Austrian Economics Stands against the Collectivism of Progressive Thought
Recently, I published an article in the Mises Wire, “Woke Egalitarianism and the Elites,” in which I presented the true intentions behind woke egalitarianism. The article also described how elites attempt to rebuild society through collectivism. But more than discussing the goals of progressivism, we need to discuss the intellectual basis of these attempts. What assumptions and intellectual framework guide these actions?
Progressivism is based on a disrespect of individuals, their actions, and their ability to choose. First, progressivism groups people into collectives based on a particular criterion (e.g., race, gender, and sexual orientation). Moreover, progressivism homogenizes their thinking, values, and actions based on these collective classifications. To progressivists, individuals cannot escape these classifications.
This homogenization reflects progressivism’s views about humankind. Progressivists misunderstand human action and human individuality. They don’t realize that each individual is unique and sovereign. Moreover, individuals have the ability and freedom to judge, choosing the options they see as better and behaving as they think most appropriate.
Austrians, in their debate with positivist objectivist researchers, have been asserting for a long time that individuals are not atoms. Individuals don’t react based on probabilistic objective causal relations that can be mathematically described.
Each individual mind has a unique ability to perceive and create opportunities, acting based on an individual preference scale and the ability to perceive the relation between means and ends.
Moreover, individuals can’t be classified into groups. Groups don’t act. What makes collective action a composition of individual actions? Collectives are abstractions created by the human mind to analyze phenomena. But they don’t have ontological existence.
Progressivism also misunderstands how these individuals can change their actions over time. Individuals are not machines that repeat some procedures imposed by some person or the environment. Individuals have autonomy and use their logical reasoning to change the course of their actions. In consequence, they also change history.
Individuals are not programmed to behave in a certain way. Individuals are continually creating knowledge. Individuals learn. This ability to learn is what guides institutional development. The trial-and-error mechanism that guides the evolution of individual action is what made possible the development of institutions such as money, the law, the price system, and so on.
To the progressivist elites, individuals are “stupid” and can be easily fooled. That is how progressivists explain why some individuals don’t support their actions: they lack consciousness (of class, gender, race, etc.). That is also how they justify their own existence: progressivist movements must defend these groups. Even if such groups don’t want support, these movements must exist to raise awareness of the existing oppression.
Progressivists completely disregard the role of individuals in making history. To them, people react as atoms. To them, people don’t create and don’t involve themselves in a process of social evolution. They don’t realize that men cannot be molded like clay. Individuals are unique, having the capacity to decide and create. The human world is not given but built through human actions.
This harmful disregard for the individual is based on an erroneous characterization of humanity. Progressivism is constructivism. Constructivism relies on the idea that men answer to external incentives and rules. Constructivism affirms that society can be molded top-down by a social engineer.
Constructivism does not conceive individuals as creative agents that build history. It disregards humans’ ability to develop institutions that rule their social behavior. It conceives individuals as toys with which regulators and social engineers can play.
Humankind is passing through one more socialist attempt to destroy Western civilization. In the twentieth century, they used the “proletarians”; now they use the “minorities.” To combat these attempts requires a structured defense of human freedom and creativity.
And that is the place of the Austrian school, with its understanding of human subjectivity. That is why we must spread the Austrian school across the world. Humankind needs ideas that empower individuals and respect their freedom such that it will be possible to challenge progressivism and its malefic consequences.