Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

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Cervisiae Amatorem
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Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Cervisiae Amatorem » Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:31 pm UTC

Full disclosure here; I'm a middle class white guy from suburban USA, so that's why I'm asking for a more worldly point of view.

I was thinking about the fights for gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, and so on. It's seems like it's going that way; in the not too distant future that homosexual couples will have full and equal rights to heterosexual couples. That marijuana will be legalized, taxed and controlled similarly to alcohol.

If I smugly look at how African Americans are treated in this country, I see that their situation is brighter today than 50 years ago, and that was better than 100 years ago, and that was better than 200 years ago. In fits and starts, two steps forward then one step back, by no means "done". But generally more civilized and equal with each generation, for most social issues.

Is this just survivorship bias with the issues I'm reviewing? Have there been other issues which seemed like they were going to go change society but then fizzled? In 100 years, will our great grandchildren look back on an issue like gays openly serving in the military and say "What were those people thinking? That was a more disastrous experiment than Prohibition!"

Is it even possible to view this objectively? If I look back to the founding of this country, it was a radical notion that the gov't should be comprised of completely of regular people who were elected by regular people. (No royalty or hereditary gentry? Preposterous! How can you expect to govern a nation without divine provenance selecting the ruling class?) But equally absurd to that time period would be the notion that women and blacks should be enfranchised.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Derek » Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:07 pm UTC

Well you already named one example: Prohibition was considered a progressive movement in it's day. This also shows the subjective nature of "progressive". Prohibition was progressive at the beginning of the 20th century, but a hundred years later marijuana legalization is considered progressive (by some at least).

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby elasto » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:37 pm UTC

How are you defining 'Progressive' there? To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people. With that definition it's hard for me to think of a progressive reform that failed. Prohibition was definitely regressive in those terms - as is the existing war on drugs.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby sigsfried » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:56 pm UTC

England getting rid of the Monarchy was certainly considered progressive. Didn't last long and is now almost unthinkable.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby guenther » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:13 pm UTC

elasto wrote:How are you defining 'Progressive' there? To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people. With that definition it's hard for me to think of a progressive reform that failed. Prohibition was definitely regressive in those terms - as is the existing war on drugs.

According to this, NAMBLA is progressive, and it certainly hasn't met much success.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Derek » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:18 pm UTC

elasto wrote:How are you defining 'Progressive' there? To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people. With that definition it's hard for me to think of a progressive reform that failed. Prohibition was definitely regressive in those terms - as is the existing war on drugs.

Prohibition was closely tied to the progressive movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Hence:
This also shows the subjective nature of "progressive". Prohibition was progressive at the beginning of the 20th century, but a hundred years later marijuana legalization is considered progressive (by some at least).

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby sam_i_am » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:23 pm UTC

elasto wrote:How are you defining 'Progressive' there? To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people. With that definition it's hard for me to think of a progressive reform that failed. Prohibition was definitely regressive in those terms - as is the existing war on drugs.



Progressive means moving forward toward new ideas, bringing about change, etc.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:25 pm UTC

One of my favorites:
Martin Luther King wrote:The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice


I think more than anything, people will look back on our homophobic, sexist tendencies and put them in the same category as how abhorrent slavery was.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby elasto » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:31 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Progressive means moving forward toward new ideas, bringing about change, etc.

Oh, if we're making it as bland as 'change' then, no, not all change is good. Vista wasn't as good as XP, so there's an example right there. Under that definition practically every law ever passed is progressive - the DMCA, the Patriot Act etc.

guenther wrote:According to this, NAMBLA is progressive, and it certainly hasn't met much success.

I'm not sure I'd regard NAMBLA as progressive. It trades improved rights for adults for reduced rights for children - and it's a poor trade-off imo (and likely yours). Contrast that with gay marriage - which improves rights for homosexuals without in any way reducing rights for heterosexuals. Indisputably progressive - under my definition and likely any other.

sigsfried wrote:England getting rid of the Monarchy was certainly considered progressive. Didn't last long and is now almost unthinkable.

It's an idea whose time will come again. We've been lucky because we've had a good monarch for the last sixty odd years. William will likely be a good king too. Dictatorship works better than democracy too if you have a wise, benevolent leader in the post - but I assume most here would think it a bad idea in general none-the-less. It'll only take one bad king for the idea to surface once again.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby lutzj » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:49 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
guenther wrote:According to this, NAMBLA is progressive, and it certainly hasn't met much success.

I'm not sure I'd regard NAMBLA as progressive. It trades improved rights for adults for reduced rights for children - and it's a poor trade-off imo (and likely yours). Contrast that with gay marriage - which improves rights for homosexuals without in any way reducing rights for heterosexuals. Indisputably progressive - under my definition and likely any other.


If you restrict your definition to those things which you consider good ideas, you're going to have a hard time finding failures, no? I think good intent on the part of people pushing for reform is enough.

With that in mind, I can think of a few off the top of my head in addition to the aforementioned Prohibition:

    Eugenics
    Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism
    The early-19th-century effort to relocate African slaves in the US to Liberia
    Fascism
    Numerous attempts to simplify language (simplified spelling, Esperanto, etc.)
    The League of Nations
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby guenther » Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:55 pm UTC

elasto wrote:I'm not sure I'd regard NAMBLA as progressive. It trades improved rights for adults for reduced rights for children - and it's a poor trade-off imo (and likely yours). Contrast that with gay marriage - which improves rights for homosexuals without in any way reducing rights for heterosexuals. Indisputably progressive - under my definition and likely any other.

How are the children's rights reduced? Consider a situation where the boy and his parents agree to the sexual relationship. Despite this, it's still illegal. Legalizing it would grant more rights, but it doesn't force anyone to do it that doesn't want to.

(By the way, gay marriage increases the rights for both straight and gay people alike.)
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby elasto » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:01 am UTC

lutzj wrote:If you restrict your definition to those things which you consider good ideas, you're going to have a hard time finding failures, no?

How did I do that? Here's my definition once again:

me wrote:To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people.


Nothing there about whether the right being extended is a good one or a bad one.

lutzj wrote:With that in mind, I can think of a few off the top of my head in addition to the aforementioned Prohibition:

Eugenics
Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism
The early-19th-century effort to relocate African slaves in the US to Liberia
Fascism
Numerous attempts to simplify language (simplified spelling, Esperanto, etc.)
The League of Nations


To my mind, if Prohibition can be regarded as Progressive so can virtually any law passed ever. They are all intended to 'reform' some aspect of society - and there's invariably some plausible rationale behind it (even if the true reason for passing the law is self-serving).

I regard a law as Progressive if it improves the sum total of rights and freedoms of citizens, and Regressive if it rolls them back. Maybe that definition sucks but, frankly, I think the other definitions suck too :p

guenther wrote:How are the children's rights reduced? Consider a situation where the boy and his parents agree to the sexual relationship. Despite this, it's still illegal. Legalizing it would grant more rights, but it doesn't force anyone to do it that doesn't want to.

It's a controversial topic to dip a toe into, but frankly I think our laws do need some reform in this area. I think teenagers under the existing age of consent do often receive a rough ride, and there are occasions where people in a loving, consensual relationship are punished unfairly.

There is a hard cutoff at the age of puberty, though: A child who has not gone through puberty simply does not have the intellectual and emotional machinery to engage in a sexual relationship in a way that will not result in deep and lasting psychic harm. You only have to hear some of the stories surrounding, say, Jimmy Saville where girls have, at the time, willingly given him sexual favors in return for appearing on his show or whatever - and it has resulted in decades of self-hatred, worthlessness, shame etc.

Children have a right to be protected from being persuaded to make decisions that are almost certain to destroy their lives. Being persuaded to have sex with an adult is one such decision they need to be protected from making, but there are others too.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby guenther » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:38 am UTC

Parents and the government have an obligation to protect children, but it seems silly to classify this as a right that children have. They are being legally restricted, and consenting parents are likewise having their parental rights restricted.

And it makes sense to restrict the rights of kids because they can't be relied on to make good judgement. And similarly, we allow limits on parental rights to protect children from bad parents. But these do good by removing freedoms. And if progressive is purely about more or less freedom, then opposing those restrictions is certainly progressive.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby elasto » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:51 am UTC

I agree we're into difficult terminology here, but if you look at the UN's list of rights for the child there are clearly others that agree with me to class these things as rights. I don't know if there's any logical difference between 'a right group X has to receive behavior Y from group Z' and 'an obligation group Z has to perform behaviour Y towards group X'.

If you prefer to frame these things as obligations rather than rights I could alter my definition of Progressive to accommodate it I'm sure. For now consider it merely a shorthand then!

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby guenther » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:58 am UTC

I do think it makes sense to say that we have the right to be protected by our government. And this right implies an obligation by the government to protect us. But this protection is enabling our freedom to do things.

Do we have the right to be protected by the government from ourselves? This is my complaint. Consider crack, which is clearly harmful to people that use it. Does it makes sense to classify legal restrictions on crack as granting us a right? Or does it make more sense to consider it a limitation on our freedom?

If the metric for progressive is whether it grants more rights, then legalizing crack is progressive.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby elasto » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:24 am UTC

guenther wrote:I do think it makes sense to say that we have the right to be protected by our government. And this right implies an obligation by the government to protect us. But this protection is enabling our freedom to do things.

I agree. But consider the parallel to crack: The principle reason crack is bad is that it removes your freedom: Once you're on crack your ability to stop taking crack is reduced to near zero; Once you're on crack all your choices revolve around ways to get the means to take more crack.

Were it not for the addiction - were crack merely 'bad for you' - it'd no more make sense making crack illegal than making trans-fats illegal or sitting on a couch watching tv for 40 hours a week illegal. All of them are 'bad for you' over the long term after all.

The parallel extends to children's rights: The right for children to, say, be educated - and the parallel obligation for government to ensure an education is given - is all about enabling/maximising the child's freedom to do things - both then and in the future. Hence the establishment of a right to education for all children is a highly progressive thing - even though 'theoretically' it 'removes a right' (the right to choose not to be educated).

When thinking of crack, education, sexual abuse of children or anything else, the progressive approach to each is always to ask exactly the question you imply: "Does establishing/revoking a particular right increase or decrease the sum total of peoples' freedom to choose their own paths?"

The pathway that does so is the progressive one: It defines progress for society.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby lutzj » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:19 am UTC

elasto wrote:
lutzj wrote:If you restrict your definition to those things which you consider good ideas, you're going to have a hard time finding failures, no?

How did I do that? Here's my definition once again:

me wrote:To me it's about giving people more rights - or extending existing rights to more people.


Nothing there about whether the right being extended is a good one or a bad one.


You did concede that NAMBLA would ostensibly extend more rights to people. Could there be negative consequences from such an action? Sure. But there are also such negatives involved in allowing people to buy and sell alcohol.

As another example, certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act, which place requirements on privately-owned businesses not to discriminate, restrict rights but are obviously "progressive" in the spirit of the word.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby guenther » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:31 am UTC

elasto wrote:Were it not for the addiction - were crack merely 'bad for you' - it'd no more make sense making crack illegal than making trans-fats illegal or sitting on a couch watching tv for 40 hours a week illegal. All of them are 'bad for you' over the long term after all.

If you get fat from sitting on the couch and eating bad food, your choices are more limited. If you drop out of high school or decide to skip college, your have fewer options. If you gamble away all your money making poor investments, there's less things you can do. If you smoke cigarettes and die of lung cancer, your freedom has been severely limited. If the government imposes restrictions on any of these, is it protecting our right to do more in the future?

elasto wrote:When thinking of crack, education, sexual abuse of children or anything else, the progressive approach to each is always to ask exactly the question you imply: "Does establishing/revoking a particular right increase or decrease the sum total of peoples' freedom to choose their own paths?"

How you sum across people is poorly defined. What if we enslaved smart people to craft a better future that raised the standard of living for the everyone else. This yields a small group with little freedom, and a very big group with a lot more freedom.

But even if we set that aside (since we're not really talking about trade-offs between people), how you sum across time for one person is also poorly defined. We restrict the freedom of children to enable them to do more in the future. What if we could enable people to do even more at say 40 if we enforced a prescriptive lifestyle up through 30? Is this a net sum freedom improvement?

By the way, my gripe is not really about how you define progressive. Personally I think the established definition makes more sense: Progressivism is about of "progress" as in social change, in contrast with conservatism which promotes keeping things the same. But if you want to personally redefine it, then whatever.

My issue was with reclassifying restrictions as protecting your "right to be a better you". I think this puts the notion of rights in very murky territory. I think it makes sense to talk about restrictions on crack as protecting well-being rather than protecting rights. And the same with children and underage sex.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:09 am UTC

I'd have to say the public housing projects in the US have generally been a failure. Desegregation busing was a disaster. Affirmative Action is hard to determine as a success or failure; while the average Afromerican is somewhat better off today than 50 years ago, it's unclear how much is due to AA and how much is due to eliminating the Jim Crow laws.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:38 am UTC

Specific to the US, jailing seems a clearcut example where movement is often not in a progressive direction, for a wide range of definitions for 'progressive'.

Nuclear weapons might be a worldwide example where disarmament is usually considered the worthwhile and progressive direction (even by many people who consider it unrealistic), and also mostly failing. Countries are willing to cut back to the level where they can kill most of their enemies civilians once instead of multiple times, but not much further. The overall direction is slowly but steadily in the direction of more people with mass destruction capabilities. That's progress in some sense, but probably not what we're talking about.

In the murky territory, compulsory education is a good case to compare with prohibition (of alcohol and of other drugs). It's a straightforward case of limiting freedom, of parents and of children, but also usually counted as a worthwhile and a progressive cause. Not just in the US (where people have a somewhat peculiar view of rights etc), but worldwide.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:29 am UTC

it's hard to really judge some things because we tend to view things through the lens of current values.

nambla was mentioned as an extreme example but historically it's not that extreme. Viewed through the lens of our current social values, where sex incredibly important and significant and special with lots of guilt and shame and other baggage associated its horrific though a society which either through isolation(like some historical island nations) or tech didn't have to worry about STD's might classify sex in the same league as softball and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Or they might decide that exposing your legs is a big deal and think we're monsters for dressing children in shorts and skirts.

some things are hard to classify as progressive or regressive.
Talk to priests or feminists and they'll likely classify banning prostitution as progressive.
Talk to others and they might classify legalising and regulating prostitution as progressive.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby sigsfried » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:34 am UTC

It's an idea whose time will come again. We've been lucky because we've had a good monarch for the last sixty odd years. William will likely be a good king too. Dictatorship works better than democracy too if you have a wise, benevolent leader in the post - but I assume most here would think it a bad idea in general none-the-less. It'll only take one bad king for the idea to surface once again.


You can't consider 500 years as a set back.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby jules.LT » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:56 am UTC

What about reducing the legal duration of work? (remember that it does not stop anyone from taking overtime)
What about a nationwide medical insurance system?

I'm pretty sure those are progressive, but many Americans will disagree.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:02 pm UTC

part of the problem is that progressive and regressive are used like "good" and "bad". people define what they like as progressive.

strictly speaking decriminalisation is regressive because it's reverting to a former state. criminalisation is progressive as it's proceeding to a new state.

so you could say "has the country ever tried anything, found it didn't work and reverted to how things used to be"

long term the number of things which can be progressive decreases while the number of things which can be regressive increases.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:10 pm UTC

Nah, progressive has (among other meanings) a more specific meaning than 'in favour of progress' or 'in favour of change'. Just as democrat, in certain contexts, does not mean 'someone in favour of democracy', and communist, again in the right context, is not someone in favour of communes.

That narrower meaning of progressive is still broad and vague, just as democratic and communist cover a wide range of views even within their narrower meaning. But there is no need to add confusion on top of that.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:49 pm UTC

unfortunatly some of the common uses of the term genuinely contradict the more exact definition of it. though as with many of those other terms that isn't that odd since most of those have ended up with good/bad conotations as well.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:50 pm UTC

What do you consider the 'more exact' definition? I'd say there are two widely differing groups of meaning forthe word, that have really little to do with each other except for a shared etymology in the word progress.On the one hand, progressive as in progressive diseases or progressive scanning. Here it means something like 'making progress, ongoing in a roughly fixed direction'. It's obviously not what the OP is talking about.

The other group of meanings is something like 'according to the ideas of the progressive movement'. Which is a not a very sharply defined movement, but it is a historically coherent phenomenon. When people call something 'progressive' in this sense, they mean its somehow similar to earlier ideas that were called progressive. It's not about progress in general, but about a somewhat specific view how progress shoukd and will look like. Cynically, an attempt to use the word progress for a more specific agenda. Like socialism and social or libertarians and liberty, or Britpop and British pop music. A somewhat lefty agenda, and somewhat elitist within the family of leftist movements. More Fabian than socialist, historically. Not sure if it can be made more specific than that, without excluding too much real world examples of progressivism.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

well, the dictionary definition is a reasonable resource:

progressive
Adjective: Happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.
Noun: A person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.

Regressive
Becoming less advanced; returning to a former or less developed state.

either way progressive implies change and doing something new, changing to a new state rather than reverting to an old one or staying the same.

Regressive would be quite fairly applied to any group who look at some former state of afairs and say "that worked better than what we have now, let's do that again" but tends to be used as an insult so such people would probably call themselves traditionalists or some such rather than regressives.

simply defining it purely as whatever is done by someone who called themselves a progressive is the broadest possible definition and essentially meaningless.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:15 pm UTC

I am not following you here. Why would we look at a dictionary for the meanings of a word we already know? The interesting parts to discuss are the kind of subtleties in meaning that dictionaries do not attempt to capture.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:22 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I am not following you here. Why would we look at a dictionary for the meanings of a word we already know? The interesting parts to discuss are the kind of subtleties in meaning that dictionaries do not attempt to capture.


to point out that it does have a genuine clear meaning.

"progressive" doesn't just mean anything associated with or done by the progressive movement any more than "democratic" is just anything associated with or done by the democrats.

and as I said, of late it's lost most of it's actual meaning as in general use it's simply become a synonym for "good". people advocating ideas which aren't progressive under any meaning of the term will still call them progressive.

unless the op actually meant "Have there been any policies of actions of some of the groups loosely associated with the Progressive movements that failed?"
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:40 pm UTC

Huh? All words in a dictionary get a clear and concise definition, no matter how complicated they are in reality. It's what a dictionary does, provide simple definitions as a first step to understanding the word. Pointing at dictionary to show that a word has a clear meaning is like pointing at a map to show that the Alpes are flat and 10 centimeters from one side to the other.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:41 pm UTC

Cervisiae Amatorem wrote:Is this just survivorship bias with the issues I'm reviewing? Have there been other issues which seemed like they were going to go change society but then fizzled? In 100 years, will our great grandchildren look back on an issue like gays openly serving in the military and say "What were those people thinking? That was a more disastrous experiment than Prohibition!"


Sure. Eugenics was something considered progressive in it's time. It died pretty hard, and is a dirty word today.

"progressive" is a really broad label, tho. Really any new thing can fit under it, and some new ideas are bound to fail. In terms of things like taxes, progressive and regressive are well defined. In other areas...not so much.

guenther wrote:Do we have the right to be protected by the government from ourselves? This is my complaint. Consider crack, which is clearly harmful to people that use it. Does it makes sense to classify legal restrictions on crack as granting us a right? Or does it make more sense to consider it a limitation on our freedom?

If the metric for progressive is whether it grants more rights, then legalizing crack is progressive.


Would agree. That said, the cost of some rights might be fairly high. Proponents of drug legalization generally advocate starting with less dangerous drugs, like pot, and most agree that there are at least some drugs that can probably never be legalized, because it's simply too costly.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby The Great Hippo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Huh? All words in a dictionary get a clear and concise definition, no matter how complicated they are in reality. It's what a dictionary does, provide simple definitions as a first step to understanding the word. Pointing at dictionary to show that a word has a clear meaning is like pointing at a map to show that the Alpes are flat and 10 centimeters from one side to the other.
I looked up 'map' in the dictionary. The meaning says nothing about the Alpes being flat and 10 centimeters tall--in fact, it doesn't mention the Alpes at all! So clearly, you're wrong.
Tyndmyr wrote:
guenther wrote:Do we have the right to be protected by the government from ourselves? This is my complaint. Consider crack, which is clearly harmful to people that use it. Does it makes sense to classify legal restrictions on crack as granting us a right? Or does it make more sense to consider it a limitation on our freedom?

If the metric for progressive is whether it grants more rights, then legalizing crack is progressive.
Would agree. That said, the cost of some rights might be fairly high. Proponents of drug legalization generally advocate starting with less dangerous drugs, like pot, and most agree that there are at least some drugs that can probably never be legalized, because it's simply too costly.
This isn't the actual metric used for progressivism, though. Consider 'the Progressive Era' (we literally call it that), from the very late 1800s to the beginning of the 1920s (approximately?). One of the 'progressive' activities during that age was trust-busting--which is fighting the rights of individuals to form trusts.

Because there's a balance, here. Yeah, making crack illegal takes away your right to use crack, but we aren't just protecting you from yourself--we're protecting ourselves from you. Because when you allow for crack, you allow for a lot of other things too. One guy doing crack isn't a big deal, but get enough people doing crack and you start seeing some nasty side effects. As an example, I would like to be free not to live next to crack dens; does making crack illegal increase my freedom in that respect? If so, and if being free to not live next to crack dens is a freedom we think is important, maybe we should make crack illegal!

For me, the arc of progressivism has always been one of balancing individual freedom with overall freedom and figuring out which of those freedoms are more important.
Last edited by The Great Hippo on Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:53 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:49 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Huh? All words in a dictionary get a clear and concise definition, no matter how complicated they are in reality. It's what a dictionary does, provide simple definitions as a first step to understanding the word. Pointing at dictionary to show that a word has a clear meaning is like pointing at a map to show that the Alpes are flat and 10 centimeters from one side to the other.


yes but if you're claiming that the alps are in madagascar because people around you had talked as if they were a lot then it would be quite right to point at a map and say "hey, look, you're utterly mistaken, this map isn't the full detail but they're nowhere near where you think they are"

you can say "oh that's not the full detail" but it's also possible to be simply wrong. objectively wrong. incorrect or mistaken. there's arguing whether some foothills are part of the alps and then there's arguing that any mountain including Everest is part of the alps because you choose to define the alps as whatever mountains the members of the alps mountaineering club climb.
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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby sam_i_am » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:56 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Because there's a balance, here. Yeah, making crack illegal takes away your right to use crack, but we aren't just protecting you from yourself--we're protecting ourselves from you. Because when you allow for crack, you allow for a lot of other things too. One guy doing crack isn't a big deal, but get enough people doing crack and you start seeing some nasty side effects. As an example, I would like to be free not to live next to crack dens; does making crack illegal increase my freedom in that respect? If so, and if being free to not live next to crack dens is a freedom we think is important, maybe we should make crack illegal!

For me, the arc of progressivism has always been one of balancing individual freedom with overall freedom and figuring out which of those freedoms are more important.


That's like saying "I don't want to live next to alcoholism so let's ban alcohol.

so.. yeah, I suppose that is progressive.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Bsob » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:58 pm UTC

I would say affirmative action is/was both progressive and failed/failing.

Some may disagree.

In what category do we place gun control laws?

Progressive or regressive?

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby The Great Hippo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:04 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:That's like saying "I don't want to live next to alcoholism so let's ban alcohol.

so.. yeah, I suppose that is progressive.
Well... isn't that what Prohibition was? So... yeah.

I don't think we should ban alcohol, and I think the question of banning crack is a lot more contentious than people make it out to be. The point isn't that I want to restrict your freedom to use crack; the point is that I don't want to be shivved by someone who wants to steal my wallet and use my money to buy more crack. However we get there--by making crack illegal or by legalizing and regulating it or whatever--I don't care (probably because I do not value my 'right' to use crack)1.

I want to maximize people's choices, but only so much as those choices don't significantly reduce the value of everyone else's choices. I realize that's impossible in some respects, but I think most of us can agree for certain values of significant reduction.

1 As an aside, I think Portugal had a really compelling response to this issue, and I'd like to see a lot more investigation into answers like this--this is positive progressivism to me--realizing better ways in which to satisfy our needs that don't involve attacking individual choice. Finding ways to solve problems by hitting them laterally rather than directly.

EDIT: To put this another way, I think progressivism can be loosely defined in American politics as 'balancing individual interests with public interests'. It's the act of comparing those interests and suggesting reforms and changes to better adjust the balance. Or is that too broad?

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:30 pm UTC

EDIT: To put this another way, I think progressivism can be loosely defined in American politics as 'balancing individual interests with public interests'. It's the act of comparing those interests and suggesting reforms and changes to better adjust the balance. Or is that too broad?

That is rather broad, I d say. As a guideline:can you think of someone who does not call themselves progressive, would not like to be called progressive, and is not (or rarely) called progressive but who still fits the characteristic you propose? Then the characteristic is too broad.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby The Great Hippo » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:42 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:That is rather broad, I d say. As a guideline:can you think of someone who does not call themselves progressive, would not like to be called progressive, and is not (or rarely) called progressive but who still fits the characteristic you propose? Then the characteristic is too broad.
Let me add an element to my definition, then: Progressives put more value on collective interests. They favor creating a context where we're all better off, rather than a context where a few of us are better off.

It's broader than socialism, because socialism carries certain assumptions this principle does not clearly imply (like the notion that social ownership always increases collective freedom). But it's close to socialism, which explains why you see socialists so often overlapping with progressives--because progressives want the choices that maximize everyone's interests, and a socialist is a type of progressive who thinks the best way to do that is through the (semi) deconstruction of things like private property. But some progressives would strongly disagree.

I think with this measure, you get a loose but fairly accurate result: Most Republicans qualify as non-progressive (because they value private interests more than public interests), and a number of Democrats qualify as progressive (because they value public interests more than private interests). But it's not inherently descriptive of Republicans and Democrats (I expect there are progressive Republicans and non-progressive Democrats).

EDIT: I'd also like a definition that doesn't demonize non-progressives, but that's kind of hard, because I can't think of a definition of 'progressive' that is both accurate and something that's reasonable to oppose. Progressives can be wrong, but at the most abstract level, it seems very hard to be both a 'counter-progressive' and a genuinely useful person.

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Re: Have there been any progressive reforms that failed?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:58 pm UTC

I am skeptical about that. Think of something like gay rights, surely one of the defining causes in current-day progressivism in an American political context. But its one where the progressive side casts itself mostly as defender of individuals, and the conservative side typically casts itself as defender of the public good.


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