In the previous post, differences between capitalism and socialism were discussed, both viewed as formal economics. The perception of both is how to operate the state or nation and the balance between economic freedom, personal choice and economic growth or social freedom and reduced business fluctuations. In 1776, Adam Smith viewed the world as various nation-states competing economically with one another. As a member of a nation-state, the better one’s country does, the better one’s personal existence is. But is that true? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on many factors that push the discussion to politics and how the country runs and evolves plus the availability of resources.
At one point in my learning, I had been taught the progressivism was a bad concept, it was political. Yet progressivism embraces support of improving society by reform. If one desires improvement of humanity, progress is needed and advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organization are essential. As an engineer I easily grasp science and technology, caveating my belief with confusion over the explosion of communication technology. As a former business owner, I appreciate economic development because the more money people had to spend as a consumer, the greater MY income could be. But social organization is a lot more complex. It deals with the sacrifice of freedoms for the benefit of all and incurs great costs.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, progressivism began as a social; issue and morphed into a political movement. In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt believed that wise “progressivism” and wise “conservatism” were aligned. As president, he was a Republican. In 1912, he formed the Progressive Party after he lost the Republican nomination and in 1913, Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was sworn in a president. Wilson was a member of the American progressive movement.
During this period, U.S. society faces problems of poverty, violence, greed, racism, and class warfare. One hundred years later. The same problem list seems to be appropriate or, perhaps, much bigger and demanding. The population has grown 3.5 times, knowledge is exploding. Communication and miscommunication have exploded, and we need to know more and more. Going back further, in the Age of Enlightenment it was believed that we needed to strengthen civilization (make progress) through empirical knowledge. Empirical, simply put, demands a basis of observation and experience rather than theory or pure logic. Yet all we have is history of what works and does not work for humanity. How do we choose the road to the future?
One possible choice is the broad political philosophy called liberalism. At its base are several ideals that include the freedom of speech, the press and religion for all belief systems. But it also includes the separation of church and state, the right to due process and equality under the law. The Bill of Rights of the United States (the first ten amendments of the constitution) guarantees these to all citizens, recognizing the four additional amendments to the Constitution were essential to ensure these liberal rights for all citizens regardless of race, color, sex or religion. Yet we seem to constantly debate over same-sex marriage, women’s rights including reproduction, civil rights, environmental justice, and the government protecting people from want. The United States is a liberal democracy and all US citizens are liberals at least according to the Constitution.
In 1891, Catholic Pope Leo XIII issues an encyclical titled Rerum Navarum of the “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor.” It dealt with the relationship of labor (workers) and capital (employers), government and its citizens. It also included thoughts on the need to help the poor and eliminate differences between the rich and the poor. This was a religious document yet it contained a discussion of principles that are similar to the liberal principles in the U.S. Bill of Rights. One can then argue that with the separation of church and state it should be banned. Also note that it was published in 1891 at the infancy of progressivism. Did it misguide the identification of the societal problems of poverty, violence, greed, racism and class warfare? I think not. It did not address the “how,” the solution to the problems. It did not provide answers based on empirical observations.
I would assert again that as U.S. citizens we are all liberals even is we use other nouns and adjectives. But are we capitalists or socialists?