November 18th, 2013

Bonobo Thinking

Progressives and Coercion

Reading a biography on Franklin Roosevelt, in the discussion on going into World War One under President Wilson, I came across a passage that I found amusing about progressives and their coercive streak.

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Many of the progressives, judging themselves lovers of peace, had assumed they would be the wrong sorts of people to run a war. [President] Wilson told Josephus Daniels [Secretary of the Navy] in 1914, “Every reform we have won will be lost if we go into this war.” But to their surprise, and in some cases to their dismay, the progressives discovered that they were the ideal war administrators. The reformist temperament in American life has always hidden a coercive streak: if people won’t shape up voluntarily, they should be encouraged, even compelled, to do so.

-- H. W. Brands, “Traitor to His Class”

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