The Forgotten Man -What’s wrong with Progressivism

In Amity Shlaes’ book, The Forgotten Man, she quotes Yale philosopher William Graham Sumner, who, in his essay by the same name, explained the crux of the moral problem with progressivism as follows:

“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X.  Their law always proposes to determine … what A, B, and C shall do for X.”

Shlaes goes on to add:  “But what about C?  There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X.  What was wrong was the law, and the indenturing of C to the cause.  C was the forgotten man, the man who paid, ‘the man who never is thought of.’”  In other words, C is the guy who isn’t bothering anyone, but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world, those whom power holders have unilaterally decided have been treated unfairly and must be compensated.

This would be bad enough, but in 1933 FDR bastardized Sumner’s main point by removing the moniker of “the forgotten man” from C and arbitrarily assigning it to X — “the poor man, the old man, the laborer, or any other recipient of government help.”  Just like that, Sumner’s forgotten man label was transformed into the exact opposite of what it was meant to be.

Today, after decades of government abuse of everyday Americans, things have come full circle.  Now, it’s the America First, or MAGA, segment of the population that represents Sumner’s forgotten man.  They are taxed and told what they must do and what they must give up in the way of freedom and personal wealth every time a new law is passed.  The resulting resentment is what bonds people of all races, religions, and ethnicities together.  To rub salt in their wounds, those who exalt big government dismiss them as “extremists.”

In his essay, Sumner went on to say:

“All history is only one long story to this effect:  men have struggled for power over their fellow-men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others.  It is true that, until this time, the proletariat, the mass of mankind, have rarely had the power and they have not made such a record as kings and nobles and priests have made of the abuses they would perpetrate against their fellow-men when they could and dared.

“But what folly it is to think that vice and passion are limited by classes, that liberty consists only in taking power away from nobles and priests and giving it to artisans and peasants and that these latter will never abuse it!  They will abuse it just as all others have done unless they are put under checks and guarantees, and there can be no civil liberty anywhere unless rights are guaranteed against all abuses, as well from proletarians as from generals, aristocrats, and ecclesiastics.”

Sumner recognized the absurdity of assuming that the poor man is morally superior to the rich man.  While people who are sincere in wanting to “help the poor,” they begin with the false premise that the misfortunes of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are a result of those who are “too successful.”  It’s the same, old fixed-pie argument that socialists and communists have preached for centuries.

What gave birth to the Tea Party movement in 2009, followed by the MAGA movement in 2016, is the metastasizing of the forgotten-man syndrome.  As politicians long ago realized, there aren’t enough rich people to support all the X’s.  Thus, as the number of X’s (i.e., those who live off the surpluses of others) increases, a lot of A’s and B’s become C’s (the guy who isn’t bothering anyone, but is forced to supply the funds to help the X’s of the world).

The result?  When A’s and B’s are transformed into C’s, they mysteriously lose their enthusiasm for new laws to help out X.  Put even more simply, they come to realize that they have become the real forgotten man, and it is that realization that motivates them to become MAGA supporters.  The forgotten man scam has had a long and successful run, but its time is coming to an end, which is why Democrats are frantically importing new voters.

The facts relating to the forgotten man are indisputable, so what it all gets down to is messaging, something Republicans are woefully inept at.  If America still exists in 2028, the GOP will need a presidential candidate who is not only an uncompromising constitutionalist, but a world-class communicator.  I could name at least a half dozen people off the top of my head who would qualify for this role, but whether they could win the Republican nomination is the big question.  Remember, uniparty Republicans are still hoping Trump ends up in the hoosegow so they can sneak anti-constitutionalist Nikki Haley in the side door.

Copyright © 2024 Robert Ringer Original here.

ROBERT RINGER is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Tonight Show, Today, The Dennis Miller Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, The Charlie Rose Show, as well as Fox News and Fox Business. To sign up for a free subscription to his mind-expanding daily insights, visit

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