Megan quotes Joshua Kurlantzick's article on democracy and capitalism in Thailand. He points out that an elite few prospered, so the poor demanded their elected leaders alleviate the gross income disparity. People are always afraid of those they have wronged so the middle class elite feared such alliances.
Megan is drawn to this article enough to write about it, and interprets it through the elite-colored glasses. The Progressives, she says, "was a backlash against the corrupt hoi polloi."
Rent-seeking populists, backroom-dealing political machines--these were both inimical to classical liberalism, and also the voice of minority-majorities, who used favorable local demographics against members of the national elite.
McArdle makes no mention of the enormously important reformist aspect of the Progressive movement. It's a dishonest attempt to withhold information to make her point, and is one of the many reasons she is called a right-wing hack.
Think of some of the signal accomplisments of the Progressives: Planned Parenthood. Immigration restrictions. Civil service reform. Massive campaigns against the corruption of the urban machines. "Mental hygeine". Spot a trend?
And here is further proof of the deep, deep devotion McArdle bears towards the intellectual scholarship of one Jonah Goldberg, who believes that Progressives were all Mengelesque eugenicists. She means for us to spot a trend of racial/social/political purification by those Nazi Progressives. She's far too delicate to get her hands dirty--that's what the Corner is for--but she's willing to push Goldberg's ideas as long as she can maintain plausible deniability. So reform is really genocide, the most graceless and ungracious explanation possible for the actions of Americans who were trying to live by the supposed ideals of their nation and faith. Yes, many Progressives played with the new scientific knowledge like it was an ant farm, but that doesn't make corrupt the Progressive desire help the less fortunate and increase representation in government.
And then it gets worse.
The poor benefit from the capitalist system, probably more than the rich--compare Pharoah to Bill Gates, then compare a standard Egyptian peasant around 2000 BC to, say, a minimum wage worker in America. But if you don't have the social capital to make it to the top, at any given time, it may look like it pays off to undermine or overthrow the system. Naturally, the middle class, which preserves the system, will be averse to any system that gives them the power to do so.
The poor benefit from democracy more than the rich. They are able to alleviate the misery of their condition by trying to improve equality, in the land of equality and opportunity.(/sarcasm) The poor initially benefitted from science as much as or more than the rich. The rich could flee to the hills during the Black Death and hire physicians and nurses. They could eat healthy food and travel to healthy climates. But science helped heal poor and rich alike. The poor could finally afford some medical attention. Finally, the poor here benefit from being born in one of the richest countries of the world. But the poor don't benefit from capitalism more than the rich, since capitalism merely means that property is privately owned, which might be a problem for the poor, who tend to be without property and other assets. And the funny thing about capitalism is that those with the property tend to be a little, well, forgetful of those without.
Beneath the confusion and bad writing, the theme finally becomes clear. The middle class don't feel solidarity with the poor and disenfranchised. They don't really want to help them, they want to eliminate them. And the poor want to eliminate the elite middle class right back. Thus is always was, thus it ever shall be. So the elite left and intellectual left are really missing the boat on the true situation here, where there is a place for everyone and everyone sits firmly in his place. That's the fundamental truth of conservatism, which wants an elite to kowtow to and a peasantry to kick. And it's also the fundamental truth of libertarianism, with its "I-got-mine-Jack, screw-you" philosophy.
Because this is Megan McArdle, she cannot resist further inflaming class warfare, her only way of looking at those who are not exactly like her.
And if you're sitting there, feeling all superior to those benighted bourgeois, consider all the things you want to take out of the hands of ordinary Americans because otherwise those amoral toads will do the wrong thing. Gay marriage. Or prayer in school. Immigration. Trade. I've no doubt that you have some very compelling reason that these things are entirely different from support for the rule of law or a standard liberal economic order. The point is, no one's really comfortable with letting the majority set all the standards.
That's just ugly. And wrong, of course. McArdle frequently attributes her own attitudes and bigotries to others, which makes her moral lectures especially galling. I want to see the quote from a respectable left writer who calls people amoral toads because they mistakenly think their God wants them to hate others or pray in public constantly. I also want the proof that the left wants to abstain from the rule of law to gain more legal rights for others. It's nonsensical babble.
Corrected for clarity.