Something dire you should read: Progressivism’s (Liberals’) Dark Side

At The Catholic Thing there is a piece that you should review.   It explains some of the dark, actually evil, underpinnings of progressivism – the “liberal” agenda.

Progressivism’s Dark Side


[T]he modern Progressive movement has been dominated by a self-anointed elite, like several of the justices, who had contempt for the common people. In the early 20th century, they even promoted social and economic policies driven by anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic impulses.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Read the excellent new book by Princeton’s Thomas Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Under the banner of a “New Nationalism,” progressives called for a centralized administrative state manned by expert managers and planners, who would use “scientific methods” to enhance human welfare.

Believing that social progress “required the individual to be controlled, liberated and expanded by collective actions,” progressive intellectuals perceived human persons as “lumps of human dough” to be formed on the “social kneading board.”

That molding, Leonard points out, was to be done “by the best and the brightest, those who, uniquely, ignored profit and power to serve the common good – which is to say, the progressives themselves.”

These experts denied inalienable rights. Their hero, Woodrow Wilson, called them “nonsense.” The editors of the progressive journal, The New Republic, spoke for the movement when it ridiculed individual liberties as “quaint and retrograde.” The leading progressive legal scholar, Roscoe Pound (1879-1964) author of Social Control Through Law, argued the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights “were not needed in the [founders time] and they are not desired in our own.”

Believing that the State superseded even God, progressives encouraged government officials to embrace eugenics – “the social control of human breeding” to rid the nation of perceived undesirables.

rogressive-era eugenics, Leonard writes, “required agreement upon three things only – the primacy of heredity, human hierarchy rather than human equality, and the necessary illiberal idea that human heredity must be socially controlled rather than left to individual choice.”


Brrrrr….  This explains a lot about today’s politicians in a certain party and also about much of academia.

Not to mention the liberal catholic media.

Did you catch that title? There is also a Kindle edition.

Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Olympian Middle and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. L. says:

    Jonah Goldberg of National Review wrote a book about this.

  2. majuscule says:

    I saw a link to this on Facebook and passed it over. Thank you for mentioning it–I see I made a mistake in not reading about it the first time I saw it!

    The reason I’m posting at all is not so much about what I wrote abovee, but about something that flashed through my mind when I read what you posted, most particularly “…and the necessary illiberal idea that human heredity must be socially controlled rather than left to individual choice.”

    How many of us, for purposes of genealogy study, have had our DNA tested? What a great way for social controllers to decide which lines need to be weeded out.

    God help us.

  3. Gerard Plourde says:

    It is very true that the roots of Progressivism lie in a predominantly Protestant America that was blithely Anti-Catholic and Anti-Semetic. These views were the “common wisdom” of the time (much like the view that non-white races were genetically inferior) and exemplify the fallible, human roots that all political philosophies, even the most noble, share. One of the reasons that St. John Neumann and his successor, Archbishop Wood, sought to create a Catholic school system in Philadelphia was to protect Catholic students from the public schools system’s efforts to proselytize for the dominant Protestantism. This effort was by no means limited to Philadelphia. It was part and parcel included in pedagogical mission of the schools in making an informed citizenry. Catholics were suspected of having dubious loyalty to the nation because of their allegiance to the Pope.

    At the same time, it is precisely the understanding of human fallibility that underscores the genius of the Founding Fathers (the majority of them either Protestant or holders of Deist beliefs) in trusting that a representative democracy with a broad electorate (broader now than what was originally envisioned) would work to safeguard the populace against tyranny.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    Can I ask what is meant by “progressive” in the quoted writing? The early 20th c progressive party was one thing, and the takeover of the progressive name in the mid 20th c by Communists (read Bella Dodd’s memoir _School of Darkness_ if you doubt at all that this is literally what happened, it is available affordably from Preserving Christian Publications) was another basically unrelated thing. I assume this is about the latter?

  5. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Pop Quiz: There’s a bomb on a bus….


    1) How many of you know that someone attempted to murder Cardinal Spellman by bombing his residence in October 1962?

    2) How many of you know that St. Patrick’s Cathedral was bombed on October 13, 1914 (injuring only a child), and another bomb plot was foiled by the police in March 1915, see

    My point: there is a lot of history that’s overlooked and even forgotten.

  6. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Robert Yerkes, an atheist and militant anti-Catholic (he was an enthusiastic supporter of Paul Blanshard), helped devise those intelligence tests that always seemed to show that blacks and Southern Europeans always scored lower than the “Nordic” or Northern Europeans.

    Nobel Prize winner Julian Huxley, an atheist, the chairman of the British Humanist Association, and anti-Catholic (he was outraged that Pius XII declared the dogma of the Assumption of Mary) wrote several anti-black articles for the British Spectator during the 1920s.

    As for Paul Blanshard, he successfully reinvented himself as a champion of freedom and civil liberties despite having called for the abolition of the U.S. Constitution in the 1920s and 1930s, pushed through a resolution at the 1932 Socialist Party convention that endorsed “the Soviet experiment” under Stalin, and had supported central planning, the abolition of private property, eugenics and compulsory sterilization of “the feeble-minded.” Blanshard attacked the Catholic Church for censorship in The Nation, whose Stalin-sympathizing editor, Freda Kirchwey, in March 1942 called for the violent suppression of “the Fascist press” in the United States and sued the magazine’s former literary editor, Clement Greenberg, for libel after he, i the New Leader, accused the Nation of being pro-Soviet. Blanshard himself threatened to sue Catholic writer Dale Francis for libel because he wanted to write an article citing Blanshard’s previous articles and published statements, showing that he had very loose definitions of freedom and democracy. See

    Blanshard wanted to give the state far more power over people’s professional and personal lives than the Catholic Church ever did even during the Middle Ages.

    I believe that an Army or OSS psychiatrist who interviewed and tested the Nazi defendants for the Nuremberg war crimes trials showed that many of them all had high IQs even at the genius-level.

  7. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    Prohibition was a Progressive cause as well, supported by the feminists of the time, liberal Christian century, and the Unitarian Church. Progressives were upset that the Catholic hierarchy refused to support Prohibition, which advocates insisted was “morally” and “scientifically” necessary for “social progress” and the reduction of crime and alcohol abuse.

    Of course, the fact that the Church opposed Prohibition didn’t mean it was blind to alcohol abuse and the social problems caused by it.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    majuscule, funny you should mention genetic testing. I was just talking to my cousin about doing that, and reading up on it, noticed that for most companies except one, results go to pharmaceutical companies. That gave me pause. Oh, this world.

  9. Cornelius says:

    Progressivism has a dark “side”? The whole thing is dark – there’s no “side” about it.

  10. Sandy says:

    It’s amazing how much these evil movements in our history are condemned by the words of the architects themselves – if only people would read the words and understand what is being done to us. A Catholic blogger wrote a while back about a book, perhaps the title was The Naked Communist, or something similar. Just about every goal has been achieved! Among them, taking over the direction of courts, schools, etc., etc. We see it all now of course, but for years have been the “frog in the cold water”. So much of it boils down to the same evil, progressivism included, rebellion against God because humans know better.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Here’s an excerpt from p. 248 of Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism”:

    “Hitler wrote to the president of the American Eugenics Society to ask for a copy of his “Case for Sterilization”- which called for the forcible sterilization of some ten million Americans- and later sent him another note thanking him for his work. Madison Grant’s “Passing of the Great Race” also made a huge impression on Hitler, who called the book his “bible.” In 1934, when the National Socialist government had sterilized over fifty thousand “unfit” Germans, a frustrated American eugenicist exclaimed, “The Germans are beating us at our own game.””

    “…Grant wrote, “Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit…””

    Goldberg continues: “It is a well-documented fact that eugenics lay at the heart of the progressive enterprise.” Goldberg also names several well-known think-tanks and foundations who funded and researched eugenics.

    In the same chapter Goldberg also discusses Margaret Sanger, eugenics, and Planned Parenthood.

  12. jaykay says:

    Dmitri Cavalli comments above on Huxley writing anti-black articles for the Spectator (London) during the 1920s. Co-incidentally, this week’s issue of the Spectator has an article entitled “The return of eugenics”. It’s mainly about “designer-babies”, not so much the elimination of already-living “undesirables”, although this is of course referenced. Here’s a link to the online version:

    And, in fairness, it does start off with a quotation from one its editions from 1912 which is far from flattering:

    “The only way of cutting off the constant stream of idiots and imbeciles and feeble-minded persons who help to fill our prisons and workhouses, reformatories, and asylums is to prevent those who are known to be mentally defective from producing offspring. Undoubtedly the best way of doing this is to place these defectives under control. Even if this were a hardship to the individual it would be necessary for the sake of protecting the race.”
    — The Spectator, 25 May 1912

    Some of the comments under the article are fairly nauseating.

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