Adam Serwer at the American Prospect writes:
Recently, Cato’s C. Bradley Thompson wrote about neoconservatism, saying that neoconservatives “are and always have been, by contrast, defenders of the post–New Deal welfare state.” Other than David Frum, I’m not aware of too many conservatives who have offered forceful defenses of the New Deal welfare state. Rather, as neoconservatism has become the dominant foreign-policy ideology of the Republican Party, there’s been a hybridization of neoconservative foreign-policy aggressiveness with more traditional conservative hostility toward social insurance. As a result, America’s war expenses have become an untouchable driver of deficits that provide pretext for dismantling the welfare state.
Serwer is right about the neocons’ attachment to the military budget and foreign intervention, though he leaves out the Democrats’ record on this very issue — contrary to the usual neocon complaint, the Democrats have not in fact sought to “gut” the military. Neither the Clinton nor the Obama record suggests any such thing. It’s one big, corrupt system that we are tricked into thinking involves two diametrically opposed parties.
Also, Serwer, like most leftists, is dead wrong when it comes to Republicans and social welfare. He genuinely thinks they want to repeal the welfare state. They have shown zero interest in doing anything of the kind. Under Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, GOP Medicare reform meant increasing spending by 6% instead of 7.5% per year. That meant a difference in monthly premiums by 2002 of a whole five dollars.
Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, was well known for his support of the welfare state. Likewise for George Will. I’ll put it this way: when was the last time a neocon called for an actual cut — a real cut, not a first-derivative cut — in the welfare state? The Left has this view that the neoconservatives — who to them are the only Right that exists or is worth speaking of — are just waiting for the chance to eliminate the welfare state. This is serious delusion, but it is practically universal on the Left.
Serwer, unlike many progressives, has taken the Obama White House to task for some of its betrayals, so I am not nominating him for Worst Guy in the World. Just for Conventional Thinker.
Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [send him mail; visit his website], a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, is the author of eleven books, most recently Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse and Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, as well as the New York Times bestsellers Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. He is also the editor of five other books, including the just-released Back on the Road to Serfdom.
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I would argue that progressives exist both on the left and the right. We are used to calling big government statists progressives. But neo-cons are really progressives as well - defined as those who seek to use government force to advance their policies.
"Progressivism is a political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action."
The two sides just apply their progressivism to different areas...kind of.
All the attempts to define these groups by what they do is really no easy task.
For example, we have all these conservatives and libertarians seeking reform by voting and petitioning their national and local officials to do something via some form of governmental action.
I can't think of one group that doesn't seek changes or reform through governmental action, except those who are truly disconnected from all things political.
That's true. It is a matter of degrees. Labeling and categorizing is always in imperfect art because you are dealing in generalization. Perhaps I would do better to describe progressives as seeking change primarily through large, centralized government action dictated by an exclusive group of centralized planners.
Even under that spin, I am sure you can see the flip side.
I've about come to the point of ignoring labels altogether and just looking at the substance on a case-by-case basis.