R.I.P. Golden State
Oh, California. You’ve been on the brink of madness for years, but methinks you’ve finally fallen off your fulcrum. Progressivism has deep roots in California and we’re now seeing the rotten blossoms of this pernicious ideology. For those unfamiliar with the term, Progressivism is defined by Wikipedia as “a political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action.” It is part of the long history of innocuous-sounding phrases which the Left uses to couch its more detrimental ideologies (see “choice”, “diversity”, and “tolerance”).
How that translates for you and I is the exponential increase of GOVERNMENT REGULATION. Progressives don’t trust you to make decisions on your own, or I should say that they don’t trust that you’ll make the decision that they want you to make. So they use regulation to ensure that you will make the CORRECT (read: their preferred) decision. This is an anti-American ideology and is unarguably harmful to our nation’s guaranteed rights. One of the many beautiful things about America is that we are free to act and express ourselves as we see fit, provided we don’t trespass on the rights of our neighbors. I am free to do the Chicken Dance in my own yard 24 hours a day, if I see fit. The only way anyone should be able to force me to stop is if my dancing is infringing on their rights, like if my music is too loud or I’m trampling someone’s flowers on their property for example. Incrementally, we have had our rights and freedoms eroded in this country, most often under the guise of it being “best for the community”. The Progressive mindset is an alluring temptress, I must admit. We can all probably think of times when we were sufficiently annoyed at the actions of someone and thought “I wish someone would write a law and throw that idiot in jail!” We like to think that our way is the best way and therefore everyone else should be following it.
We see the fruit of Progressivism in the UK and Europe. Britain now has 1 closed-circuit camera (CCTV) for every 14 people (1). That’s 1.5x the amount of cameras in Communist China, despite the fact that China’s population dwarfs England’s. The People’s Republic of China, one of the most repressive regimes in the world, has 1 camera for every 472,000 people. Britain also has trash police, called “bin police”. Households are forced to choose a resident to be in charge of their trash bins. Whoever is named as the household’s trash representative faces fines of 100 pounds and “a criminal record if their household then puts the wrong rubbish in its wheelie bins, puts them out too soon, or puts them in the wrong place” (2). But it doesn’t end there. The questionnaire which the household representative is asked to fill out asks if “there are any other reasons why a member of your household generates more rubbish than average (e.g. a medical condition). Please tell us about this.” Progressivism sneaks the camel’s nose under the tent by parading behind the guise of acting for the good of the community. But as with any form of power-grantingoperatus, we humans cannot resist abusing positions of power and control. Progressivism quickly devolves into nit-picking insanity and regulatory power-trips, at the very least.
How does this involve California, you might ask. California has been on the cutting edge of American Progressivism since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1902, progressive Republicans in the state formed the “Lincoln-Roosevelt League” and 10 years later Hiram W. Johnson became the running mate for Teddy Roosevelt on the new Progressive Party ticket. Like many Progressive utopias, California seemed an idyllic success. Buoyed by the discovery of gold and oil, and the resulting population and economic boom, California was attracting all kinds of entrepreneurs. MGM, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers were the first 3 film studios to build production facilities in Hollywood. By 1950, Hollywood was the epicenter of film and television production. Following World War II, California enjoyed steady, upward population growth, most noticeably in the Los Angeles area. The population of the state grew to 20 million residents by 1970. By 1980, California was the world’s eight-largest economy (3).
Fast forward to today:
- Unemployment sits at 12.4%, more than 200 basis points above the national percentage (4).
- They have lost more jobs than any other state in the union during the current downturn (5).
- The state is facing a $26b shortfall for this fiscal year’s budget. This budget gap is larger than the annual GDPs of Cyprus, Albania, Senegal and Jamaica.
- Predictions are the they will be another $19b short next year, that’s in addition to this current shortfall.
How is this possible? How does a state, blessed with such rich natural resources and welcoming climate become the pauper of the United States? Quite simply, Progressivism. Over the past year the liberal mecca of San Francisco has banned Happy Meals, which have been a staple of fun for kids since I was a rug-rat. Why? “‘We’re part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice,’ said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure(6).” That’s right: food justice. We know justice is blind, apparently it’s also lacking taste-buds. They believe that children shouldn’t eat high-calorie foods or be enticed to do so by a free toy, so they decided that no one can have a Happy Meal. Never mind McDonald’s right to sell any product deemed legal to anyone who wishes to buy one. Never mind my right to buy a Happy Meal and deal with the consequences myself. It is not allowed. They know better than you what you should and should not be doing to your body. There are now lots of families who will not be buying Happy Meals at McDonalds anymore. This hurts McDonalds’ revenue. Why would McDonalds Corporation have any desire to open more of their restaurants in a city that tells them what they can and cannot sell? They wouldn’t. It’s such a seemingly “noble” gesture by the City Council, but once we start to examine the ramifications, it’s not hard to see how progressivism bankrupts a community by a) taking the responsibility and initiative out of the hands of the individual and b) creating regulation which forces businesses to make cost-ineffective adjustments.
Surely that’s it though, right? After that guffaw-inducing decision, surely California no longer wants to be the butt of jokes anymore. Sorry Charlie, they’re just getting warmed up. Voters will be asked to vote in 2011 on a measure in San Francisco next year which would ban the practice of circumcision (7). That’s right, this measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise your child, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in prison. And that’s not all. Long-known as a haven to hippies, beat poets, and the down-and-out, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco isn’t quite so hospitable these days. Proposition L, which passed with 53% support in November, makes it a crime to sit or lay on public sidewalks from the hours of 7am to 11pm. That’s right, you cannot sit on a public sidewalk during the daytime. Ostensibly this is to curb all of the loafers and deadbeats which this neighborhood (and city) attracts. Anyone who has visited this city will tell you they are a scourge, but that’s only because the city prided itself on a “tolerant” attitude towards the bums. Now the bums have over-ridden the city and no one can sit on a sidewalk anymore. I would imagine the next step is to ban sitting and laying on public benches next. There is no end to this madness. Progressive policy is a chinese finger-trap. Once you’ve bought into it, you can’t get out without more progressive policies. It’s intrusive and negates our God-given freedoms, which thousands of Americans have fought and died to protect.
But the ultimate reason why Progressivism is wrong should be apparent to any grace-believer. Progressivism represents legalism and a return to the Law. It posits that the reason why you won’t do something is because there is a law forbidding you to do so. As believers, we know that the Law awakens sin in human nature and encourages our innate rebel nature. As we understand the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should come to see that the motivation of the heart is of the utmost importance, far more important that adherence to the law out of fear. To relate it to the examples we are discussing, if we are truly adults and worthy of the freedoms and responsibilities which we have been granted, it should be no trouble at all for us to use the correct trash bin. The trouble with Progressivism (and legalism by proxy) is that the more a culture is exposed to it, the harder it is to wean them from the teat. A people get used to being confined by laws and regulations and are completely unable to even comprehend liberty (grace).
This is the reason why I champion liberty and decry Progressivism. Not so that I can have the freedom to act without consequence, but that I might fulfill my duties and responsibilities by choice, not compulsion. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:1-4).