Magazine | December 19, 2011, Issue


What Is Progressivism?

For Yuval Levin to point to Teddy Roosevelt’s J. P. Morgan–financed 1912 Bull Moose party as the original progressivism (“What Is Constitutional Conservatism?” November 28) does a serious injustice to the authentic progressives of that era.

The quasi-fascist “progressivism” of the centralizing, elitist, Jefferson-despising Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Croly was a far cry from Bob La Follette’s authentic Wisconsin progressivism, which preceded it. It was also different from the short-lived Conference for Progressive Political Action–endorsed independent La Follette candidacy of 1924 (whose elderly candidate refused to run on the sponsoring organization’s socialist platform), the Communist-backed Henry Wallace Progressive campaign of 1948, and the current “progressive” irruption based on Marxist redistributionism.

By far the best of these “progressive” offerings was La Follette’s of 1900, built on private property, small business, fair competition, the rejection of crony capitalism, and expertise in the service of the people.

John McClaughry

Kirby, Vt.

Yuval Levin Replies: I pointed to the Bull Moose party only as an example of the progressives’ simultaneous appeal to both populist and technocratic ideas, and in that respect (as in many others, including their attitude toward the restraints of our constitutional system) there was little distance between the Progressive party of 1912 and La Follette’s progressivism. Indeed, La Follette’s “Wisconsin Idea” was the epitome of technocratic populism, and clearly informed the Progressive party’s advocacy of both expert rule and direct democracy. There were, to be sure, different varieties of progressives, but they did not differ much on the point raised in my essay — and La Follette and the Bull Moose platform did not differ at all on that point.



Swearing in Style

Robin E. Black (Letters, November 14) wonders whether there is any governing principle behind National Review’s asterisk use in “f*****g”, “mother****er”, “p****y a*s,” and “muthaf***in’.”

In lexical forms of simple nouns, NR omits all but the first and last letters. “Mother****er” is a compound noun, so the entire profanity can be expunged, as the intact modifier and suffix make explicit the meaning without further difficulty. The typographically unorthodox “muthaf***in’” is a phonetic rendition of a spoken colloquialism. The second syllable of “mother” is obscured to a quick grunt in speech and assimilates to the following consonant, making the word syllabically mu-thaf-f*-kin. The second element of the compound is censored as in the more usual “mother****er” as a kind of courtesy accidental.

Stephen Twentyman

Alexandria, Va.

The Editors Reply: But note the difference in spelling between your “mu-thaf-f*-kin’” and our “muthaf***in’.” The crucial point is that the absence of “er” requires the presence of “f” for clarity. 

NR Staff — Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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