“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” H.L Mencken. Were he alive today, Mencken might choose for his famous aphorism the verb “improve humanity,” what, since one hundred years on, with indoor plumbing, bountiful food production, antibiotics, and childhood vaccination, we’ve pretty much claimed the low hanging fruit of things that need saving. But improving, there is to infinity and beyond left of improving to do.
Take the current national dust up over monuments to slave owners and confederate soldiers. Well, that’s a sticky wicket and a story with seven sides. Arguments about history, about reasons the North and South reconciled like family instead of hostile nations, arguments about loyalty of warriors to place and people and family that had nothing to do with slavery,arguments about transcendent moral principles that should be shouted still today, lots of arguments.
Now, some people might think that a nation fighting a civil war, adopting three Constitutional amendments, passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 all to attain equality before the law, and then establishing Equal Opportunity Offices in state and federal governments across the land, all to spot and prosecute unlawful discrimination, is a world historic achievement toward equal rights and opportunity.
But, those people don’t understand the governing principle of endless tinkering and improvement. Government’s work is never done. And there are new wrongs to discover. Some monument perched in the same spot for 150 years suddenly decided to start oppressing and offending someone’s domestic tranquility. So, off with its pedestal.
Not to be left out of the progress sweeping the historic South, one Colorado politician posted this message to her friends:
Help me grow a Colorado-specific list. If we were to remove tribute or vestiges of confederacy, white supremacists, KKK located right here in Colorado, what would you remove or rename? SHARE if you think others can help us create this list.
There followed a thread of 122 comments with suggestions for place names, monuments, historical figures, etc., that need to be airbrushed from the Mile High landscape. The interesting thing about this is the direction the prompt came from. It not a case of aggrieved neighbors or descendents, or even ambitious school children identifying a problem and raising it for resolution. No, it is a government activist effectively asking people to comb through street signs, parks, cemeteries, maybe dig up a few skeletons, and make suggestions for historic purification.
Like I said. Government’s work is never done. That kind of captures the divide between a classical Constitutional vision and a progressive state improvement vision.
Believers in limited government and maximum freedom believe government’s role is to secure the peace and safeguard people’s rights, fundamentally, the right to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which of course covers the rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights including speech, worship, and property, and much more.
With a federal and state structure organized to protect national security and domestic tranquility, the pieces are in place to let people pursue happiness.
To the progressive mind, that is a barbarically bare set up, and we might as well live in Somalia (except, it’s a stupid comeback, because Somalia doesn’t offer its people any of those elements of peace and stability). Progressive see a different mission for government and a different relationship between people and the state. Progressives want government policies rooted in the Leftist idea that Western Society is unjust and decadent in every important way. It is pervasively racist, sexist, economically exploitive, and corruptly consumerist. They want government that is engaged in the permanent project of transforming society and perfecting humanity by regulating, prohibiting, fining, and fine tuning these flaws of the patriarchy out of existence.
That opens every door. Nutrition. Energy consumption. Yard watering. Mode of transportation. Style of living. Manner of speaking to each other. Civil rights moves from barring discrimination to attacking “cultural appropriation” or mandating the correct pronoun for every known gender and those yet to be discovered. Policing bathroom portals. Etc.
When the mission of government is perfecting humanity and the world we live in, there will never be a moment to declare “mission accomplished.” The noble hunt for the next problem and the next law will prove that there actually is such thing as perpetual motion.
And that is just how progressives want it.