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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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The reactionary left

When progressives became pessimists

Excellent essay in City Journal by Fred Siegel on how liberal progressives became nostalgic reactionaries when they discovered environmental pessimism in the 1970s:

Why, then, did American liberalism, starting in the early 1970s, undergo a historic metanoia, dismissing the idea of progress just as progress was being won? Multiple political and economic forces paved liberalism's path away from its mid-century optimism and toward an aristocratic outlook reminiscent of the Tory Radicalism of nineteenth-century Britain; but one of the most powerful was the rise of the modern environmental movement and its recurrent hysterias.

I especially enjoyed his quotation from my late colleague Norman Macrae:

Touring American campuses in the mid-1970s, Norman Macrae of The Economist was shocked "to hear so many supposedly left-wing young Americans who still thought they were expressing an entirely new and progressive philosophy as they mouthed the same prejudices as Trollope's 19th century Tory squires: attacking any further expansion of industry and commerce as impossibly vulgar, because ecologically unfair to their pheasants and wild ducks."

It's time to reclaim the word `progressive'  for those who welcome change and are optimistic about human potential.