I have a confession.
From today onwards, I’m going to call myself a progressive.
Now before all who revere liberty, government restraint, and Constitutional originalism immediately write me off, allow me to explain. We have a chance to change the public narrative, if we seize this opportunity.
Merriam-Webster defined progressive as “of or relating to progress; making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities; and being of or relating to moving forward or onward.”
Progressivism comes from the “Idea of Progress”, which asserts that advancement in technology, science, and social order improves the human condition and will ultimately improve the quality of life. The “Idea of Progress” was developed during the Age of Enlightenment where we, as individuals, realized we can use our minds to discover truth; man no longer needed to rely on a ruling class for truth and well-being.
There’s no harm in that definition of progress, right? So why do we let an ideology that’s in favor of increasing government control lay claim to a word that optimistically embodies the hope to innovate and improve the human condition? Ultimately, we cannot be afraid of words or the process of redefining their meaning.
Instead, we need to harness the power of words to change the narrative in favor of the principles of a free society. The free society breeds progress.
We must create a new narrative with powerful stories that demonstrate how a free society creates a culture where human progress thrives.
For example, consider how the narrative changed for the word “liberal” by those who favored more State control. In the classical sense, liberalism is a philosophy rooted in individual liberty and limited government. However, over the last century, much to the chagrin of Ludwig von Mises and his defense of Liberalism In the Classical Tradition, liberalism is now falsely understood as an ideology that represents being liberal with the government’s use of force to hand out advantages to certain special interests or classes of people. Today’s conceptualization of “liberalism” is not individual liberty – it is being liberal with the use of force through the State.
We can use the same strategy with the word “liberal” to offer a counter narrative to the word “progressive”.
Those who advocate for a free society seek progress with the goal of improving the overall quality of life for all Americans. This happens through the unrestrained innovation of a free people that’s unhindered by a regressive government.
Freedom outside of government force gave us progressive innovations like Uber and Airbnb. Progressives, as currently understood, do not favor progress and well-being; they favor Statism — the concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government. Statists try every angle to stop the voluntary relationship of the sharing economy. We, who advance a free society, are for progress; the regressive controlling ideology is for The State. I am a progressive; they are Statists.
It may seem like an uphill battle to wrestle the word progressive away from Statists. However, our voices are loudest and most amplified at the local level in our individual neighborhoods. At the Grassroots Leadership Academy, we empower citizen activists to create counter narratives at the community level. We tell stories of how a free society provides progress for all, especially the least fortunate among us.
So, go ahead. Call yourself a liberal. Call yourself a “progressive” – after all, you are. Confuse the heck out of the opposition. Their ideology isn’t liberal or progressive anyway. Their ideology is regressive – it favors the State, not the progress of individuals.
Join me – it’s time to redefine the narrative for our country!