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When progressives became pessimists

Excellent essay in City Journal by Fred Siegel on how
liberal progressives became nostalgic reactionaries when they
discovered environmental pessimism in the 1970s:

Why, then, did American
liberalism, starting in the early 1970s, undergo a historic
metanoia, dismissing the idea of progress just as progress was
being won? Multiple political and economic forces paved
liberalism’s path away from its mid-century optimism and toward an
aristocratic outlook reminiscent of the Tory Radicalism of
nineteenth-century Britain; but one of the most powerful was the
rise of the modern environmental movement and its recurrent

I especially enjoyed his quotation from my late colleague Norman

Touring American campuses in the
mid-1970s, Norman Macrae of The Economist was shocked “to hear so
many supposedly left-wing young Americans who still thought they
were expressing an entirely new and progressive philosophy as they
mouthed the same prejudices as Trollope’s 19th century Tory
squires: attacking any further expansion of industry and commerce
as impossibly vulgar, because ecologically unfair to their
pheasants and wild ducks.”

It’s time to reclaim the word `progressive’  for those who
welcome change and are optimistic about human potential.


By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist