Third Party & Independents Archives

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

I have taken the liberty of using other people’s words to create this post. A link to the source is provided.

The Progressive movement:

As part of the second reform period, progressivism was rooted in the belief, certainly not shared by all, that man was capable of improving the lot of all within society. As such, it was a rejection of Social Darwinism, the position taken by many rich and powerful figures of the day.

Progressivism also was imbued with strong political overtones, and it rejected the church as the driving force for change. Specific goals included:

The desire to remove corruption and undue influence from government through the taming of bosses and political machines

the effort to include more people more directly in the political process

the conviction that government must play a role to solve social problems and establish fairness in economic matters.

The term "muckraker" was taken from the fictional character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a man who was consigned to rake muck endlessly, never lifting his eyes from his drudgery.

People in the United States had long been displeased with the unsafe conditions, political corruption and social injustice of the industrial age, but it was not until the late 19th century that the proliferation of cheap newspapers and magazines galvanized widespread opposition. Writers directed their criticisms against the trusts (oil, beef and tobacco), prison conditions, exploitation of natural resources, the tax system, the insurance industry, pension practices and food processing, among others.

Theodore Roosevelt, however, became angry when he read a bitter indictment of the political corruption of the day. The president, clearly one of the most fervent reformers, believed that some of the writers were going too far, and cited the muckraker image in a speech criticizing the excesses of investigative journalism. The writers, many of whom had been Roosevelt's ardent supporters, harshly criticized him for apparently deserting their cause.

Originally used in a pejorative sense, the term muckraker soon developed a positive connotation in the public mind. Leading writers of this genre included:

Lincoln Steffens, an investigator of corruption in state and municipal governments, published Shame of the Cities in 1904

Edwin Markham published an exposé of child labor in Children in Bondage (1914)

Jacob Riis depicted the misery of New York City slums in How the Other Half Lives (1890), an early advocacy of urban renewal

Ida Tarbell wrote a series of magazine articles detailing the business practices of Standard Oil, which appeared in McClure's and later were published in book form as The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904)

David Graham Phillips' Cosmopolitan article, "The Treason of the Senate," a bitter indictment of political corruption, provoked President Roosevelt's wrath, but created momentum that would culminate in the adoption of the 17th Amendment

Henry Demarest Lloyd's Wealth against Commonwealth (1894) chronicled the rise of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil

Ray Stannard Baker examined the sad state of race relations in America in Following the Color Line (1908)

Brand Whitlock expressed his opposition to capital punishment in the novel The Turn of the Balance(1907), while serving as the reform mayor of Toledo, Ohio

Samuel Hopkins Adams won fame from his muckraking exposés of the patent medicine industry

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906) was largely responsible for federal legislation regulating food and drug practices; he was later a failed Socialist political candidate, a founder of the American Civil Liberties Association, a prolific fiction writer and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Public interest in the writings of the muckrakers began to wane around 1910; however, the momentum they created would continue to influence legislation for many more years.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). Spencer was an English social philosopher and prime advocate of Darwin's theories, perhaps doing more than any other figure of his era to gain acceptance for the theory of evolution. Spencer also applied Darwinian theory to human development, arguing that wealth and power were signs of fitness and that mankind benefited from intense competition and removal of the weak and unfit.
Spencer was widely popular among American capitalist leaders, but held a much smaller following in his homeland.

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910). Sumner was a Yale-based sociologist and political economist who espoused an extreme laissez faire position, arguing that the government had absolutely no role in the economy's functions. Not only did he argue against antitrust legislation, but also against protective tariffs and government intervention on behalf of management in labor strike situations. To Sumner, the economy was a natural event and needed no guidance in its evolution.
In 1907, Sumner published his most influential book, Folkways, in which he argued that customs and mores were the most powerful influences on human behavior, even when irrational. He concluded that all forms of social reform were futile and misguided.

Sumner's views contrasted sharply with those of the advocates of the Social Gospel.

Interstate Commerce Act
During the 1870s, many Americans (particularly farmers) began to resent the apparent stranglehold the railroads exerted over many parts of the country. However, the postwar presidents and many in Congress resisted intervention in economic matters.

Early efforts to bring some form of regulation to the giants were made at the state level, but those measures were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Sherman Antitrust Act
The last third of the 19th century witnessed the development of business conglomerates or trusts. Many people believed that this new form of business organization stifled competition and led to manipulation of prices. State governments, mostly in the West and South, passed laws to regulate corporate behavior, but the wily trusts simply established themselves in friendly states such as Delaware and New Jersey.

United States v. E.C. Knight Company

In the early 1890s, the American Sugar Refining Company purchased stock in four other refineries, formerly competitors, including the E.C. Knight Company. By 1892, American Sugar Refining controlled 98 percent of the nation’s refineries.

Suit was brought by the Cleveland administration, alleging that an illegal restraint of trade in interstate commerce had occurred under the terms of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In 1895, a nearly united Supreme Court ruled eight to one against the government, reasoning that manufacturing (sugar refining) was not interstate commerce and, therefore, not subject to Congressional regulation.

The impact of this decision was tremendous. Manufacturers assumed they were immune from antitrust legislation and a wave of consolidation followed. Little progress would be made to combat manufacturing monopolies until the trust-busting days of the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

Other progressive reforms followed in the form of a conservation movement, railroad legislation, and food and drug laws.

The progressive spirit also was evident in new amendments added to the Constitution, which provided for a new means to elect senators, protect society through prohibition and extend suffrage to women.


Posted by Weary Willie at March 9, 2011 12:08 PM
Comment #319804

What’s going on here with this article?

What are the points you’re trying to make?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 8, 2011 10:04 PM
Comment #319805

Oh, you figured out who the progressives work for.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident”

“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Posted by: jlw at March 8, 2011 10:10 PM
Comment #319806

Stephen, I believe the point was summed up by the words of William Graham Sumner. Sumner summed up.

Posted by: jlw at March 8, 2011 10:20 PM
Comment #319817

Sigh. The economy is a natural event the way a pocketwatch found on the ground is a natural object. The Naturalistic Fallacy is rife in right-wing thinking.

We set rules for the markets. When they’re well made, they bring stability and prosperity. When they’re not, we get a lost decade, like the one we just came out of.

We’ve tried the hell out of the Republican model, and all we’re getting is a mediocre retread of the economic instability and inequity of the gilded age.

The filter has become the signal on the right. They no longer even recognize their own errors any longer.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 9, 2011 7:06 PM
Comment #319826

Doesn’t this seem a bit familiar to anyone? Déjà vu? Oui? I keep waiting for someone to say, “Hey! This sounds familiar!”

The desire to remove corruption and undue influence from government through the taming of bosses and political machines

the effort to include more people more directly in the political process

the conviction that government must play a role to solve social problems and establish fairness in economic matters.

Aren’t these types of movements taking place now, just as they did over one-hundred years ago? Aren’t the present day “muckrakers” busy trashing this or that, corruption in state and municipal governments, big oil, racism, regulating food and drug practices? Aren’t all of these issues prevalent now? And if they are, doesn’t it stand to reason the programs of the progressive era didn’t work? Instead of solving the problems, those actions have taken their course and are ineffective or inefficient. Of the three amendments attributed to the Progressive movement, one was a collossal failure and repealed, one fundamentally altered the framework of our constitution, distroying it’s system of checks and balances, and the third was an inevitable success who’s beginnings predate the era by some 70 years. Later programs are also coming under fire for their limited lifespan. Social Security is projected to be broke in 2035, just about one-hundred years later also. Can we expect the same one-hundred year lifespan from medicare and now ObamaCare?

The last ten years is being used as the whipping boy to justify the excuses. The present muckraking can paint rosy pictures of the utopia the next generation of political programs will bring. But the fact that new programs are needed portrays the obvious. The existing programs are no longer working. I’m not saying the Progressive Era was a failure. I’m saying it was historically short sighted and the chickens have come home to roost.

the conviction that government must play a role to solve social problems and establish fairness in economic matters.
This may be a fundimental flaw in the progressive philosophy.

Like I said; The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 9, 2011 10:16 PM
Comment #319829

Weary seriously? Blaming the cops because the bank robbers robbed the bank?
The only Deja Vu we see is the rise of the social Darwinist disguised as the “free market” guru, telling us it is the progressives fault. To think the way we now elect Senators is inferior to the state legislatures electing them is pure nonsense.
The SS being broke by 2035 is not due to any weakness in the SS system that cannot be cured with a simple fix. The intentional destruction of medicare by Bush and the republicans in 2003 only serves to show us the worst of intentions are worse than the best of intentions Weary.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 9, 2011 11:38 PM
Comment #319831

Ok, never mind. It’s only pure nonsense.

I’m waiting for that simple fix to the SS system, j2t2.

Any day now would be good.

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 10, 2011 12:50 AM
Comment #319837

Astounding conclusion. The progressive movement of the past century is a failure because not all the problems addressed by its legislation have been fully resolved. So, lets revert to circumstances that led to the movement in the first place. How about starting with women’s suffrage? How do you think that would fly? What about getting rid of the pure food and drug acts? We might as well get rid of Social Security and Medicare as well. Do we really need all those national parks? Couldn’t we just sell them to help balance the budget? Clean air and water requirements? They just a drag on corporate profits.

Weary, I suggest that you put together a repeal and reform package of progressive legislation over this past century. It would provide the American public with a clearer understanding of the differences between progressive and conservative thought. This piecemeal attack just won’t cut it. Just lay out the full agenda for the American public.

Posted by: Rich at March 10, 2011 8:34 AM
Comment #319838


Weary Willie’s (and the rest of the “conservative” and teabagger) legislation approach is simple: “Slash everything! … Except my stuff.”


the conviction that government must play a role to solve social problems and establish fairness in economic matters.
This may be a fundimental flaw in the progressive philosophy.

Right … we don’t want government mucking around with things like ensuring citizens don’t starve, or can get necessary medical treatment, or have some semblance of a secure retirement, or developing energy technology that doesn’t damage the Earth. We only want government to legislate what the definition of the word “rape” is, who can have sex with whom, and what women are allowed to do with their own uterus, and the fastest way for oil companies to increase profits.

We don’t want government subsidizing American police officers and firefighters and paramedics making $50,000 a year. We only want government subsidizing corporate executives who make $50 Million a year plus bonuses and stock options.

We don’t want government wasting our tax dollars on stupid things like building roads, bridges, power plants, schools and hospitals in the United States. We only want our tax dollars spent to build roads, bridges, power plants, schools and hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Isn’t that right, Willie? That’s your idea of “good government” that you’ve portrayed time and again in your posts here.

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 10, 2011 9:16 AM
Comment #319842

“I’m waiting for that simple fix to the SS system, j2t2.”

So am I Weary. The question is will our elected officials be able to institute a fix or will they fall for the conservative line that we must kill it to save it. To fix the problem we must remove the ceiling on wages.

Medicare hasn’t had an increase in rates paid despite many years of rising health care costs. Insurance companies have raised rates yearly for the past decade to keep pace Medicare/Medicaid should do the same.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 10, 2011 9:41 AM
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