Progressivism and the Seven Deadly Sins

By Joseph Somsel  |   American Thinker

It’s a brave new world, progressives proclaim, and the old rules no longer apply. From the Russian Communists’ New Man to the mantra of “That’s not who we are” from Obama, it’s always different this time.

But is it? Has mankind, after millennia of contemplation, perhaps discovered eternal verities about human nature? One historical test is that when a culture denies the wisdom of the ancients, it eventually fails; those remaining must pick up the pieces and start anew.

“Wisdom of the Ancients” and “eternal verities” are abstractions, of course. But there is a short list going back to Socrates and St. Augustine that is a handy pocket guide to human pitfalls and frailties. It is called “The Seven Deadly Sins.”

Let’s go through the list one by one and see if we can recognize any these in modern American progressivism, in its social, cultural, and political forms. Note that all humans are prone to the Seven Deadlies, progressives and conservatives alike. Normal people just don’t make a movement out of them.


Contrary it what you may think, this is not the sin of getting fat and obese. Rather, it is focusing on food for other reasons than substance. In the case of progressives, food snobbery is a basic part of the class distinctions that sets them apart and above the masses. Of course, one can be a foodie and not be a progressive, but  the correlation of Blue ZIP codes and Whole Foods is no coincidence . You are what you eat, be you Woke or Deplorable. Free range chicken or KFC? Indian Pale Ale or Bud? Eating “organic” can be objectively shown to not affect the taste or nutrition or wholesomeness of food, in most cases. It does affect the price and social cachet and is too often a matter of pride to progressives (See more at “Pride” below.)


The Sins of Man

The recent news of the passing of Hugh Hefner is a timely reminder that sex has its place and has to be balanced within an honorable person’s life. While I’m not as critical of the Playboy philosophy as other conservatives, seeing it as a somewhat reasonable response to technological change and affluence, sex remains at its core about making children and the next generation. A young playboy could be expected to settle down, marry, and have children – even Hefner tried it, three times.

 The current glorification of purely non-reproductive sexual behavior like homosexuality and transgenderism is surely a huge mistake — pure, unbalanced lust leads nowhere for the individual nor for society. Worst, the disdain many progressives show for “breeders” leads to demographic replacement as Mark Steyn has explained repeatedly. 


To a hardworking man coming home exhausted after a long day, sloth might sound like an idea pretty close to heaven. But work builds true self-esteem. One is contributing and in return one earns a paycheck.

Progressives facilitate sloth as a matter of policy in at least two ways. Welfare is of course the most serious and destructive.  With rules that favor single mothers and absent fathers, the State rewards the destruction of the family and the production of rudderless young men and women. “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is another eternal verity. Useless men are not free. 

A new wrinkle is the legalization of recreational marijuana in many U.S. states. One can reasonably argue that the medical consequences of freely available pot are trivial compared to alcoholism, drunk driving, etc, and so a free people should be able to put in their bodies what they chose. What is seldom mentioned is that a major consequence of smoking a lot of pot will be a big increase in sloth in the smoking population – been there, done that!


This one is really simple.  Working to build personal and family wealth is not greed. Keeping it is not greed. Stealing that wealth earned and accumulated by others is.  Who is for high taxation to “redistribute the wealth”? Who wants confiscatory inheritance taxes? Progressives, of course, especially if that wealth passes through the hands of a government controlled by progressives.


What progressive political movement hasn’t relied on a tactic of playing to envy as a path to power?  Lately, progressives invented the notion of “white privilege” and harp on it incessantly to excite envy in “people of color” and to isolate them from mainstream American culture . As a historical example, Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned against the “malefactors of great wealth” in his presidential run in 1932 during the Great Depression. Envy of the success of conservative talk radio was the motivation for a call for a return of the “Fairness Doctrine.”


What a sinful pleasure it is to wallow in self-righteous wrath! Even better is to physically hit, kick, smash, burn, and shoot.  Rioting by Black Lives Matter in some of our cities was justified as wrath over police “brutality.” Rioting and mass assaults against conservatives by Antifa is called protective wrath to suppress all sorts of imagined evils.  James Hodgkinson attempted a mass assassination of Republican congressmen in wrath over the election of President Trump.

And what is contemporary feminism about but wrath against men?


 St. Augustine considered pride to be the source of all other sins, much as Aristotle considered courage to be the foundation of all virtues. A modern progressive must reek of pride to declare himself wiser than either. To claim to understand more about gender than Schopenhauer or about politics than Machiavelli or about economics than Smith is neither humble nor plausible. 

Even worse, based on that prideful claim of greater understanding than the great thinkers of Western Civilization, progressives claim the right and duty to impose their mission on others, using government or street coercion as handy tools.

But What of Progressive Virtue?

Just as there is the Seven Deadly Sins, there’s the Seven Cardinal Virtues. To be fair, I should task myself to analyze progressivism against them. They have Hope and Faith that their cause will do good. But is “social justice” true Justice? Is Charity served with other peoples’ money collected by taxation? Prudence and Temperance? To experiment with the fate of Western Civilization expecting human behavior to change simply because progressives want it to is both risky and radical. They do have the Courage of their beliefs, I must grant.


Vices and virtues arise in the heart of the individual. But society reflects the character of its people and in turn molds the individual. Progressivism is waging war on the West by extolling and justifying the Seven Deadlies.

Normals, as Kurt Schlichter so accurately calls us, are in no ways immune from and innocent of the Seven Deadlies. We just recognize them as pitfalls on the way to the life well lived that we should recognize and strive to resist. Progressives seem to embrace them as tools for achieving the social, political, and economic change they imagine is the next step to Utopia.

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