The Proper Route to Progress

Reflecting on my previous post, I wonder if the problem with certain strains of modern progressivism is that people are so eager to live in a society marked by equal access to justice and prosperity that they are willing to take a hazardous shortcut. They want progress to be a guided a process. This, unfortunately, is not the way things work – nor should it be. Limiting speech that doesn’t perfectly mirror our most lofty ideals does not result in progress. It produces a stultified atmosphere in which the safest ideas that appeal to the lowest common denominator – the boring, if admirable, ideas that every moderately intelligent and empathetic person can agree on – are promoted at the expense of ideas that are more risky or transgressive. Yes, we want a more equal and just society, in which people are not persecuted for their sexual preferences or identity, receive equal pay for equal work, and don’t die of preventable causes. But we absolutely cannot build that society in a vacuum of political correctness. Progress, whatever form it takes, must be an emergent product of a free and fair competition among ideas. The surest way to build a better society that is sufficiently resilient is to put our best ideas into the sometimes rotten stew of public discourse and see how they perform. Only after ideas have been vetted against the cold filter of empirical reality, in a world rife with unsavory and ill-informed opinions, will we know how good they really are.

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