From The Weekly Standard, The Roots of Campus Leftism by Warren Treadgold
“Progressivism,” the term campus leftists seem to like best, is not very helpful for defining the ideology’s intellectual content. Just about all of us favor what we consider progress, but many of us disagree about what progress is. Genetically modified organisms, hydraulic fracturing, and the Keystone XL pipeline look to many like cases of technological progress, but most “progressives” oppose them. Many “progressives” are hostile to a wide range of new technologies, on the grounds that they eliminate jobs, damage the environment, increase inequality, or oppress minorities.
“Socialism,” a term favored by Senator Bernie Sanders and some of his student followers, also fails to capture much of what this ideology is about. Sanders’s followers scarcely ever advocate state ownership of industry, and most of them have little interest in factory workers or farmers. Small banks may or may not be better than large banks, but breaking up large private banks into smaller private banks, as Sanders advocates, is not exactly a socialist measure. Even “Medicare for all” would leave the provision of health care to private physicians and hospitals, not government. Nor is the trade protectionism advocated by Sanders and his partisans particularly socialist—or even progressive. Proposals to make college tuition or contraceptives free would increase government spending but not government ownership and tell us more about the financial pressures on college students than about their enthusiasm for statism. Most of today’s “socialists” want not more state ownership but more state regulation, except of course for abortion, sexual behavior, and drugs, issues on which they are not socialists but libertarians.