November 28, 2010

GEORGE WILL: Our puritanical progressives.

Concern for children’s sensibilities is admirable. The coarsening of the culture is a fact with many causes, but its consequences are unclear. And it can bring out a Puritan streak in progressivism.

The lawyer for the video-game industry warned the Supreme Court that “the land is awash” with contemporary versions of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), the crusader for censorship of indecency, as he spaciously defined it. “Today’s crusaders,” the lawyer said, “come less from the pulpit than from university social science departments, but their goals and tactics remain the same.”

Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.

The important thing is the pleasure to be derived from running other people’s lives. “Perfecting” is beside the point.

UPDATE: Some earlier thoughts of mine on progressives and puritanism.