American Progressivism

I.  Who were the Progressives, and why are they important? 

II.  The Progressives and their Attack on America’s Founding

III.  How the Progressives Originated the Modern Presidency

IV. Progressivism and Socialism

V. Progressivism and the Current Crisis

I.  Who were the Progressives, and why are they important? 

R.J. Pestritto

Shipley Professor of the American Constitution at Hillsdale College 


American Progressivism
by Ronald J. Pestritto

Glenn has asked me to expand a bit on our discussion of America’s Progressives from Friday’s television show, which I’ll do in this and four subsequent pieces for the newsletter.  In today’s piece, I’ll explain who the Progressives were and why they were important.   

Many on the left today call themselves “progressive,” and they do so not just because it’s a nicer way of saying “liberal,” but also because they very much intend to revive the political principles of America’s original Progressives, from the Progressive Era of the 1880s through World War I.  Why would leftist politicians, like Mrs. Clinton, purposely identify themselves with this Progressive movement? 

The reason is that America’s original Progressives were also its original, big-government liberals.  Most people point to the New Deal era as the source of big government and the welfare state that we have today.  While this is perfectly accurate, it is important to understand that the principles of the New Deal did not originate in the New Deal; rather, they came from the Progressives, who had dominated American politics and intellectual cultural a generation prior to the New Deal. 

We have no less an authority on this connection than Franklin Roosevelt himself.  When FDR campaigned in 1932, he pointed to the Progressives – and in particular to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – as the source of his ideas about government.   

In terms of the personalities who made up the Progressive movement, some are familiar to us and others are less so.  The movement was comprised of well known politicians like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt; but it was also comprised of intellectuals and writers who are less well known but who have been very influential in America.  There were folks like John Dewey, who was America’s public philosopher for much of the early 20th century.  Even less well known was Herbert Croly, but Croly was highly influential, since he founded and was the first editor of The New Republic – which became the main organ of Progressive opinion in the United States, and is still one of the most important journals on the Left today.  I should add here that Woodrow Wilson actually fell into both of these categories – he was both a well known politician and president, but also was, for decades prior to his entry into politics, a prominent intellectual (a college professor and president of Princeton) who wrote many books and influential articles. 

As I’ll explain in my next piece, these Progressives wanted a thorough transformation in America’s principles of government, from a government permanently dedicated to securing individual liberty to one whose ends and scope would change to take on any and all social and economic ills.  Here’s the order of the points we’ll consider in the pieces to follow: 

    1) What did Progressives think about the American founding, and why did they want to eradicate its principles? 

    2) How did we get today’s excessively powerful presidency from the Progressives? 

    3) What was the connection between Progressivism and Socialism?  Were the Progressives actually Socialists? 

    4) What are some of the critical connections between Progressivism and what’s going on in our country today? 

For more on the Progressives, two of my books may be of interest: 

    1) American Progressivism, which I co-edited with American historian William Atto, contains a basic introduction to progressive ideas written by Professor Atto and me, and then several selections from the actual writings of Progressives like Wilson, TR, Dewey, Croly, and others.

2) Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which is a much more in-depth look at Woodrow Wilson and how he was central to originating the liberalism that dominates America today.  This is for those who are really interested in history and political theory.


II.  The Progressives and their Attack on America’s Founding


As I mentioned in my last piece, America’s Progressives aimed for a thorough transformation in America’s principles of government.  While our founders understood that our national government must have the capacity to be strong and vigorous (this is why the Articles of Confederation were failing), they also were very clear that this strength must always be confined to very limited ends or areas of responsibility; government, in other words, while not weak or tiny, was to be strictly limited.   

The Progressive conception of government, on the other hand, was quite the opposite; Progressives had an “evolving” or a “living” notion of government (yes, we get the term “living constitution” from the Progressives), and thus wanted government to take on whatever role and scope the times demanded.  The Progressives reasoned that people of the founding era may have wanted a limited government, given their particular experience with George III, but they argued that people of their own time wanted a much more activist government, and that we should adjust accordingly. 

Quite simply, the Progressives detested the bedrock principles of American government.  They detested the Declaration of Independence, which enshrines the protection of individual natural rights (like property) as the unchangeable purpose of government; and they detested the Constitution, which places permanent limits on the scope of government and is structured in a way that makes the extension of national power beyond its original purpose very difficult.  “Progressivism” was, for them, all about progressing, or moving beyond, the principles of our founders.   

This is why the Progressives were the first generation of Americans to denounce openly our founding documents.  Woodrow Wilson, for example, once warned that “if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface” – i.e. that part of the Declaration which talks about securing individual natural rights as the only legitimate purpose of government.  And Theodore Roosevelt, when using the federal government to take over private businesses during the 1902 coal strike, is reported to have remarked, “To hell with the Constitution when people want coal!”  This remark may be apocryphal, but it is a fair representation of how TR viewed these matters.   

In the next piece, we’ll consider how the presidency was transformed under men like Wilson and TR. 

For more on the Progressives, two of my books may be of interest: 

    1) American Progressivism, which I co-edited with American historian William Atto, contains a basic introduction to progressive ideas written by Professor Atto and me, and then several selections from the actual writings of Progressives like Wilson, TR, Dewey, Croly, and others.

    2) Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which is a much more in-depth look at Woodrow Wilson and how he was central to originating the liberalism that dominates America today.  This is for those who are really interested in history and political theory.


III.  How the Progressives Originated the Modern Presidency 

As I explained in my last piece, the Progressives wanted to disregard the Constitution in order to enlarge vastly the scope of government.  As a practical matter, how was this to be done?  It happened in a variety of ways, but principal among them was a fundamental change in the American presidency. 

Under the system of our founders, government was to have sufficient strength and energy to accomplish its ends, but those ends were strictly limited by the Constitution.  The principal way in which the Constitution keeps the government within its boundaries is through the separation of powers.  As readers of The Federalist and of Thomas Jefferson know, the point of separation of powers is to keep any one set of hands from wielding all of the power in national government. 

The Progressives, especially Woodrow Wilson, hated the separation of powers for precisely this reason: it made government inefficient, and made it difficult, if not impossible, to expand the power of government so that it could take on all of the new tasks that Progressives had in mind.  So they looked to the presidency as a way of getting around this obstacle. 

Under the original system, the president was merely leader of a single branch, or part, of the government, and thus could not provide leadership of the government as a whole.  In his book Constitutional Government, Wilson urged that “leadership and control must be lodged somewhere.” The president, Wilson pointed out, was the only politician who could claim to speak for the people as a whole, and thus he called upon the president to rise above the separation of powers – to consider himself not merely as chief of a single branch of government, but as the popular leader of the whole of national politics. Wilson even contrasted the “constitutional aspect” of the presidency – its constitutionally defined role as chief of one of the three co-equal branches of government – to the “political” function of the president, where he could use his connection to public opinion as a tool for moving all of the branches of government in the direction called for by the people.  

It was in this way that Wilson believed the original intention of the separation of powers system could be circumvented, and the enhanced presidency could be a means energizing the kind of active national government that the progressive agenda required.  

In the next piece, we’ll consider whether the principles of the Progressives made them socialists. 

For more on the Progressives, two of my books may be of interest: 

    1) American Progressivism, which I co-edited with American historian William Atto, contains a basic introduction to progressive ideas written by Professor Atto and me, and then several selections from the actual writings of Progressives like Wilson, TR, Dewey, Croly, and others.

    2) Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which is a much more in-depth look at Woodrow Wilson and how he was central to originating the liberalism that dominates America today.  This is for those who are really interested in history and political theory.


IV.  Progressivism and Socialism 

Since the Progressives had such a limitless view of state power, and since they wanted to downplay the founders’ emphasis on individual rights, it is only natural to ask if they subscribed to socialism.  There are several things to consider in answering this question. 

First, when considering the relationship of progressivism to socialism, we must be clear that we are talking about the similarity in the philosophy of government; we are not suggesting that America’s progressives were the kind of moral monsters that we see in the history of some socialist or fascist regimes (although it is the case that their racial views – particularly those of Woodrow Wilson – were indeed morally reprehensible). 

Second, we must also bear in mind that there was an actual socialist movement during the Progressive Era, and prominent progressives such as Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were critics of it.  In fact, Wilson and Roosevelt both ran against a socialist candidate in the 1912 election (Eugene Debs).  The progressives were ambivalent about the socialist movement of their day not so much because they disagreed with it in principle, but because the American socialist movement was a movement of the lower classes.  The progressives were elitists; they looked down their noses at the socialists, considering them a kind of rabble. 

Keeping these points in mind, it is, nonetheless, the case that the progressive conception of government closely coincided with the socialist conception.  Both progressivism and socialism champion the prerogatives of the state over the prerogatives of the individual.  Wilson himself made this connection very plain in a revealing essay he wrote in 1887 called “Socialism and Democracy.”  Wilson’s begins this essay by defining socialism, explaining that it stands for unfettered state power, which trumps any notion of individual rights. It “proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view,” Wilson wrote, and “that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will.” After laying out this definition of socialism, Wilson explains that he finds nothing wrong with it in principle, since it was merely the logical extension of genuine democratic theory. It gives all power to the people, in their collective capacity, to carry out their will through the exercise of governmental power, unlimited by any undemocratic idea like individual rights. He elaborated:

    “In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be: limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none.”

Roosevelt, too, argued for a new conception of government, where individual natural rights would no longer serve as a principled boundary that the state was prohibited from crossing.  He called in his New Nationalism program for the state to take an active role in effecting economic equality by way of superintending the use of private property. Private property rights, which had been serving as a brake on the more aggressive progressive policy proposals, were to be respected, Roosevelt argued, only insofar as the government approved of the property’s social usefulness.  He wrote:

    “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

In the next and final piece, we will consider the some of the most important connections between the original progressives and the resurgence of progressivism today. 

For more on the Progressives, two of my books may be of interest: 

    1) American Progressivism, which I co-edited with American historian William Atto, contains a basic introduction to progressive ideas written by Professor Atto and me, and then several selections from the actual writings of Progressives like Wilson, TR, Dewey, Croly, and others.

    2) Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which is a much more in-depth look at Woodrow Wilson and how he was central to originating the liberalism that dominates America today.  This is for those who are really interested in history and political theory.


V.  Progressivism and the Current Crisis 

There are important connections between America’s original Progressive Era and the crisis we are facing today, and it is useful to consider these connections on two levels. 

The first connection is at a general level, and concerns our abandonment of the Constitution.  The present crisis did not appear out of nowhere, and didn’t simply begin with the election of Barack Obama.  Politicians of both parties spent the better part of the 20th century disregarding the Constitution, as they looked to have government step up to solve every conceivable human problem.  Thus it ought to be no surprise that the Constitution’s limits on government aren’t even part of the conversation today as our politicians debate the new interventions in our economy and society that seem to come daily.   

Such a state of things would have greatly pleased America’s original progressives.  As I’ve endeavored to explain in these pieces for the newsletter, progressives believed that the role of government should be determined not by our Constitution, but by whatever the needs of the day happened to be.  This is why they sought to eradicate talk of the Constitution from our political discourse; today, that goal seems to have been realized. 

The second connection between the original Progressive Era and our situation today has to do with policy.  The progressives knew that our original system of government was not capable of handling all of the new tasks that they had in mind for it.  So they envisioned creating a vast set of bureaucratic agencies.  They argued that Congress should enact very broad and vague laws for supervising more and more facets of the American economy and society, and then delegate to the bureaucratic agencies the power and discretion to enact specific policies.  Both Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt conceived of government in this way. 

The New Deal certainly went a long way toward implementing this progressive vision, and what we have seen in our own situation with TARP and the various other interventions is simply greater steps toward the progressive plan.  Our Congress has simply said to the Treasury agencies: here’s a trillion dollars, here’s all the legal authority you need, now go out, determine what is in the public interest, and spend and regulate accordingly.  That is the progressive vision of government, in a nutshell. 

For more on the Progressives, two of my books may be of interest: 

    1) American Progressivism, which I co-edited with American historian William Atto, contains a basic introduction to progressive ideas written by Professor Atto and me, and then several selections from the actual writings of Progressives like Wilson, TR, Dewey, Croly, and others.

    2) Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, which is a much more in-depth look at Woodrow Wilson and how he was central to originating the liberalism that dominates America today.  This is for those who are really interested in history and political theory.

  • Anonymous

    You mean a TEXTbook?  Researched work like this is my only respite from liberal textbooks that teach the Progressive Movement as “that which has made America great”!  You, BobbyB are the one who is clueless!

  • Katie Whalen

    I’m in AP US History in high school right now and my book for the class makes the Progressive era seem just fine. That it improved democracy for people ( which it did give people more power in gov ‘t such as the secret ballot, direct primaries, direct election of U.S. senators, initiative, referendum and recall according to the book) and that it “exposed inequities and educated the public about corruption in high places”. But, I remembered Glenn Beck always talking about how bad progressives were and it confused me. So, I found this article and it is a lot more revealing about progressives then my Amsco History book, so thanks for this article!

    • Anonymous

       Thanks Katie but you’ll have to excuse me while I upchuck!

      • Roy Garner

         Dennis likes his government big ,and he likes it controlling.

    • Iggy

      Direct election of senators is bad news and the 17th amendment should be repealed immediately. The House of Representatives is there to represent the people, and the Senate should directly represent the interests of the state governments, however that does not happen with the direct election of Senators. Read Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendments.

    • Quasimodo

      Please read my posts here Katie. I am from Ukraine. I lived under Communism. Progressivism in not only in America, but was and is in all of Europe. Their symbol and flag was the communist flag with a turtle. Ask your teachers why? Read my posts below. I do not re-write history to give communism the glorious image. But in the former Soviet Union, we watched the truth for only about 6 years. Then Putin stopped the documentaries on Stalin. He substituted WWII (Great Patriotic War we call it) documentaries and military music at 10pm. Even your professors call Lenin the good communist! Lenin’s first act was to kill the farmers or “kulaks”, “kurkul” in Ukrainian. Then there was starvation in all of Russia and Ukraine. Lenin had 4 more “pogroms” (assault) on the people. First was to kill 300,000 Jewish orphans, next 1.1 million orphans of all races. Next was to kill .5 million adult Jews and Tatar (Mongols). Last was 8 million citizens by essentially lottery. Lenin gave 200 grams of wheat flower for every execution of the 8 million. They were carried to fields by horse cart, buried 2 feet deep. And the fields are abandoned to this day, as mounds look like ocean waves across the farm land. This is your idiot ideolog dogmatic college professors “good communist”. Yet as the famous communist Bertrand Russell lamented when he met Lenin for two weeks, he was shocked at Lenin’s contempt for the masses. Now think of Johnathan Gruber’s comments about YOUR proletariat that supported ObamaCare. The same contempt for the “useful idiots” as Lenin said.

  • Anonymous

    Oh those bad, bad progressives.  Just think:  they fought for a minimum wage, the end of child labor, worker safety, the right of workers to organize, and in every way a more fair and balanced distribution of America’s wealth.  The only citizens who find this objectionable are the tried and true fascists and neo-fascists who believe the individual who gets lucky has in fact been anointed by God to have a special place in American society.  And that ‘special place’ more often than not involves the accumulation of obscene wealth at the expense of everyone else.  When you reduce and limit my rights and freedoms while increasing yours, you are in fact using the Constitution for toilet paper.

    • Anonymous

      Oh yeah you forgot about the Progressives and their support of forced sterilization and the eugenics programs that the Nazis loved so much. 

      You are such an moron because you label people who love freedom and limited government Nazis when the Nazis(fascist) were the National Socialist party of Germany which all of the progressives loved and agreed with. 

      So in your fairy world the accumulation of wealth is obscene.  So unless it has the stamp of our overlords from the government then it must have been obtained by stealing from someone else????   You must be one of those non producers that is constantly sucking off the government while the rest of us slave away, so you can have your cell phone and cable tv.

      We who support the constitution as it was originally envisioned  doesn’t limit your rights, the increase of size and scope of government reduces all of our rights and that is what you progressives want right.  Keep drinking the Obama Kool aid.

      • Anonymous

        Dear Markstv,  It’s difficult to know where to start in my reply.  But I think I should first suggest you get back on your meds.  Your response to my original comment is so far out of reality it’s hard to respond.  Your charge that progressives supported Hitler and the nazis is at best terribly misinformed, and at its worst just plain crazy.  Where the hell are you coming up with your information?  Did you have a bad dream last night?  As to my being a ‘non-producer,’ I can only suggest you need to remove yourself from your self-imposed asylum of silliness.  I have been an employer and very successful small business man all my life.  You suffer from a dementia that allows you to assume that anyone who assails the obscene accumulation of wealth by the few is ‘sucking off the government’ while hard workers like yourself slave away.  You’re burdened with simplicities that have no merit.  Intellectualisms without any basis in the real world.  You don’t like what you hear and you immediately pull up a few time worn phrases that are supposed to pass for objective and perceptive thinking.  And please stop using the phrase ‘kool-aid.’  It’s been worn to death starting with the dummy O’Reilly.  And the next time you’re let go by your employer for no good reason try to remind yourself about the evils of progressives.  And the next time you need to rely on unemployment insurance to feed and house your family try to remind yourself of the evils of the progressives.  And the next time your mother or father needs medical care they can’t afford, try reminding yourself of the evils of those progressives.  The bottom line is nothing more than you’re being uninformed, misinformed, and intellectually lazy.  And it would seem very angry at the world as you find it.  Not a very pleasant combination.  I don’t envy you.

        • Anonymous

          You are the one that is misinformed.  You need to stop watching so much MSNBC and read some history books. Yeah like I really believe you are a successful business owner.  I bet you don’t even give your employees health insurance. I bet you expect the government to do it.  You can go live in your nanny state, I want freedom. I know its hard for a liberal like yourself to understand, but people can take care of themselves. What you liberals want is to make everyone dependent on government services, then what you get is generations after generations of people on the government plantation. Oh yeah please keep drinking the Kool aid if that makes you happy.

          PS Sit down take your psych meds and realize that you are not as smart as you think you are.

          • Anonymous

            OK Marksvt.  You’ve got me.  I’m speechless.  Your intellectual brilliance is unassailable.

          • Quasimodo

            Read my second post just above. I doubt you have the courage to research it. If you need more, I have it.

          • nightgaunt

            Eugenics was a race based and class based pseudo science of the late 19th and early 20th century it was one of those ideas that went across political lines. Right, Left and others who believed that class is biology. Not everyone fell for it, but too many of the rich, powerful and those who wanted to have power did because it fitted their prejudice. (And had nothing to do with Darwin.) Its worse aspects were exemplified by the Germans. Anyone who thought that the poor, indigent, mentally stunted etc were detrimental to the human race seemed to be for it, even when the pernicious idea spread to those who were just poor. After the war most people dropped it like hot potato. Only a few clandestinely continued to support its warped ideas to this day.

          • Quasimodo

            The first mention of eugenics that I know of, was in 1848 and 1850 papers by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx respectively in their newspapers. Now an intelligent person would understand why Hitler said he invaded Russia. But let’s be clear, until 1941 they were great friends. Stalin even refused to believe an invasion was imminent. Why? Just the year before Hitler called Norway, “Right-wing Fascists” before invading them from Murmansk, the Russian northern port, using Russian supplies. Also in 1940, Russia invaded Finland, calling them, “Right-wing Fascists”. Also, the first use of the term, “Right-Wing Fascist” came from Nikita Khrushchev in 1936 in reference to the Communist Mensheviks (moderates), and 1937 by Stalin in reference to the POUM Marxist coalition fighting the real fascist, Franco in Spain. That was so he could kill the 105,000 communist POUM which he didn’t control. Who was the only survivor? George Orwell. So now you know where the leftist term “Right-Wing Fascist” comes from, and Progressives and other Leftists repeat it till today!

            “The chief mission of all other races and peoples, large and small, is to perish in the revolutionary holocaust.”
            “Until its complete extermination or loss of national status, this racial trash always becomes the most fanatical bearer there is of counter-revolution, and it remains that. That is because its entire existence is nothing more than a protest against a great historical revolution… The next world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but also entire reactionary peoples, to disappear from the earth. And that too is progress.”
            – Karl Marx Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung NZR January 1849.

            “To the sentimental phrases about brotherhood which we are being offered here on behalf of the most counter-revolutionary nations of Europe, we reply that hatred of Russians was and still is the primary revolutionary passion among Germans; that since the revolution hatred of Czechs and Croats has been added, and that only by the most determined use of terror against these Slav peoples can we, jointly with the Poles and Magyars, safeguard the revolution. We know where the enemies of the revolution are concentrated, viz. in Russia and the Slav regions of Austria, and no fine phrases, no allusions to an undefined democratic future for these countries can deter us from treating our enemies as enemies. Slav nationality leaves the revolution entirely out of account, then we too know what we have to do”
            –Friedrich Engels, Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 223, Feb. 16, 1849

            “The classes and the races too weak to master the new conditions of life must give way…. They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust.”
            -Karl Marx, Marx People’s Paper, April 16, 1856

          • nightgaunt

            Curious you sound like you were schooled by the “Liberal Fascism” Reich Wing garbage I hear so much about.

            Rather vague allusions that might be construed as a precursor to the more definite coining of the word in 1886 by a relative of Darwin though

            Darwin himself was no racist. He went out of his way to not use “superior” and “inferior” in his descriptions unlike those around him who thought the “white race” was superior in every way. Which still prevails now.

          • Quasimodo

            Interesting comment because not only are you right, but George Bernard Shaw, the inventor of the gas chambers, believed exactly the same way. He did not hate races, though he believed some races were abjectly pathetic and “social trash” because of their inability to advance to a useful level. But it was not based on race or skin color. Just results. Karl Marx hated Slavic peoples. Not because they were White or Slavic, but because he thought they were primitive; inferior!

          • Quasimodo

            Who ever alluded to Darwin being a racist? I never mentioned such. I mentioned only that Geoffrey Keynes was married to his daughter for context. Nice distraction!

          • nightgaunt

            No it doesn’t bother me in the least.
            Here is what Politifact has to say about John Holdren and his 1977 book. To wit:

            John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population.”
            — Glenn Beck on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 in his TV program
            Glenn Beck claims science czar John
            Holdren proposed forced abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking
            water to control population

            By Robert Farley on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 at 3:54 p.m.

            As evidence that the country is closer to socialist than
            capitalistthese days, radio and talk show host Glenn Beck recently made this claim about John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy:

            “I mean, we’ve got czars now,” Beck said during his July 22, 2009,
            program. “Czars like John Holdren, who has proposed forcing abortions
            and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population.”

            Political figures like Holdren, who are little-known by most
            Americans, make easy targets. And Beck’s biting quick hit on Holdren
            provides a healthy enough dose of outrage on which to hang his argument.

            But is it true?

            allegation has its roots in a book Holdren co-authored with Paul and
            Annie Ehrlich more than three decades ago called Ecoscience:
            Population, Resources, Environment .

            Conservative bloggers have quoted the book extensively, and often out
            of context, to make the point that Holdren has advocated positions such
            as the ones Beck stated.

            We obtained the book to see exactly what Holdren, then a young man,
            wrote (or co-wrote). The book is just over 1,000 pages, and it clearly
            makes that case that an explosion in population presented a grave
            crisis. Although it is a textbook, the authors don’t shy away from
            presenting a point of view. As the preface states, “We have tried
            throughout the book to state clearly where we stand on various matters
            of controversy.”

            In a section on “Involuntary Fertility Control,” Holdren and the
            other authors discuss various “coercive” means of population control —
            including putting sterilants in the drinking water. But they stop well
            short of advocating such measures.

            Here’s a few excerpts:

            “The third approach to population limitation is that of involuntary
            fertility control. Several coercive proposals deserve discussion, mainly
            because some countries may ultimately have to resort to them unless
            current trends in birth rates are rapidly reversed by other means. …

            “Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion
            that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary
            fertility control. Indeed, this would pose some very difficult
            political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical
            problems. No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be
            under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet
            some rather stiff requirements: it must be uniformly effective, despite
            widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying
            degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free
            of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on
            members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets, or livestock.

            “Again, there is no sign of such an agent on the horizon. And the risk
            of serious, unforeseen side effects would, in our opinion, militate
            against the use of any such agent, even though this plan has the
            advantage of avoiding the need for socioeconomic pressures that might
            tend to discriminate against particular groups or penalize children.”

            Later, the authors conclude, “Most of the population control measures
            beyond family planning discussed above have never been tried. Some are
            as yet technically impossible and others are and probably will remain
            unacceptable to most societies (although, of course, the potential
            effectiveness of those least acceptable measures may be great).

            “Compulsory control of family size is an unpalatable idea, but the
            alternatives may be much more horrifying. As those alternatives become
            clearer to an increasing number of people in the 1980s, they may begin
            demanding such control. A far better choice, in our view, is to expand
            the use of milder methods of influencing family size preferences, while
            redoubling efforts to ensure that the means of birth control, including
            abortion and sterilization, are accessible to every human being on Earth
            within the shortest possible time. If effective action is taken
            promptly against population growth, perhaps the need for the more
            extreme involuntary or repressive measures can be averted in most

            And here’s the part that some have interpreted as Holdren advocating for forced abortions.

            “To date, there has been no serious attempt in Western countries to
            use laws to control excessive population growth, although there exists
            ample authority under which population growth could be regulated. For
            example, under the United States Constitution, effective
            population-control programs could be enacted under the clauses that
            empower Congress to appropriate funds to provide for the general welfare
            and to regulate commerce, or under the equal-protection clause of the
            Fourteenth Amendment. Such laws constitutionally could be very broad.
            Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws,
            even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained
            under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became
            sufficiently severe to endanger the society. Few today consider the
            situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion,

            This comes in a section discussing population law. The authors argue
            that compulsory abortions could potentially be allowed under U.S. law
            “if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the
            society.” Again, that’s a far cry from advocating or proposing such a

            In the book, the authors certainly advocate making abortions readily
            accessible for women who want to get them. But they never advocate
            forced abortions. Big difference.

            In response to the comments from Beck and others, Holdren’s office
            issued this statement: “The quotations used to suggest that Dr. Holdren
            supports coercive approaches to limiting population growth were taken
            from a 1977 college textbook on environmental science and policy, of
            which he was the third author. The quoted material was from a section
            of the book that described different possible approaches to limiting
            population growth and then concluded that the authors’ own preference
            was to employ the noncoercive approaches before the environmental and
            social impacts of overpopulation led desperate societies to employ
            coercive ones. Dr. Holdren has never been an advocate of compulsory
            abortions or other repressive means of population limitation.”

            Holdren’s office also provided a statement from Annie and Paul
            Ehrlich, the co-authors: “We have been shocked at the serious
            mischaracterization of our views and those of John Holdren in blog posts
            based on misreadings of our jointly-authored 1000-page 1977 textbook,
            ECOSCIENCE. We were not then, never have been, and are not now
            ‘advocates’ of the Draconian measures for population limitation
            — but not recommended — in the book’s 60-plus small-type pages
            cataloging the full spectrum of population policies that, at the time,
            had either been tried in some country or analyzed by some commentator.

            Under questioning by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., during his Senate
            confirmation hearing, Holdren said he “no longer thinks it’s productive
            to focus on optimum population for the United States. … I think the
            key thing today is that we need to work to improve the conditions that
            all of our citizens face economically, environmentally, and in other
            respects. And we need to aim for something that I have for years been
            calling ‘sustainable prosperity.'”

            Vitter continued with his line of question, asking directly, “Do you
            think determining optimal population is a proper role of government?”

            Said Holdren: “No, senator, I do not. … I think the proper role of
            government is to develop and deploy the policies with respect to
            economy, environment, security, that will ensure the well-being of the
            citizens we have.”

            But with regard to Beck’s claim that Holdren “has proposed forcing
            abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control
            population,” the text of the book clearly does not support that. We
            think a thorough reading shows that these were ideas presented as
            that had been discussed. They were not posed as suggestions or
            proposals. In fact, the authors make clear that they did not support
            coercive means of population control. Certainly, nowhere in the book do
            the authors advocate for forced abortions.

            Some have argued that Holdren’s view of the imminent and grave global dangers posed by overpopulation should provide pause, given Holdren’s current view that global warming now presents imminent and grave global dangers. That’s a matter for reasoned debate.

            But in seeking to score points for a political argument, Beck
            seriously mischaracterizes Holdren’s positions. Holdren didn’t advocate
            those ideas then. And, when asked at a Senate confirmation hearing,
            Holdren said he did not support them now. We think it’s irresponsible to
            pluck a few lines from a 1,000-page, 30-year-old textbook, and then
            present them out of context to dismiss Holdren’s long and distinguished
            career. And we rate Beck’s claim Pants on Fire!
            was and is so much hysteria being generated by this book by those who
            seem to want to misread it to generate their own propaganda.

          • Quasimodo

            Well that is great that politifact has responded to this. It seems they respond from a specific perspective given their grammar. I was not quoting Glenn Beck. I was quoting from the book. I have the book. It is a university scholarly book, or written for peers. It is in fact 1051 pages long. I paid $200 for it as a used copy. In fact, I got the book a long time ago, not since Glenn Beck. I got the book after studying early 20th Century Progressives, and their links to modern environmentalists. Holdren said much more. I can give you 200 pages of ideas from his book on population control. Do you want to see page 838. It has interesting comments about cultural responsibility, or lack thereof. In most cases, what Politifact does not tell you is that Holdren advocates his ideas as being “Constitutional”. Those are arguments he uses in almost ever option. How, I don’t know. He advocates for UN military to manage your country and oversee this population control program. He advocates that certain his idea is not racist, but, “certain cultural groups are less reproductively responsible and should be especially targeted for forced sterilization programs and forced abortions.” The politifact can dismiss it, but it is 200 pages of this ideas. So I don’t need your quotes. I have them all. You have a place called Georgia Guide Stones. It seems the maker also agreed. In 1977 Holdren called for the “de-industrialization of the United States” so that other nations might more easily develop. I suggest you go to youtube or go to his confirmation hearings. His writing are not new. Maybe to you and Glenn Beck this issue is new. This is your concern not mine. I only have to worry about Russians and mafia. In fact, I will be living between Ripanj, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria in the future. You can keep your idiots of Progressivism there okay?

          • Quasimodo

            I own the book, 1051 pages. I don’t care what they claim. They are liars for this! Holdren has 200 pages from about 700-900 on various plans. He even argues that they are “constitutional” and will “hold up to Constitutional muster”. He never once credits or footnotes any idea to another theorist.

          • nightgaunt

            Personal attacks are uncalled for and besmirch your points. Name calling is loser talk by anyone on any side.

        • Steve Huff

           Unfortunately, his comment on the support for the Nazis and Communist dictators is not misinformed. In fact, many Progressive leaders such as Lillian Hellman, Walter Duranty, Walter Lippmann, many on the left in Hollywood at the time, and the NY Times are good examples of profound support for everything they were doing.
          Lillian Hellman on Stalin’s murder of 27million of his own: “Well that is what he had to do to create his great society!”
          Walter Duranty on the same issue: “Well, you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.”
          Walter Lippmann wasn’t only the scariest progressive his secretary Mary Price was a Soviet spy and left D.C. to become head of community organizing in Atlanta.
          NY Times: “The age of unbridled Capitalism is dead!” The following sentences praised the new world strong men leaders (dictators) as the “new age of politics!” The genuflected 4 times a day to Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

          • nightgaunt

            I doubt if you would find anyone Progressive supporting mass murder for any reason. Was that the common thought of Progressives or just those personal thoughts of Upper Class people who were really closet Fascists?

          • Quasimodo

            First let me ask you why videos portraying said support for eugenics, Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin have been hidden by those who control the perspective of history?

            Secondly I would ask you to watch George Bernard Shaws video, which Glenn Beck played, which I first saw in Russian language, in Ukraine. In youtube: “George Bernard Shaw Justify Your Existence”, and/or “George Bernard Shaw Hitler Mass Murder”. Shaw was the man who created the concept of the gas chambers.

            Then go to Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the 2008 Youtube Debate.
            “Hillary Clinton are you a liberal”
            Please note in this video she tells the absolute truth about what the definition of a “liberal” was, that is until WWII when the name was co-opted. It was co-opted by Progressives and the compliant media. She says as much! But she dose not stand for the principles she mentions. She says, “I am an early 20th Century Progressive. There is one mistake, 30-40 years is really 70 years, and in the end she says Progressives stood for liberty and freedom! That is an unfathomable
            lie! So she is an “early 20th Century Progressive as she states!

            Now type in Margaret Sanger KKK in google. Click photos. Margaret
            Sanger said, “Jews and Blacks are human weeds!” She also said that, ” Today Eugenics is considered by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and viable solution to racial, economic, and social problems!” So Sanger’s objectives are to eliminate minorities, just like her contemporary friend, George Bernard Shaw, who also said, “You need to get rid of your Constitution, so you can kill the people you need to kill”.

            Now type in youtube, “Hillary Clinton Margaret Sanger” 2:53 long. Senate confirmation hearings for Sec of State. She admits she knew of Margaret Sangers eugenics and racism. But in one speech not mentioned here, she called Margaret Sanger, “the greatest woman in human history”.

            We are almost done with the education. George Bernard Shaw’s best friend? Well the London cabal “rat-pack” was Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, and Geoffrey Keynes his younger brother. Geoffrey Keynes was married to Charles Darwin’s daughter. You know about Shaw. JM Keynes was the creator of Keynesian Economics, the political plan in search of economics! Keynes not only is Obama’s guru of government economic control, he was Director of the British Eugenicists Society. Keynes did not like communism. He was a rich guy with lots of property. He did like Fascist style government. I don’t know about Geoffrey.

            Now research John Holdren, known affectionately as the “Angel of Death”. Holdren wrote, or co-wrote, the book “EcoScience”. In that
            1051 page book from pages 700-900 he discusses ways to get rid of 80% of the world’s population, including forced abortion, sterilization, poisoning food and water supplies, etc. He ALWAYS makes a Constitutional argument for his cases as well. This point is key!!!!! So according to him, he believes all of this is “Constitutional” until he went before the Senate for confirmation. He also advocates in the book for UN military control of the US, and the destruction of the US economy, or else they can not build up the rest of the Third World. He is the lead
            Administration man on Global Warming with the UN. He taught with Obama at the Univ. of Chicago.

            Do all Progressives support this agenda? No, certainly not. But as Johnathan Gruber said, the public that supported ObamaCare were their useful idiots! And so it is again! But I have one guy here at work that absolutely agrees. I have met others. Somehow they think they are excluded!

    • Anonymous (Watch live; only 33 seconds long.”
      @dennismcbk disregard the “liked.” I haven’t taken my meds yet when I clicked it. Ironically, I’ve ‘been appointed by God’ to pray for sorry arse! Amen! God bless America!

    • David

       If you truly believe that your destiny is in another mans hands/ The Gov’t ,then you have forfeited your ability to control your own destiny.Equal opportunity can not guarantee an equal out come and that is simply the truth. Human beings are competitive and self serving by nature and therefore some people will be driven by different goals and desires that is one of the reason that there so  many different out comes, some more successful then others I prefer a system that values Liberty more so than equality. If equality is allowed to be the highest principal and you allow the gov’t to expand it’s powers to achieve that principal than it only would make sense that the liberty of an individual becomes collateral damage ensure that the collective has what it is being told what is owed to them. When politicians who’s only goal is to gain and exercise power are successful in convincing you that your rights come from them and that can insure your outcome and mitigate your personal mistakes and that your out come is not in your hands and when all of your expectation are not met it is because of people who have achieved success that you are being controlled by envy and that is one way a politician will manipulate you in to giving up your freedom to control your own destiny.Why is it that people have been convinced that the only way to make the strong is to make them strong week? Taking away someone else wealth improve your stature. Do you really believe that because someone else got lucky or made a good investment or came up with a brilliant idea that made them filthy rich holds you back? You probably  use a cell phone drive a car along everything else that some greedy rich man invented that has improved the quality of your life but you have been convinced they are your problem. wake dude and stop hating.

      • Anonymous

        Dear David,  It’s very difficult to understand what you’re trying to say.  The issues are very simple and do not require endless blathering comment.  There is no justification for excessive inequality.  It’s bad enough we have to deal with lives that are largely determined by the fates, but much worse that we should ever have to accept the fate of excessive inequality.  There is no justification for excessive inequality, which translates into excessive wealth and power for the lucky, and excessive impoverishment and weakness for the unlucky.  Any argument legitimizing excessive inequality is immoral, impractical, and intellectual gibberish. And of course anti-Christian.  You would do well to read the Gospel of Jesus.  And if you’re not a Christian, read whatever Holy Books matter to you.  Excessive inequality is universally accepted as morally wrong, the only exceptions coming from the corrupted and immoral who benefit from and take advantage of the impoverished and the weak.  Your comment is fascist nonsense.

        • Anonymous

          Hey Dennis, You may what to do some research. Our government of Capitalism is the only governemnt that has brought out more people out of poverty then any other else in history.  It’s used to out produce any other county until the left screw  it up. And as far as the bible try reading it some thing. Christ didn’t teach socalism. He taught personal responsibility. Christ taught this is not your home. Christ taught do not steel from the rich or poor. Live in the world but not by the world for riches. In Christ this world is a testing ground. Give your self from your own heart. Your not to force any one to give to you. Thou shall not steel. Thou shall not covet. Christ said people that live for manna(money in greek) shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. If you steel from people you are living for money. The thing with people are mostly  lazy and will suck or steel off others. I see the greed, coveting and steeling hits poor and rich alike. The founding fathers knew  history very will knew the democracy never worked people will vote them money tell theres no money left then it turns to dictatorship were a few on top get all the riches. They new the a nation of laws that protected the indivsional was fare and allow all to pursuit of happeness. Happeness is a individual thing. Some what riches some want a family. Some what to worship in church. The founding fathers said that a republic would not work useless the individual followed true Christian beliefs. Point in question Isam doesn’t believe in freedom and liberty. The quran teaches  infilitrate and conquer. So they are incompatable in our system of government. The quran teaches therocacy. Just another dictatorship.
          Whe the founding fathers were talking about religiuos right they were all Christians. They were talking about Christians freedom of rights. Do so research before you make up your mind. Like Simon Greenleaf said. Before you make a judgement look first at all the evidence. Green leaf was and is the foremost expert on evidence of law we use know to history.

          • Dnileriverafter

            And, lest we forget, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for one day..TEACH a man to fish, and he will eat FOREVER!!…Bibled!!^5

          • Quasimodo

            I am Ukrainian. It is unfortunate that your education is so pathetic. But it isn’t the citizens fault. It was the dream of Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Dewey. A simple test for the communist lovers? Ask them the great inventions and creations of Communist societies?

            The most advanced and greatest number of contribution was the AK-47. I think that says everything needed to be said.

        • Patrick Davis

          Dear Dennis,
          What Bible are you reading? No where in the Bible does it talk about inequality. In fact, there are several places where it states that we are unequal. Jesus himself gave the parable of the talents. More were given to one then to another. He also stated that the poor would be with us always. Paul said that each was given a different measure of faith. And again that some gifts of the spirit were given to some, and other gifts were given to others. It’s anti-christian to believe that for some reason you should have more instead of using the abilities and gifts you were given. It also says in the Bible that God has given some of us the power to gain wealth. This falls under the blessings that those who love and serve Him recieve. If you are not doing those things He asks of us, then don’t expect to revieve the benefits. Inequality has not, to my knowledge, been universally accepted as morally wrong. Nations throughout history understood that there will always be those who have less and some that have more. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was just the way it was.

        • steve

          who defines equality or inequality, the intellectual progressive who consider themselves above the common herd. looking down from your lofty perch allows you to disregard failed doctrine over and over again to make yourself fell superior to all you deem below you. Your comments are childish and sophistic at best and delusional at worst. How nice of you to speak for the universe, universally accepted is the argument of fools, as is name calling those who would disagree with your blather.

    • LyingKing

      The markets did all that. You can’t give credit to the government for that. So my 60 hour days working while you jerked off were luck? GFY.

  • Anonymous

    In in if we had not expanded the role of government beyond the visions of the 1790’s we would today still be faced with chattel slavery in the south and wage slavery in the north.  To suggest United States society experienced a golden age prior to the progressive movements of the period 1890 to 1940 is an absurdity. I defy you to explain away each and every horror that marked United States society before each and every law that was passed to correct those horrors.

    • Dnileriverafter

      You DO know they had slavery in the North..right?

  • Anonymous

    @bobbyb !!All rise for ‘judge mental!” Get a life!

  • Roy Garner

    Progressive-ism = more drone strikes 

  • Eric Bischoff

    Glenn Beck and the supposedly conservative, libertarian crowd spend an awful lot of energy blaming all of the ills of our society on the left and the progressives when in reality the left and the progressives have never governed this country, they have merely pushed back against the abuses and the oppression mostly done by the wealthy status quo. 

    We had a revolution to get away from abusive kings and their courts only to end up with abusive CEOs and Politicians.When I think of left progressive movements in this country, I think of Margaret Meade’s quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” We are a minority but, unlike the right conservative libertarian crowd, we are more committed to and interested in integrating knowledge to improve humankind than just enriching ourselves while  operating under the disingenuous moniker of liberty.

  • Anonymous

     Liberal Democrats have been co-opted into the Progressive Movement thinking it is just a “cool” name. Who doesn’t want to be “Progressive”? It started 1880’s with a goal to downplay our Founder’s limited government with individual responsibility and progress to a state controlled society. The underlying theory is that the community has absolute right and determines its own destiny and that of its members. Thus, it trumps individual right and rights to individual property. Eventually, it progresses to a World Governing Body.  Many Liberal Democrats are fighting back especially with the United Nations  “Agenda 21″ which is dangerous to American Freedom & her Constitution.  The thought is that the “ends justify the means” and that they know better what is right for you than you do. That is where the deception and nudging progresses you in behaving and agreeing to their agenda without you knowing or realizing the end goal.

  • Anonymous

    I think, that Evils greatest accomplishment is to make us believe that it does not exist. Over the past 100 years, Progressives have used this to chip away at the Constitution and ultimately taking our freedom from us in the form of bigger Government.
    The only way to defeat this Evil, is to expose it for lie it really is and the only way we can expose it, is
    with the truth!

  • Anonymous

    Our educators, scientists, and other responsible people such as media people are tasked with teaching rational thinking that includes evidence-based reality, that is, the transmission of Enlightenment principles. This is in contrast with previous generations and today’s Arab societies, where educators are tasked with transmission of the word of the Lord God. Scientists teach valid science, not false science that may currently be popular. Responsible politicians focus on the optimum way of improving the prosperity of the nation along with justice, avoiding falsehoods that seem to win votes and power (money).

    The Hebrew Bible commands us to keep the moral principles so that we and our descendants may live long in the land that God gave us. Even though this was written millennia prior to the Enlightenment, modern society accepts basic moral principles and the goal of good living.

    Unfortunately, too many people are not this way. Too many scientists teach false science. Too many politicians advocate ideas destructive to our nation’s economy and sense of justice. The simple answer is greed; however, this is too simple and hides the dangerous reality that we must understand, face, and overcome.

    President Wilson urged Congress to declare war on Germany, saying “we fight for the ultimate peace of the world…” This was a lie. Had we not declared war, the horrors of the 20th century, such as the Holocaust and World War II, may not have happened. Wilson was the first Progressive leader, speaking about peace while declaring war.

    Progressivism is one of the 20th century isms. Communism is another ism. The struggle for freedom against Communism took many long decades, and has not been totally defeated. We know from this struggle that a citizen living in a Communist regime can only fight against the regime, but cannot compromise, for compromise is not possible. The reason why is that negotiation is only possible if both sides accept rational Enlightenment thinking, namely, that ideas must make sense and agree with empirical evidence. An example of irrational thinking is the CRA law, for it is mathematical nonsense for the government to dictate mortgage rates to banks. Socialism is another example of a senseless idea contrary to Enlightenment thinking.

    Progressives must lie in order to advance their irrational ideas. Progressives say America is oppressive and unjust. We must fight this canard, and loudly state that we are not oppressive and unjust, but instead accept Enlightenment principles.

    Saying criminals are created by our evil society is another canard. People, except severe mental patients and such, act based upon their decisions. The criminal committed evil because he chose to do so, not because of “society”. Over the millennia of human history, education is the only proven way to permanently change people. During the 18th and 19th centuries we educated people for moral values. Sadly, 20th century Progressivism contains dangerous values that educators must shun. In order to protect our national security and prosperity, we need to reject Progressivism and return to 19th century education.

    The Progressive Party challenged Harry Truman in his 1948 run for President, because he opposed the spread of Stalin’s empire. Stalin was one of the most evil, destructive, horrible people who ever lived. Since Progressives looked favorably to Communists like Stalin, we must do what we can to work hard to defeat Progressives in elections, in order to keep our national economy and security, based upon Enlightenment principles, safe and secure. We must not compromise with these people. We must not give them the benefit of the doubt. We must proclaim they lie, that is, knowingly speak falsehood. We must not fear losing elections or our jobs if we say Progressives are wrong and liars.

    Progressives fail to pay attention to the results of their actions. Look at Detroit. For decades things worsened, the Democrats stayed in power and did not change any policies, and yet no one commented. This attitude of ignoring consequences is contrary to Enlightenment principles. We cannot survive if we continue to refuse to look at results of actions. People should be ashamed to call themselves Progressives.

    The medieval Robin Hood was a Progressive, as he took from the Haves and gave to the Have-nots. This was against Enlightenment principles.

    When Congressman Wilson shouted in Congress when President Obama was speaking that the President was lying, he was criticized when he should have been praised for pointing out the lies of the Progressive Obama. Since Progressives frequetly lie, we must never trust a Progressive, even if he is the President.

    As an influential person responsible for the future of our country, please do what you can to save our country by rational thinking, observation the results of out actions, and changing what we do as we see what happens.

    Thank you very much.

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