Words related to many ideologies have become completely meaningless due to popular use and misuse. Oftentimes, once something becomes widely popular, it loses its original meaning by becoming conflated with indirectly related, or even antonymous ideas. So, lets talk about some of those things.

Communism (and/or socialism), this no longer has a consistent meaning. Some people think it means dictatorship and mass slaughtering, some people think it means hippies and the end of government, and some people think it still holds to its original intent, simply put, an economic system where workers have ownership of the tools they use to work. As you can see, if you’re trying to advocate for workers to own factories, or telling people that the rich are too rich, and big corporations are too big and own too much; being called a dictator, or a hippie, isn’t particularly helpful. A basic example would be, in capitalism, there is a factory owner, and factory workers, and they’re separate entities. In socialism or communism, the factory is owned and used by the workers, or universally owned by the public depending on the specifics.

Progressive, the meaning for progressive is mostly there, but it’s become mingled up together with too many things to be helpful in describing positions. Due to its popularity, it’s being used by people that don’t actually hold to its original intent. Progressive has a pretty simple basis and actually has 2 definitions, it’s original use in tax policy means that people who make more money, should pay a larger portion of their disposable income than those with less money to create public benefit and a successful society. In effect, it means saying big corporations should be paying their fair share, specifically by maintaining the efficiency of business, and sharing the wealth created by a business instead of concentrating it. The worst case scenario, and opposite of progressive goals would be one person owns everything, and everybody else works to support that one person and their goals. Another meaning of Progressive is the belief that society can be improved through the reform of government, mostly by preventing the rich from owning everything. “Progressive” has gotten tied up with several other movements that tend to correlate, but aren’t the same thing, resulting in a lot of politicians using the word progressive because they support these associated goals, but don’t actually support equalizing the playing field of wealth, rendering it a meaningless buzzword.

Socially Liberal and Fiscally Conservative… Many people state that their views are “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” and these aren’t real things. Liberalism, under its definition, only really even applies to social change, towards creating liberty and equality. You can’t actually be fiscally liberal, it’s not a thing. Conservatism also only applies to social change, and stands for keeping the social climate exactly where it is, no expansion of gay rights, for example, would be a conservative view. So what does fiscally conservative mean in this context? It probably means “neoliberal,” a term which means favoring a free market with no or less government regulation, and this, would be paradigmatically opposite to “progressive,” discussed above. The good news is that people using the term “neoliberal” tend to know very well what it means.

Conservative. Technically, this ideology believes that the state of the government, should remain where it is, and things should not change substantially, social changes and social rights should not need any additional intervention, marriage is good where it is, we don’t need any more or less regulation for the economy. But, that would be in direct contradiction to what many members of the “conservative” party are. They’re actually “regressive.” Regressive, means that they want to take things back to a point in history when things were working better, supposedly. That would be great if we were going back to say, the 1960’s but, most of the time it’s not. At least social security and Medicare are not usually targets of the regressives, mostly because you need someone to vote for you. That’s why the regressive members won with a slogan like “Make America Great Again.” Take us back in time. Well, that and the other contender was conservative and content with the status quo, which is much less popular these days. Most people want to either move forward or backward, but observe that something is not right where we are today.

Adam Smith, if you’ve heard or referenced this name, and used it in the context of “the invisible hand,” I recommend taking the time to read his works and see that Adam Smith wrote the words “the invisible hand” fewer times in his entire life, than the average Economics 101 text book mentions it in the first chapter. Why? This wasn’t a major concept that he supported, it was a passing thought. Most of Adam Smith’s work talks about how the government needs to intervene to prevent “rent seeking” in the economy. “Rent” is sought when someone creates artificial scarcity and seeks to take a profit from it. A modern day example would be someone buying a busy 1/4 mile of highway, and putting a toll booth up, charging customers for using that particular spot, while the rest of the highway is maintained by the state. Effectively, capturing the entire value of the highway paid for by taxes, simply by making it otherwise inaccessible without using that spot. We have laws to protect us against this for obvious reasons… at least for now, at our current rate of regressivism, it might not stay that way too long.


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