The post below was first posted on November 28, 2010
George Will’s admirable prowess with the English language is well known, and his latest is a wonderful example of that ability to capture a profound truth and make it seem obvious by the power of the words used to tell it:
Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.
That’s how Will ends his column in The Washington Post under the title, Our Puritanical Progressives.
The verb “Pecksniffian” and the noun “Pecksniffery” are derived from the unctuous hypocrite Seth Pecksniff in Dickens’ 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit.
The thesis of Will’s column is that while the social crusaders of the past were overt religious fanatics, today’s crusaders operate in disguise but take their inspiration from a political stance that is just as fanatical as any religion, and in most respects constitutes a substitute for religion and operates exactly the same. Will produces an apt quote from a lawyer for the video-game industry: “Today’s crusaders,” the lawyer said, “come less from the pulpit than from university social science departments, but their goals and tactics remain the same.”
The deep roots of liberalism, or progressivism as liberals now call themselves having dirtied the word “liberal”, are to be found in American Puritanism. They are driven more by a desire to control people’s lives than to make them better.
More on the connection between Puritanism and liberalism, or progressivism, here.
Unlike other religions in the West, Progressives want to use government to impose their plans for betterment on their fellow man. Thus, absolute government is necessary to their achieving their agenda. Alexis de Tocqueville had this to say about people who admire expansive government:
“A man’s admiration of absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.”
— From The Old Regime and The French Revolution