Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America
By Mark R. Levin
(Threshold Editions, 288 Pages, $26.99)
It's here. A century in the making, insidiously installed in piece-by-piece fashion courtesy of the American progressive movement, the absolute power of Post-Constitutional America has arrived.
Not unlike snorting just a bit of crack cocaine here and a little more there and just enough the next day, all while confidently proclaiming self-control and superb physical and mental health, America has now awakened to the statist nightmare that can only be induced snorting the political drug of progressivism. Mark Levin accurately calls the appalling results "Post-Constitutional America."
Clearly, Levin has hit a sensitive chord in the Age of Obama. A mere two days after his new book's release, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America shot to Number One on the Amazon list of 100 bestsellers. This follows Levin's earlier best-selling analysis of statism and the Constitution, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto.
Having now spent serious time examining the roots of utopianism, Levin has written a classic. The companion piece to Liberty and Tyranny. This is a book that directly connects the dots between today's America and the earliest and most prominent expressions of societies based on the endlessly bogus and pernicious idea of human perfection.
Divided into three parts, Ameritopia takes a close look at various expressions of utopia appearing as far back as Plato (The Republic) and moving forward to Thomas More (Utopia), Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan), and that infamous utopian bard of class struggle, Karl Marx—of the ultimately murderous Communist Manifesto.
Levin notes a myriad of cautions from prominent thinkers about what is transpiring today, one from Supreme Court Associate Justice Joseph Story anticipating the problem in 1829. Said Story, presciently:
[G]overnments are not always overthrown by direct and open assaults. They are not always battered down by the arms of conquerors, or the successful daring of usurpers. There is often concealed the dry rot, which eats into the vitals, when all is fair and stately on the outside. And to republics this has been the more common fatal disease. The continual drippings of corruption may wear away the solid rock, when the tempest has failed to overturn it.
The "solid rock" of America, of course, has been the Constitution. A Constitution carefully and knowledgeably crafted based on the Founding Fathers' acute understanding, both intellectually and from experience, of what the English philosopher John Locke had a century earlier enlightened as man's nature. The Founders next translated the understanding of that nature into a written Constitution by using the French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu's principles of government based on a separation of powers.
Detailing the utopian thinking that first surfaced thousands of years ago, Levin guides the reader step-by-step from Plato's "ideal city" run by "Guardians" to the acid-like drippings that have both corroded the Constitution while manifesting in its place the absolute power that is the massive presence of the federal government in every area of your life today—beginning with your own home.
Dividing the book into thirds, Levin dissects utopianism, then Americanism, and finally the combination of utopianism in America that has created the Post-Constitutional "Ameritopia" in which we all reside. Ameritopia—a place where the careful understanding of man's nature and the Constitution painstakingly constructed to reflect that understanding has been exchanged for a Post-Constitutional America. An America now teetering precariously as the result of an addiction to an unending series of utopian fantasies. Utopian fantasies destined always to eventually crash and burn on the hard rock of reality that is human imperfection.
Focusing sharply on how an America carefully constructed on John Locke's keenly observant treatises of man's nature and the resulting civil society, Levin examines a land where the government now runs amok in an endless—and necessarily fruitless—busy-bodying quest for human perfection. A Post-Constitutional government regulating everything from your dishwasher to the brakes in your car while, just as an aside, creating two massive entitlements designed to prevent the impossible: the inevitable trials of old age and the declining health that invariably accompanies it. In the process running both Social Security and Medicare—not to mention the nation's fiscal and economic health—over a financial cliff into a Grand Canyon of unsustainable debt.
"It bears emphasizing," writes Levin, "—the utopian seeks control over the individual. The individual is to be governed. Not represented." In other words, the utopian goal is absolute power. A precise description of the premise behind everything from Obamacare to campaign finance laws to the creations of LBJ's Great Society and FDR's New Deal before that.
In making his case Levin moves effortlessly from the utopian ancients to a discussion of precisely who in American history has taken the country to such a point that the phrase "Post-Constitutional America" could strike such a deep chord with so many.
The most prominent of these American "utopian masterminds" is without doubt Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was not simply the nation's 28th president. He was, unique among his presidential peers, the lone academic to serve in the office. As both scholar and progressive, Wilson had used his pre-presidential time at institutions like Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Wesleyan, Bryn Mawr, New York Law School, and finally as president of Princeton to work out a treatise that effectively became a kind of counter to Locke, Montesquieu, and the Founders. The blueprint for a Post-Constitutional America is doubtless Wilson's Constitutional Government in the United States.
What Wilson was really about, notes Levin, was a dismissal of both the Declaration of Independence as well as what Levin cites—accurately—as "the Founders' announced purpose for American independence…the Lockean exposition on natural law, the nature of man, the social compact establishing the civil society, and the essential ingredients of constitutional republicanism…. In short, for Wilson, rights are awarded or denied the individual as determined by the government."
Or in other words, Wilson's attempt at a constitutional do-over was effectively and inevitably going to head a country founded on principles of liberty down that oldest of roads to that oldest of human conditions—tyranny. Levin again:
Tyranny, broadly defined, is the use of power to dehumanize the individual and delegitimize his nature. Political utopianism is tyranny disguised as a desirable, workable, and even paradisiacal governing ideology.
At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson rose to read a speech from his aging friend and colleague Benjamin Franklin. It is a speech that serves today as an effective warning, a bold "I-told-you-so" from perhaps the oldest and wisest of the Founding Fathers to the current generation of trustees of his beloved American Republic. The Constitution, cautioned Franklin, "is likely to be well administered for a Course of years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become corrupt as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other…"
Asks Levin: "Have we become corrupt" and therefore invited a need for "despotic government"?
Yes, he responds.
Levin cites a chilling sampling of moderns including the managing editor of Time magazine and prominent columnists for the New York Times and the Washington Post who have, in the ageless style of American utopians like Woodrow Wilson, effectively endorsed abandoning the Constitution to embrace the eternal utopian "infatuation with totalitarianism." One advocates "changing or reinterpreting" the Constitution, while another rhapsodizes over the "great advantages" to be found in the government of the police state that is China.
Another prattles of a "fatuous infatuation" with the Constitution and specifically describes the 10th Amendment as "clearly the work of witches, wiccans, and wackos. It has nothing to do with America's real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity." What does this witches brew embedded in the Constitution actually say? In its entirety, here is this heretical subversion of utopia: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States respectively, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people."
Imagine that. Power to the people. Positively frightening, no?
Well, yes. It is if you are a utopian.
What Mark Levin has accomplished with this book is to frame in detailed, precise, and readable fashion the historical connection between the ancient dreams of utopians for absolute power and the nightmare reality of what is becoming—what is—every day real life in today's America. He has written a succinct account of how a nation, in Lincoln's words, "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," has slowly and at times not-so-slowly evolved into a centralized government of, by, and for a political class of "entrenched experts and administrators, whose authority is also self-perpetuating…and growing more formidable."
In the last line of the book, Levin asks what is surely destined to be the real question of 2012—and beyond.
"So my fellow countrymen, which do we choose—Ameritopia or America?"
It is alarming to say, but the jury is still out.