The ideal of Progressivism, so far as I can see, is the conceit that as human knowledge progresses governments can use this improved knowledge to govern society.
The assumptions behind this are all false.
- Knowledge does not necessarily progress. Physics might progress by jerks and starts, but governments are not run by physics. The humanities do not progress- no one has improved on Homer. Economics as a science is trapped in the same arguments as were had in the 19th century. Social “sciences” are anything but scientific.
- What constitutes progress is subjective. One man’s progress is another’s regress. For example, in the early 20th century it was considered quite progressive to ban the sale of alcohol and to surreptitiously sterilize Indians. Today, the belief that a person can change his gender by mutilating himself is considered progressive, while a century ago this would be seen as something like sympathetic magic, akin to manipulating reality with a Voodoo doll.
- Even if correct data exists, it is not actionable. No one in government can know if he has the knowledge to govern. They necessarily rely on third and fourth hand information, usually in the form of summarized white papers. The only way for a non-expert to decide if the information is trustworthy is to accept it on authority. This is generally an exercise in confirmation bias.
To bring up an old quote from Bernard Lonergan:
A civilization in decline digs its own grave with relentless consistency. It cannot be argued out of its self-destructive ways, for argument has a major theoretical premise, theoretical premises are asked to conform to matters of fact, and the facts in the situation produced by decline more and more are the absurdities that proceed from inattention, oversight, unreasonableness, and irresponsibility.
The short version: stupidity creates more stupidity. You can’t say “Hey, everyone stop being stupid” because they don’t have any way of knowing they are stupid. As they see it, they are quite correct. You can’t appeal to reality, because the reality their stupidity has created demands they be stupider still.