Progressives’ Pick-and-Choose Big Government


Disagreements aside, UpRise RI‘s Steve Ahlquist is affable and sincere, but as is evident in his conversation with Bill Bartholomew, his worldview has a fundamental incoherence emblematic of progressives.  Put simply, progressives want to consolidate all of this power in government, but they’re surprised when powerful people take advantage of that consolidation.

As Representative Moira Walsh (D, Providence) and Bartholomew proved in a separate conversation, progressives are anxious to empower government to put companies out of business if they can’t manage pay rates that politicians have decided should be the minimum.  Yet, progressives also bristle when politicians other than them try to hold on to their powerful positions.  Ahlquist complains about the presence of the lobbyists without acknowledging their inevitability when power has been squeezed into a hub.

Here’s one specific: Ahlquist speaks against an effort to move all nightclubs in Providence Ward 10.  Without getting into whether that’s a good or bad idea, one can say that’s central planning.  If we’re going to consolidate power with the pretense of making rational decisions, somebody has to decide what’s rational, even if people don’t like it.  They’ll also make decisions based on criteria with which others might disagree.  So, Ahlquist on development more generally:

There’s all these dumb ideas that come along, and then all these people with power and money come along and say, “Yeah, we’re all for it,” and then people on the ground are saying, “Wait a minute.”  You know, we’re building this new bus terminal, or we’re taking the bus terminal and breaking it up into three areas.  Now, instead of crossing the street to get to my next bus, I have to walk or take a third bus to the judiciary center or to the State House or something to get to my third bus.

You know what system addresses concerns like these?  A free market, which functions by giving people what works for them.  You know what system will tend not to address concerns like these?  Progressive central planning, which not only creates a pool of sweet power that draws self-interested parties like flies, but also presumes to base decisions on all relevant considerations.  A central planner has to consider the availability of funds, the political support for a project, the interests of labor and industry, and so on.

For all the talk of equity, one doesn’t get the sense progressives like Ahlquist actually believe we’re all equal.  Instead, they believe in natural, inevitable classes.  Consider:

We need to think in terms of equity.  We need to think in terms of who’s being affected and how does this work for the people, how does this work for us, because the rich are going to be fine.

There is “us” (the people), and then there are “the rich.”  They’re in their group, and we’re in ours.  We won’t become them, and they won’t become us.  They have their interests, and we have ours.  Implicit in this view is that what we need is obvious, and we only don’t get it because “the rich” don’t want to give it to us.  Government’s role is to brush aside the interests of “the rich” in order to force them to give us what we obviously need.

This construct doesn’t treat our society as a community, but as a series castes.  In a free market, progressives say, we just have to accept whatever the rich will give us, because that’s just how the castes work, so we need government fighting on our side.

What they want is a dictatorship of The People, but the only people who count are those who have progressive values or happen to be in one of progressives’ constituency groups…

… which creates another hub of power to attract anybody willing to mouth progressive talking points as they cut themselves in on the deal and claim a need for more power to overcome the barriers of the rich.