What does a “progressive” stand for? How does this differ from what a liberal, conservative or libertarian stands for? More so than in most years, the presidential candidates are debating about labels. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders got into an argument last week about what a progressive is, and Mrs. Clinton enlightened everyone by telling us “the root of that word, progressive is progress.”

There are two conflicting philosophical views as to the proper role of government. One sees the role of the state to protect the individual from the transgressions of others, while at the same time protecting the individual from the state in order to ensure individual liberty. The other view is that the function of government is to protect the collective, and to directly provide for individual needs.
Correctly said, there is an endless struggle between the “libertarians” and the “statists.” The statists tend to look to government — more regulation or spending — to cure every perceived ill, while libertarians tend to look to the private sector to solve most problems. Sloppy journalists often refer to this struggle as being between the right and left, which loses much of its meaning. Most of the Republicans refer to themselves as conservatives — whose standard definition means those “who adhere to traditional methods or views.” Yet, there are real differences between the policies of the conservative candidates when it comes to foreign policy, immigration, marijuana decriminalization and the role of the states versus the federal government — demonstrating how elastic the term “conservative” has become.