I've mentioned before that I'm not terribly comfortable with the political label "progressive." In part this is because I feel that the progressive movement of the early 20th century was a decidedly mixed blessing.
On the issue of how government should be structured, they were basically wrong. Their deep distrust of authority that led to the citizen initiative, long ballots, more widespread election of judges, division of power at the state and local level among multiple executive branch officials, odd ball institutions like grand juries called by petition in Kansas, and overly strict civil service and public contracting rules that have hobbled the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector in the United States fueling our strong privatization movement. Their distrust of political parties which led them to greatly weaking their institutional power, has also been mostly a bad thing. And, then there is prohibition, which they fervantly supported, which brought us gangsters, organized crime and public corruption.
Not everything the progressive did was bad, but enough that I'm not thrilled about the modern incarnation. Also, my politics now differ in a number of areas from the progressive orthodoxy.
But, perhaps the defining thing that makes me a Democrat and a liberal is that I do believe that we can make progress. I believe that physics will untangle most of the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy, quantum mechanics and general relativity, if not in my lifetime, in that of my children. I believe that medicine will largely conquer cancer and a host of other serious diseases and will have a much more biochemical/neurological understanding of our personalities and mental illness as well, in the same time frame. I believe that public policy changes can dramatically reduce crime on a sustained basis. I believe that private sector economic efforts combined with reformed public policies can and will make our economy far more productive. I believe that most legislation has a net positive effect on our society. I believe that the human race will develop a sustainable modern post-oil economy. I believe that we will survive global warming and will not be wiped out by some new epidemic. I believe that political institutions can end war in large regions for sustained periods of time and that we are moving incrementally towards that end in large portions of the world. I believe that the human race will not be obliterated by war and that humanity could regain its current technological and social sophistication after just a couple hundred years even in the face of a catastrophy that destroyed 99% of the human population. I believe that the population of the world will slowly follow the lead of Europe and become more secular, although that may go by fits and starts and take a few centuries to reach its apex.
We have learned the power of empirical evidence and analysis of it, and if we follow that star, we can continue to make dramatic strides forward.
I blog, and I am political, because I have the hope that positive change is possible and feel an obligation to do what I can to assist in that process. So, in that sense, I guess that I am a progressive.