27 April 2010

The State and Society

The Independent Review | David Henderson | From “Porous” to “Ruthless” Conscription, 1776–1917

Progressivism is, in part, the belief that citizens owe a duty to the state and that the state has the right to use coercion to exact the payment owed. [...]
And that's reason #1 I part ways with Progressivism. A free citizen has zero filial or feudal duty to the state. I have responsibility to my own conscience, to my family, and to my neighbors. The last of those may extend to encompass "neighbors" in the whole of human society, but there is no special responsibility that ends at those neighbors on this side of a political border.  Furthermore the state is not a legitimate agent of society, so my duty to society is not transitive to the state which claims to represent it.

Note though that I part ways with Conservatism in exactly the same way: I do not owe my state military service, I do not owe its symbols or leaders or employees any special piety, I am not bound to respect it's legislation simple by virtue of them being my home nation's legislation.

Henderson backs up his claim with several quotations from early Progrssives, including this cringeworthy one.
Herbert Croly, who wrote The Promise of American Life and helped to found
The New Republic magazine in 1914, was one of the leading figures in this new ideological movement. He put the Progressive view more bluntly: "A democracy organized into a nation, and imbued with the national spirit, will seek by means of experimentation and discipline to reach the object which Tolstoy would reach by an immediate and miraculous act of faith. The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe coercive measures, but what schooling does not?" ([1909] 1965, 282-83).
That last line should go up on school walls everywhere just to make it explicit exactly what American public schools entail.

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