Progressives and English: or Political Language in the United States

THIS IS NOT THE MOST UPDATED VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE: for most updated version see page titled, Progressive era and the English language

Political terms can be confusing. Why is this the case? The Progressive Era. This is an era in United States that is typically stated as starting around the end of the 1800’s and lasting until World War One, as the traditional view is that Progressives were against the Great War (see Rothbard’s “World War One as Fulfillment” on this misconception). So-called Progressive ideas have lived on to this day, many political and cultural figures are Progressive, as are a large amount of people. These so-call Progressives have had a great (in terms of largeness not of benefit) part in shaping the political language of the United States today. What the Progressives have done, overall, is create a political language built to close down debate. It is confusing to the public and it would be incomprehensible to people of the United States that lived before the Progressive era. Here are some examples of the words the Progressives have created or changed and some of the effects of this meddling.

Liberal: this term originally meant  (and still does outside of the U.S.): “(In a political context) favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform” or “Favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedom.” [1]. In the U.S. the Progressives stole the term and used it to describe their anything but liberal ideas. This created the need for true liberals to start using words like libertarian and classical liberal.

Pro-choice: this term only applies to one issue for the Progressive: abortion. When it comes to light-bulbs they are anything but. Furthermore, this term and the term  use by their opponents (many of whom are equally as non-liberal{in the classical and true sense} when it comes to use of government coercion, really its like one cannot win in U.S. politics) , “pro-life,” makes the issue difficult to debate because one either has to be for people making their own choices (again only on the abortion issue) or for life, thus closing down rational debate, because obviously most people are for both choice and life.

Progressive: “their excessive use of it [the term Progressive] when referring to everything they support as being progressive and everything they oppose as more or less reactionary. This simple dichotomy is a pleasant fiction for those who like their politics boiled down to the most unsophisticated, partisan blather.”[2]

Social Darwinism: “The theory that individuals, groups, and peoples are subject to the same Darwinian laws of natural selection as plants and animals…” [1]. This term is put on those “reactionaries” on the political right, and even the OED falls into saying “…used to justify political conservatism, imperialism, and racism and to discourage intervention and reform.” {italics: mine} [1]. First of all, how can imperialism (defined by the OED as “a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means”) be considered as an opposition to intervention? Secondly, it was the Progressives, not the conservatives or libertarians, that supported institutional racism, eugenics, and imperialism during the 20th century. ” The AFL  supported the 1882 and 1924 immigration restriction acts against the Chinese. In fact, many ‘progressive’ labor unions were very racist, nativist, and nationalist. Even the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in the early twentieth century, aside from being quite racist, was also in favor of many progressive reforms. Abortion-advocate and progressive hero Margaret Sanger even gave a speech at one of the KKK’s rallies. Margaret Sanger was also an avowed supporter of eugenics, as were many other progressives of the time.” [2]. Also, why would conservatives support Social Darwinism when it based on evolution, which the progressives decry them for not believing in?

NAZIs as “right-wing”: Whenever, the National Socialist Germans’ Workers Party begins to be talked about in history classes they are called “right-wing.” This is probably where the right-left confusion began. In politics there is a easy grid system used by the Political Compass that helps one understand political theory: right and left are for economics, all the way right is total free market, absolutely no government control of the economy; all the way left complete government control of the market; most fall in between. Up and down are more or less for social, all the way up being absolute authoritarians and  all the way down being absolutely no government, again most fall in between. Yet, by calling the NAZIs right-wing and defining right wing as anything “reactionary or conservative”[1] they shut down debate. The Nation SOCIALISTs were anything but right-wing, if one reads their 25 points this becomes clear. Unless, ” The first duty of every citizen must be to work mentally or physically. No individual shall do any work that offends against the interest of the community to the benefit of all” [3] is some how a conservative or classical liberal principle.

Neo-Confederate: This is nothing more than a smear term. This term is used to do nothing but end debate. Defend the right of secession in the United States, ‘neo-Confederate!’ State that the War Between the States was not mostly about slavery, ‘neo-Confederate!’ Support States Rights, such as nullification, ‘neo-confederate!’ Progressive Historian Daniel Feller, claims that libertarians such as Thomas DiLorenzo (who holds a Ph.D in economics from Virginia Tech) and Thomas Woods, Jr. (who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his master’s, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University.) as ‘neo-Confederate libertarians’. [4]. This is a particularly venomous term as the Progressives have long controlled the telling of history and have made the War Between the States a war between the  wonderful, moral superior, totally non-racist North and the evil, scum-of-the-earth, totally racist South (where apparently everyone had a slave). Thus, they make neo-Confederate associated with racism. (Two side notes: the Second World War, which was started by the “right-wing” Nazis killed something like five to six times [between 50 and 70] as many people as Africans enslaved [11 million] in the 400 years of the slave trade, only five percent of which came to the United States. The amount of money spent to wage the War Between States [$7 billion FY1860, $75 billion FY2008] could have purchased the freedom of every Southern Slave along with 40 acres of land and a mule for each of them. [5] {now Progressives may call me a neo-Confederate}).

Marxist-Leninism and Stalinism aren’t Communism: Technically, that is partly true. However, they did follow all ten points of the Communist Manifesto, so… The technicality is that the society didn’t last the “perhaps 500 years” [6] that Marx believed necessary for true Communism to come about {Marx viewed history as a progressive march towards communism}, and that is as far as it goes, Marxist-Leninism and Stalinism were as close as a society could get to “true” Communism in a short time frame. This clever evasion of the fact that many Progressives are sympathetic to Communism but know the U.S.S.R. made it look bad is just that, an evasion. They want to escape the fact that to get radical Communism one needs to kill people; Lenin was written to by a party member asking how to abolish religion, Lenin wrote back, “Dear Comrade Idiot, kill all religious people, that’s how, and kill them in a way that will make people tremble.” [6].

Sexism and other false problems: The Progressives like to shut down debate by labeling people things like sexist, racist, etc. if they dare disagree with the accepted opinion. This is done to economists who illustrate that the “wage gape” is only really 1 dollar made by men compared to .98 dollars made by women (and closing fast as the whole idea of family and work is shifting) and to people that dare disagree with ‘our dear leader’, those ‘sexist, racist scum’. These terms are only debate stoppers that also have a negative impact, because instead of focusing on moving society forward we are stuck fighting non-existent or only partially existent fights.


[1] Oxford English Dictionary online,

[2] Syrios, A. A Brief History of ProgressivismMises Daily Article. July 22, 2014.

[3]  The Twenty Five Points of Hitler’s Nazi Party. The History Place.


[5] Various lectures on the Antebellum period, War Between the States, and Progressive Era by Thomas Woods, Jr., Ph.D

[6] Lecture on World War Two  and the Rise of the Bolsheviks by Yuri Maltsev, Ph.D