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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13893/the-progressive-theory-of-history/

The Progressive Theory of History

September 14, 2010 by

In 1986, Murray Rothbard presented a series of fun and interesting lectures on 20th-century economic thought. This is a transcript of one of those lectures, in which Rothbard takes on the Whig theory of history. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard

{ 15 comments }

Jeff September 14, 2010 at 8:05 am

Great article, Progressivism and it’s theory of history reminds me of Professor Pangloss in Candide.

Ryan September 14, 2010 at 8:50 am

When I read stuff like this it makes me feel like there is so much history and theory and philosophy out there to learn that I cannot possibly learn all that I want to.

Great article, inspires me to read more.

J. Murray September 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

Progressives: not quite sure what they’re progressing towards and don’t know what it takes to get there.

Barry Loberfeld September 14, 2010 at 8:59 am

By the way, this is why Marxists and semi-Marxists always use the terms “progressive” and “reactionary.” I don’t know if any of you have ever thought about the use of those terms.

To Marxists, the highest moral or the only moral truth is when you’re in favor of the inevitable revolution, being in tune with the inevitable laws of events.

Progressives, then, are the people who are in tune with the next phase of the inevitable historical development, like the proletarian revolution. Reactionaries are those who are opposed to it.

Many thanks to Mises.org for making such material available.

Allen Weingarten September 14, 2010 at 12:03 pm

“The Whig theorists ignore free choice and ignore the great moral problems, because free choice involves moral choices. They do not realize that history is a great moral drama, a drama of advance, of conflicts, of retrogression, of good versus evil.”

It is evident that just as an individual can act better or worse, so do nations (as when Germany went from the Weimar republic to fascism). Here we desire a criteria for determining better or worse, for which freedom versus subjugation is a part. Yet I also hold to Lord Acton’s view that there is the matter of what one does with his freedom, for which we must characterize our ideals.

El Tonno September 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm

But that is not true: NATIONS do nothing. It’s individuals. What happened to Germany was that one ideology-driven dude somehow managed to get nominated as Chancellor (instead of janitor to the Munich swimming pool, say), Congress spasmed out handed him carte blanche and he had enough of tugs, bandits and sociopaths around him to follow through with his fantasy power trip. Resistance was light as generally, normal people are not bound to storm State Buildings with iron bars to bust some heads, are in awe of someone wearing a uniform or just do as they are told lest they visit the labyrinthine interior of the Department of Homeland Security, sorry I mean State Security.

Allen Weingarten September 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm

“NATIONS do nothing.”

Mises writes “It is uncontested that in the sphere of human action social entities have real existence. Nobody ventures to deny that nations, states, municipalities, parties, religious communities, are real factors determining the course of human events” ‘Human Action’ p. 42.

The fact that a nation’s actions reduce to those of individuals does not refute that Germany went from the Weimar republic to fascism. No word game or semantics can get around the reality that a nation can get into a better or worse situation, as for example if it were destroyed by a comet.

guard September 15, 2010 at 3:37 am

The concern I have is that the idea of some kind of collective, a nation for example, has been for the most part used as a technique for rationalizing evil behavior. It has been a method of absolution from sin. A nation, for example, can be said to be murdering people, while at the same time no particular person in that nation will admit to being a murderer. This attitude allows for all credit to be given to people for their alleged good intentions, while responsibility for the objective evil they do is transferred to a moral fiction, the nation. This is a moral smokescreen. The tax collector is objectively evil. He is no different morally than the street thief, he just has a more effective backstory.
Conversely, the social entity is used to transfer guilt onto innocent people. “We” have betrayed our friends, destroyed the environment, oppressed other countries – the list is endless. Rather than identifying where I personally have engaged in these evils and then repenting, the recommended response is some sort of political activism as a form of absolution. This is where we need to hold the line on the rhetorical use of social entities. Once we begin to attribute to them human moral agency, we have entered a realm of destructive self delusion

Voiltare September 14, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I am surprised the author didn’t mention my novel candide.

Franklin September 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm

But El Tonno’s quotation, referenced in your opening, is still not at odds with what Mises wrote; he speaks of societies having an existence, just as my garden does.
This is quite distinct, at least in my view, from an individual’s behavior when considering, or being influenced by, those factors.
The nation does not murder. A so-called leader will make the demand, and a follower will execute the wish, in the name of this so-called nation. Both “leader” and “follower” execute their actions based on the factors they perceive or embrace.
Anyway, neither is this at odds with your final paragraph.

Franklin September 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I thought I hit reply on Allen’s post; apparently I didn’t. Sorry.

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good job.

JFF September 15, 2010 at 6:31 am

“Whigs are kind of lovable.”

ONLY Rothbard could make such an observation! This will make me smile all day today.

Allen Weingarten September 15, 2010 at 6:35 am

Guard, we agree that the activities of a nation do not absolve individuals of their crimes. The ‘rape of Nanking’ included individual rapes by Japanese soldiers. It is simply a matter of acknowledging that there are destructive national policies, as well as destructive individual behavior.
Just recall that the issue was whether things are always getting better in a country, and it is clear that this is not clarified by preventing us from talking about a country because “NATIONS do nothing.”
Similarly, I do not view nations as being a moral agency, but it is proper to defend against a nation that aggresses against another.

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