By Scott Galupo, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Easy, tiger! On his radio show today, Glenn Beck responded to my post yesterday about Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. I’m not sure he, or his research staff, made it beyond the headline. Not only did I not try to airbrush the history of Wilson and Progressivism, I explicitly said the movement was “indeed guilty of much of the baggage that [Jonah] Goldberg lays at its doorstep.”
For the record: I’m no fan of Wilson in particular nor of Progressivism generally. I think Wilson’s record on civil liberties and his views on race were as abominable as Beck says they are. What I was trying to argue was that, despite these quite significant blemishes, the guy was no flaming anti-capitalist.
Jonah concedes in Liberal Fascism that Wilson’s “war socialism was temporary.” So, too, was the more broadly restrictive war socialism of early 1940s. I can only surmise that, because World War II is still thought of in most quarters as the “Good War,” we don’t collectively remember the rationing of basic goods then as “socialism” but, rather, as a necessary sacrifice.
How deeply into civil society could a presidential administration have burrowed if it was immediately followed by the relatively laissez-faire 1920s?
And, furthermore, I tried to argue that there is more of a continuity between classical liberalism—the philosophy of limited government and individual liberty—and progressivism than people think. As Garry Wills, who got me onto this kick in the first place, put it: “The Invisible Hand of Adam Smith’s celestial Providence became, in the utilitarian world of Bentham and Mill, the machinery of earthly Progress.”
Is there a straight line from Smith to Wilson? No. But there is a line. What the technocratic Wilson favored about all about markets was their (sometimes brutal) efficiency.
Thanks, in any case, Glenn, for reading.