When I think of Progressives and I mean true Progressives and not just people who use the label to self-identify with because they believe its politically or culturally popular and don’t use it in pop culture terms, but in political terms, I think of people who believe in progress. Yes, that government can help create progress through government action and even programs, but only use government to create progress and not make things worst.
And certainly not create new programs for ideological purposes and be able to say we created this program or that program, but if you’re creating a new program or spending new revenue on it, you’re doing that because you know progress will be made. That there is a real need and use for that program, or regulation. That government programs are judged by whether they’re working or not. Not by how much money is being spent on them.
Are Welfare programs to use as an example, are they helping people to get out of poverty and become independent and empowering people to achieve freedom on their own. Or are they leaving them in poverty with a little more money than they use to have. That being a Progressive is about making things better and that you should also be fiscally responsible. Are government programs working or not. Are they outdated and need to be reformed, or are they now so successful that you no longer need then and can now scrap them and use those resources to fill another need.
A lot of times politicians especially populists on the Left tell their constituents that they delivered this program or that and spent this amount of money on this program or that one. What they tend to to fail to tell their constituents are the costs of those programs because in many cases they advertise those programs as being free. Like free college, free health care, to use as examples. They also tend not to tell voters the results of the programs that they support and how effective they are. But instead just tell voters how much money that they were able to spend on them.
Progressives are actually not like that and instead will say this is why this program was created to do this. And this is how much it costs you (meaning the taxpayers) and this is what we get for this investment. This is why we have this program and why we’re spending this money on it. Progressives are true American Patriots because of course they love America, but they really do love it and understand that no even great society is ever perfect and will ever be perfect.
That one major difference between a Progressive and Conservative, is that Conservatives believe in conserving. Keeping the status-quo as is. Progressives are about progress and making things better and moving forward. That as great as America is it can always be better and knowing that America will never be prefect, that you always strive for perfection, you always strive for perfect to make America as great as it can be.
To talk about this Teddy Roosevelt quote for a while which also happens to be the title of this piece and probably why I should talk about him and his quote. TR was right that absolute equality and absolute justice, won’t be obtain through taxation. We’ll never have a society where everything is equal and probably should never have this society. We’ll always have a society where some people are more productive than others and as a result will always do better than others. Not because of their race, ethnicity, or gender, but because they were better than their competition. They got a better education, understood their business better and as a result made better decisions and investments and advanced further than even some people he also had a good education and were able to get good jobs.
Teddy Roosevelt was a true Progressive because he believed in progress and using government to make things better for people. He was not Socialist Eugene Debbs (who was from the same era) politically who believed you needed a huge welfare state and even even government involvement in industry to take care of people for them.
What Teddy believed was in a regulatory state not to run business’s and private employers, but to protect innocent consumers and employees from predators. That their needed to be certain rules in the economy so you wouldn’t have monopolies but so consumers could purchase safe products and workers could work in safe working conditions.
Teddy also believed in a safety net for people who fall through the cracks of the American capitalist private enterprise system and need temporary financial relief when they’re unemployed or are working, but don’t make enough money to pay their bills. Not a welfare state to manage people’s lives for them because he saw people as essentially stupid who aren’t capable of making good decisions in society on their own.
So when Teddy Roosevelt says that absolute justice and absolute equality, can’t be obtain through taxation, I take that to mean that you can only tax the wealthy so much to take care of everyone else. That America is not Sweden and you can’t have the central government collecting all the revenue in the country and then deciding for everyone else what the people need to live well and then giving that money back equally.
What you need to do is create a society and economy where everyone has the opportunity and ability to succeed in life and be as productive as they possibly can, But then with a progressive tax system pay to the government based on what they earned. But not to the point that it discourages them from making a lot of money in the future. As well as a regulatory state to play referee and not the head coach of private organizations and a safety net to help people get back up when they fall down.