Lately I've been thinking of making some modifications to my usual practice here. One thought is that I should wander into some of the darker corners of the internet (by which I mean the National Review or Ann Coulter's website–if she has one, but she probably does). One reason for this is that it's a sure bet you'll find something really silly. Another reason is that I confess I sometimes think I'm guilty of the philosopher disease: shoddy and imperfect public discourse is too uninteresting to bother with (oddly enough, this disease produces two contrasting sets of symptom: (1) ignoring shoddy public discourse while engaging in the same; (2) being overly charitable to shoddy public discourse because it's not worth one's time to look at crappy arguments). Well, crappy arguments exist, they really do.
And you don't need most of the time to leave the hallowed pages of the major dailies to see them. Take this little gem from our favorite paralogist, George Will:
The name "progressivism" implies criticism of the Founding, which we leave behind as we make progress. And the name is tautological: History is progressive because progress is defined as whatever History produces. History guarantees what the Supreme Court has called "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."
The cheerful assumption is that "evolving" must mean "improving." Progressivism's promise is a program for every problem, and progressivism's premise is that every unfulfilled desire is a problem.
Funny. "Liberalism"–Will's usual name for the hollow man brigade he attacks–implies and endorsement of the "Founding" ("liber" means "free" or "book" or "child," well anyway). Nonetheless, this has to be one of the sillier things he's written of late. In the first place, a progressive, I would imagine, does not define his view tautologically, as Will says. I think rather they have a pragmatic definition: are things working better, as in, "did you make any progress on the problem of the oil spilling in the Gulf of Mexico? " "No, we've made no progress. Time has marched forward, so we have progressed into the future mind you, but we haven't made any progress with regard to our goal of an oil free Gulf of Mexico." See, it's just not that hard.
Second, in that phrase he quotes from the SCOTUS, evolving does mean "improving." Oftentimes, however–at least in a scientific context–it doesn't.
These objections of Will's are just silly. Besides: didn't the "Founding" leave much to be improved upon? After all, we had to declare that corporations were persons. Also women. And African Americans.