Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Ameritopia by Mark Levin con't
Yet Tocqueville recognized a very real threat lurking in the future, the desire for egalitarianism. This abandonment of liberty as the chief ideal and a desire for equality of outcome instead seems to be at the core of man as he looks jealously at the wealthier citizen. Tocqueville was heartened by the lack of desire for equality of outcome among Americans. Liberty remained their chief desire and Americans celebrated wealth as an end to be admired and sought after by every citizen. Tocqueville did not find an America of envious, power-hungry people, but rather a country of freedom-loving, self-governing people who would not abide a government overstepping its bounds in the name of equality.
Tocqueville believed America's free market provided the greatest opportunity anywhere on earth to become prosperous. He realized that American knew their system led to wide disparities in wealth, yet Americans felt that as long as everyone had an equal shot, there was no need to plunder the wealthy. Most Americans led middle-class lives, neither obsessing over wealth nor envying the more prosperous citizens. He saw that the danger democracies faced came in a form of the soft-tyranny of a government inserting itself to "help" the less fortunate. While he could not name the menace he feared, Plato had already identified it - Utopia. Democracies are especially vulnerable to this beast because even when the government controls every aspect of the citizen's life in its never-ending reach for Utopia, the people are lulled into a dull complacency with the belief that they still maintain sovereignty. In short as government interferes more and more, we cannot be trusted pick the type of light bulb to use, but we can vote for our leaders so we believe we are still in charge.
Fast-forwarding to modern times, it is clear we have succumbed to the beast. While our Founders argued among themselves about the best way to limit a government that would most naturally become tyrannical, modern Americans argue about how much bigger the government can get. The anti-Federalist believed the Constitution would not be strong enough to contain power-mad men. They were right.
Our downhill journey began with Woodrow Wilson, the Princeton University president and President of the United States in 1913. He despised the idea of limited government as it did not allow him to do all he wanted to do. Our current President mirrors Wilson in this belief as he rails against a Constitution limiting how much he can accomplish. Wilson believed the government to be alive and limiting it or dividing its power would only kill or weaken it. Wilson denigrated Montesquieu's well-thought out insights and valued Hobbes' Leviathan instead. He believed with Hobbes that since man had given up his power to the government, the government was right in all it did. The Constitution had created an inefficient government where someone as wise and all-knowing as Wilson was limited in how fast and how widespread he could change the country into his version of Utopia. Wilson turned the whole idea of Americanism on its head, creating a living, breathing Constitution which could mean whatever he wanted it to mean. Unfortunately as the Founders would agree, a living, breathing Constitution is nothing short of a living, breathing tyrant.
FDR took Wilson's ideas as a blueprint for his own administration. He, too, recognized that the government moved too slowly for his liking and was appalled by the lack of progress he saw. He believed it was the utopians who sought to take our country into a glorious future and the conservatives who fought to hold it back. He rejected the idea of rights given by a Creator and substituted them with government-given rights to things like a house, a job, healthcare, education, and economic security. (This new Bill of Rights, proposed in 1944, strangely mirrored the one proposed by Marx in the Communist Manifesto.) The difference between the view of "rights" that the Founders held and FDR's is that rights given by God cannot be taken away, except by God, and come at no one else's expense. FDR's rights all had a price tag to be paid by fellow citizens. Government-given rights can be stripped away by that same government when it becomes politically expedient, but not without first throwing the populace into crippling dependency. Government, in FDR's view, existed not to protect private property as the Founders believed, but existed to redistribute it. Of course, over time, nothing will be left to distribute by even the most intellectual of leaders.
Today, we have arrived at the dangerous blend of Utopia and Americanism. Levin calls it Ameritopia. We have let the wolf in the gate by allowing our government to take more and more power. Yet we are lulled into complacency since we are still able to vote. In truth, we are only able to vote for which despot we want in office. We have surrendered our liberty for the false promise of perfection. There is no such thing. Man is fallen and society is not perfectible. No mastermind will ever accomplish the goals of the utopians. It is simply not possible for any one man or group of man to have all the knowledges of millions of Americans making decisions in their own best interest. Yet we have given up more and more of our freedom to choose for the ever-illusive perfect world.
Levin states, "The Founders would be appalled at the nature of the federal government's transmutation and the squandering of the American legacy. The federal government has become the nation's largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider and pension guarantor. Its size and reach are vast. Its interventions are illimitable." Levin believes the American character is strong enough to return to our true values. He hopes it is not too late to resist the appeal of radical egalitarianism in exchange for liberty.
He's wrong. It is too late. America as the Founders envisioned it, has failed.