about the level of care and quantity of medicine which should be dispensed. But never fear, Bloomberg is here. He, and the state bureaucrats will save the poor citizens of New York – from themselves. And if someone has to suffer, so be it. It’s for the common good, after all.
The state of New York has also decreed some asinine, unworkable, and dictatorial new gun laws, specifying the size of gun magazines, among other things. The point of this article is not to dwell on the examples. They are ably covered elsewhere. We needn’t confuse the issues with the fact – the self-styled progressives certainly won’t. It only seems hypocritical to deny the average New Yorker the level of protection afforded to the governor, at tax-payer expense. But it’s not hypocritical, you see, because the governor is “special.” He is cut from a different cloth. Of course he deserves special privileges. He has to look out for the poor stupid masses who elected him.
And woe unto to those who raise objections. Who are we to complain. We who cannot be entrusted with even deciding how much soda to drink, or how best to live our lives. Again, from Bastiat,
According to Saint-Just, only the legislator is capable of doing this. Persons are merely to be what the legislator wills them to be. According to Robespierre, who copies Rousseau literally, the legislator begins by decreeing the end for which the commonwealth has come into being. Once this is determined, the government has only to direct the physical and moral forces of the nation toward that end. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the nation are to remain completely passive.
How many times have you heard the refrain that “science is settled,” Debate over matters of moment is cast as heresy, racism, ignorance, or malignancy.
And if we won’t do what is best, well then government will have to do it for us. And what’s more, if our elected representatives in Congress, or the Supreme Court won’t do “the right thing.” Then Mr. Obama will just have to circumvent them. It is for our own good after all. Nut cases like Woody Allen and Harry Belafonte have been advocating that Obama assume dictatorial powers. The man needs no encouragement.
This isn’t a new idea either. In 1850, Bastiat quoted the French communist Abbe de Mably,
… if the evil has made such headway that ordinary governmental procedures are unable to cure it, then resort to an extraordinary tribunal with considerable powers for a short time. The imagination of the citizens needs to be struck a hard blow.
In the present case, the tribunal is Mr. Obama and his cadre of unelected czars and advisers who will save us from the evils of the NRA and a populace bent on clinging to their guns and religion.
But perhaps the most frightening aspect of all of this is the success that 100 years of progressive chipping away at education and culture has had in creating a society of people who truly are incapable of make good decisions.
In 1930, Spanish essayist and philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, described a fascist as “a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions. This is the new thing: the right not to be reasonable, the ‘reason of unreason.’ Here I see the most palpable manifestation of the new mentality of the masses, due to their having decided to rule society without the capacity for doing so. In their political conduct the structure of the new mentality is revealed in the rawest, most convincing manner. The average man finds himself with “ideas” in his head, but he lacks the faculty of ideation. He has no conception even of the rare atmosphere in which ideals live. He wishes to have opinions, but is unwilling to accept the conditions and presuppositions that underlie all opinion. Hence his ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words.”
To have an idea means believing one is in possession of the reasons for having it, and consequently means believing that there is such a thing as reason, a world of intelligible truths. To have ideas, to form opinions, is identical with appealing to such an authority, submitting oneself to it, accepting its code and its decisions, and therefore believing that the highest form of intercommunication is the dialogue in which the reasons for our ideas are discussed. But the mass-man would feel himself lost if he accepted discussion, and instinctively repudiates the obligation of accepting that supreme authority lying outside himself. Hence the “new thing” in Europe is “to have done with discussions,” and detestation is expressed for all forms of intercommunication, which imply acceptance of objective standards, ranging from conversation to Parliament, and taking in science. This means that there is a renunciation of the common life of barbarism. All the normal processes are suppressed in order to arrive directly at the imposition of what is desired. The hermeticism of the soul which, as we have seen before, urges the mass to intervene in the whole of public life.
The progressives finally have a population as ignorant as the one they argue can no longer be trusted to act in their own best interests.
After all, one only has to look at the results of the last two elections to understand that.