By Terence P. Jeffrey
January 16, 2012
(CNSNews.com) – In an interview with CNSNews.com about his new book—“Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America”—Mark R. Levin said he believes America has already largely become “a post-constitutional country.”
The book, released Monday, compares the Utopian and unworkable schemes laid out by political philosophers from Plato to Thomas Hobbes with the vision of natural law, God-given rights, and individual liberty that inspired the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
“Utopianism is not new,” Levin writes in “Ameritopia.” “It has been repackaged countless times—since Plato and before. It is as old as tyranny itself. In democracies, its practitioners legislate without end. In America, law is piled upon law in contravention and contradiction of the governing law—the Constitution.”
Levin’s verdict: Barack Obama and modern American liberals are firmly in the Utopian camp—pursuing a vision fundamentally at odds with limited government and human freedom.
“I believe to a great extent we now live in a post-constitutional country, where much of the Constitution is ignored or evaded,” Levin told CNSNews.com.
“What I want the readers to understand, what I want the public to understand is, this is not new and it’s going to destroy us,” said Levin. “It’s going to destroy us because it is an attack on the individual. It is an attack on the nature of human beings.”
Mark Levin: How are you, brother?
Terry Jeffrey: I am doing great. Thanks for doing this. You know, each of your first three bestsellers were very different books. “Men in Black” talked about how the Supreme Court was ignoring or distorting the Constitution. “Rescuing Sprite” was a personal story about a dog you rescued, and “Liberty and Tyranny” talked about the way liberals in America today are threatening our freedom. This book is more a look at the comparison of the pathological political philosophy of the left, of those who might impose a tyrannical government, and the political philosophy that animated the Founding Fathers. Why did you write this book?
Levin: Well, because “Liberty and Tyranny” laid out, in my view, the basics between conservatism and non-conservatism. And I try to keep these books under 300 pages, so people will actually read them, and so they’re interesting, and so perhaps they may even influence somebody. And then I got to thinking: Well, it’s not enough just to talk about the Founding Fathers. Where did the Founding Fathers get these ideas from? You know, they didn’t just wake up one day and think about individual sovereignty and private property rights and natural law and God-given inalienable rights and so forth. So, I decided to dig.
Now, I had a sense for this, obviously. But I decided to dig further as well as address this concern that all believers in the American system have always had. I mean, including the greats–including Abraham Lincoln, and Joseph Story, and Ronald Reagan–which was this concern that tyranny threatens democracy. But what is this tyranny?
Other than just describing it at surface level, who’s involved in it, where does this come from? And, frankly, I needed to figure that out for myself. So, that’s why I decided to really dig deep and I think I found the answer, at least satisfying to me, which are these phony utopian notions of how man needs to be controlled and these model societies–going back probably before Plato–but I had to pick certain philosophers, who came up with certain model utopian ideas, to give examples of totalitarian regimes, which really brilliant men came up with, and to warn people today that we’re headed on the same glide path.
Jeffrey: You started out with Plato’s Republic, and you talk about Thomas More and you talked about Hobbes and you end up talking about Karl Marx.
Karl Marx (Wikimedia Commons)
You point out in the book that even Plato in creating this utopia he had in mind, admitted that it wouldn’t work, that it basically was in contradiction to even what he understood about human nature. But when you finally get around to Marx and Engels, there you have true believers. And as I was reading your book–and it had been a while since I looked at The Communist Manifesto–I’m thinking: Well, am I reading the Democratic Party platform here or am I reading The Communist Manifesto? You talk about The Communist Manifesto talked about the abolition of the family, talked about putting all children in public schools as a means of indoctrination, centralization of credit in the hands of the state, a heavy and progressive income tax, an abolition of the right of inheritance, and everything a struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Everything victims and the victimized, victimizers. Compare modern liberals in America today—
Levin: It’s upsetting isn’t it?
Jeffrey: –to this vision that Marx and Engels had in The Communist Manifesto?
Levin: Well, you know it’s interesting. When Obama was running for office and saying these things–sort of saying them and sometimes accidentally blurting them out–I would say on my radio show he is speaking Marx here. This whole phony, historic material dialectic that he created of the two classes constantly fighting each other–the bourgeoisie and the proletariat–in other words, the people with money and land and so forth, the capitalists today, and the workers, the laborers, was phony from day one. And yet it attracted all the miscreants and the malcontents, anybody who’s unhappy with existing society and so forth. And you can hear it in Obama today with the class warfare propaganda.
Jeffrey: Right–and Karl Marx really believed this though, right?
Levin: Well, Karl Marx really believed it and Engels really believed it, and obviously their followers, Lenin and Trotsky and Mao and the others really believed it. But the problem is this–and what I try to get into in the book is–whether it is radical egalitarianism, like More in Utopia, whether it is this two classes fighting with each other, this phony straw man argument that Marx and Engels come up with, whether it’s Plato’s Republic with this so-called ideal city where they decide who’s going to be what where and who’s going to do what where, or whether it’s Hobbes’s all powerful sovereignty, top-down authoritarian-type government–in our own country, we are abandoning constitutional republicanism.
I believe to a great extent we now live in a post-constitutional country, where much of the Constitution is ignored or evaded. And the utopians today, these statists who are promoting bigger, centralized, concentrated government, more power to them. It’s not that they’re sitting there saying I’m going to take from Plato and Hobbes and everyone, but they are taking from Plato and Hobbes. And what I want the readers to understand, what I want the public to understand is, this is not new and it’s going to destroy us. It’s going to destroy us because it is an attack on the individual. It is an attack on the nature of human beings. It is an attack on the civil society.
Jeffrey: Right, in your book, as I understand it, when you talk about Marx and Engels and The Communist Manifesto, they’re talking about a radical transformation of society—
Jeffrey: –where they’re changing everything from the structure of the family, to how kids are taught from the time they’re born, there’s no private property, and to affect that transformation they have to trample individual liberty. It’s impossible to do it.
Levin: All of these societies are fantasies. They’re nightmares, but they’re fantasies. They’re somebody’s fantasy. They’re a philosopher’s fantasy. They’re people in power, it’s their fantasy. And what they all have in common is it is an attack on the nature of man, it is an attack on individual sovereignty, it is an attack on morality, it’s an attack on the civil society. And what I try to show in this book is this is a very, very serious mindset and it’s not the American mindset, and you can hear it in leftist politicians today–the way they talk, what they promote. And then I contrast with what I call Americanism, when we get to John Locke.
You see, John Locke was different than all those we just mentioned because the others were trying to figure out how to create this so-called perfect or more perfect society and impose it on people. John Locke said, ‘You know, what I want to try and figure out is what makes man tick? How does his mind work? How does he gather knowledge? Where does morality come from? Where do these things come from?’ You notice the difference? One makes assumptions: Humans need to be controlled, individuals acting in their own regard is problematic and should be shunned. Whereas Locke said: No, no, no, no. We should embrace individuality, that’s the nature of man.
Jeffrey: Mark, in “Ameritopia” you write, let me quote you back to yourself, you say of John Locke, “Early in the Second Treatise of Government, Locke introduces the notion that of an individual’s God-given and inalienable rights, in which all individuals are entitled and which provide the moral condition of a civil society.” And you quote from Locke, “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone in reason which is that law teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions. For men, being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker, all the servants of one’s sovereign master, sent into this world by His order, and about His business, they are His property whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another’s pleasure.”
What kind of impact did this kind of thinking have on the Founding Fathers, for our country?
Levin: John Locke was the most frequently referred to and read of all the philosophers during the Revolutionary and pre-Revolutionary period. His impact on Thomas Jefferson was enormous. You can hear that as the basis of the Declaration of Independence right there. His impact on George Mason, with the Virginia Declaration of Rights–which was written about five or six weeks before the Declaration of Independence which was also used to influence the Declaration of Independence–was enormous. So Locke’s influence, his discussion about man, man’s knowledge, man’s nature, natural law, was enormous. And yet, how often is Locke taught in high school and college, even today?
Jeffrey: Probably never.
Levin: Probably never, or very quickly, and yet Marx is taught all the time–
Jeffrey: Even if not overtly.
Levin: If not overtly. Yeah, we live it. But it is crucial to understand the foundations of our society. And, as I say, the Founding Fathers didn’t just come up with this stuff.
Jeffrey: Locke talks about, obviously, a law of nature and what nature is and that’s very much in the Declaration of Independence, as you say. With Marx and these other utopians you are talking about, if I understand you correctly, they don’t like the natural order, they don’t like the way people really are, they don’t like the natural society that evolves from the free choices of people, so they have to trample on individual liberty in order to try and reframe things–
Levin: That’s right.
Jeffrey: –and restructure society according to their artificial model.
Levin: Well these are the masterminds. They’re masterminds who decide this is what society ought to look like. You can hear our mastermind today, Barack Obama. Who should earn how much?
Let me tell you a couple of facts of life. There will always be income inequality and there’s not a damn thing man can do about it. Now, he’ll try. The masterminds will try, and in trying we’ll have coercion and misery and poverty because it is destructive of human nature. What Locke meant by equality, what the Founders meant by equality in the Declaration, was not conformity, was not uniformity, was not outcomes. What they meant by equality is there are certain God-given rights that every human being upon birth has. And those God-given rights are the right to live, the right to live freely, and the right to pursue your interests. In other words, the right to be unmolested by other people and unmolested by your government. This is the essential part of our founding, and if you listen to Obama today, they never talk about this. It’s always about our collective interests and our collective desires and so forth.
Jeffrey: And in Locke’s and in the Founding Fathers’ vision, the duty and purpose of government itself is to protect these rights.
Levin: And, in fact, when we get to the Constitution the purpose of the Constitution is to protect and preserve the society that they fought a revolution to protect against outside enemies. The purpose of the Constitution is to protect that society. It’s to protect individual sovereignty. It’s to protect all these things they fought for. So, when you have a president of the United Sates who says I want to fundamentally transform America, he is fundamentally rejecting the entire basis for the American system.
Jeffrey: In the book you also quote a couple of the Federalist Papers written by James Madison where he’s talking about really the point of the Constitution is to put up enough government to protect people’s rights but then limit government so it doesn’t trample on people’s rights.
Levin: Right. That’s the entire point. Locke talks about it and later, even more, Charles de Montesquieu. Now, Charles de Montesquieu had a longer name than that, baron and all the rest of it depending on what time of his life you pick. But people don’t realize–and I didn’t realize the full extent of Montesquieu’s influence on the Framers of the Constitution–and yet if you really think about it, if you read the Federalist Papers, he’s mentioned several times in the Federalist Papers. So, I would ask the people watching right now: Were you taught about Montesquieu in school? Do you know much about Montesquieu? I know I wasn’t taught a lot about Montesquieu and I studied the Federalist Papers left and right. So, I dug in.
Charles de Montesquieu
And in his Spirit of Laws, which in translation can be anywhere from 850 to a 1,000 pages in length, I dug in for a long time. This man was another genius. He’s the one who didn’t come up with the concept but crystallized the concept of three separate branches of government, one working against the other. You know, he feared and Locke feared and the Founders feared all the same thing: centralized concentrated power, because they all knew from history and experience that’s the basis for tyranny and totalitarianism. And Montesquieu was an absolute genius in explaining that.
Jeffrey: Mark, in “Ameritopia” you do quote John Locke talking about how representative government itself, not just monarchy, can be a threat to individual liberty–
Jeffrey: …and the natural rights of the people. You look at things that are happening in American government today. You have a House of Representatives that is occasionally supine in resisting the Executive Branch, or a Congress in general, that is. You have a president who just a week ago appointed a director to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, three members to the National Labor Relations Board, theoretically as a recess appointment, but under the plain terms of the Constitution the Congress was not in recess. Do we see an erosion in America today of the separation of powers, the systems of checks and balances that Montesquieu envisioned?
Levin: Yes, this erosion has been going on for about a hundred years. It’s at a much faster pace right now and there’s a reason for this, because you can’t have constitutionalism and utopianism. In other words, the purpose of the Constitution is to have a limited central government where the sovereignty remains with the individual and the people and the states. The purpose of utopianism is the opposite of all that. It’s a relative handful of masterminds and their massive army of bureaucrats and their experts advising them from the colleges and so forth on how to run society.
You cannot have an EPA and a Constitution at the same time doing what this EPA is doing. You cannot have an NLRB deciding who gets to work where, how, and when, and at the same time follow the Constitution. You cannot have a tax code that serves basically the purpose of redistributing wealth, which is one of the things that Marx was pushing for so strongly, and at the same time be arguing about limited government and constitutionalism.
The utopians reject history. Everything begins today. The models they want to put in place begin today. So why anybody thinks they’re going to respect the Constitution when they don’t respect the rest of history is beyond me. And what you see with Obama is the playing out of this soft tyranny–as I called it in Liberty and Tyranny–as de Tocqueville called it. What you see is the playing out of increasing coercion, increasing–It’s even more than that: There is an attack on the American mindset, on the American psychology, and it’s been going on a long time. But you can hear it in his speeches now, where he is telling the American people you have a right, not to individual liberty, but you have a right to expect more from government, you have a right to take something from somebody else that doesn’t belong to you. This is a battle of ideas.
Jeffrey: I believe Obama has even argued that America was not a great country until we saw the aggrandizement of government that came with the New Deal and the Great Society
Levin: Let’s stop you there. Listen to those names. The New Deal and the Great Society. Listen to those utopian-type names. They are all intended to change the civil society. In other words, these are all different models and yet they have all these common threads that are intended to impose on the people–against their will–but impose on the people some kind of a utopian fantasy, which by the way the utopians can’t actually define, they just keep pressing for it.
Jeffrey: I think in “Ameritopia” you quote de Tocqueville saying that American representative government will last so long as the legislators don’t figure out they can bribe the people with their own money.
Levin: But, you know, he’s not the only one to say that. Franklin at the Constitutional Convention and I paraphrase, he was too ill to get up and speak and he gave a speech to his fellow delegate from Pennsylvania, Wilson, and he read it. And what he essentially said was: Look, if the American people want despotism, they’re going to get despotism. Because the truth is the only thing that stands between tyranny and what we have today–a sort of a softer–is us. We’re going to rely on the same institutions that are out a whack, the same system that has basically been hijacked by these folks, to return our constitutionalism and our liberty to us? I don’t think that’s going work which creates the problem is exactly what do we do about all this?
Jeffrey: From my view, Mark, if you look at the history of the aggrandizement of American government using your model here, it really starts to accelerate in the 1930’s under FDR–
Jeffrey: –with the creation of a federal welfare state, breeding of dependence among the American people, accelerates more in the 1960s under LBJ with the increase of the welfare state. George Bush didn’t help us out–
Levin: No he didn’t
Jeffrey: –when he created the Medicare prescription drug plan. But there seems to be a model where Democrats come into power they want to expand the welfare state and the dependency of the American people, reduce individual liberty, move away from this vision that Locke and Thomas Jefferson had. When Republicans follow them into power, what we get is people who say: Hey, we’re going manage this a little better. We’re going do this a little better. We’re going to make it a little bit cheaper, a little more efficient. They don’t say we’re going to roll it back and get rid of it.
Jeffrey: And do you believe we’re reaching an endgame here where we either have to choose to just go to the financial and freedom disaster of the welfare state or really roll the federal government back and move back to a free society?
Levin: Well, the latter. And the question for me today is—I talk about this post-constitutional country we are in, and the name of the book is “Ameritopia,” because I believe we live today not in the American republic, you know, founded by our forefathers, we live in an “Ameritopia.” And I’ll give you some examples, as I do in one of the chapters, of the book. Look around in your house. You can’t even decide what light bulb to put in your house or showerhead or toilet. Open your medicine cabinet. Everything in there is regulated. Look at your electronics. Every single electronic device you have has some government stamp of approval. Washing machines, dryers, toasters, the gypsum board that is used to build your home, the roofing tile that is on your house, whether you can actually build a house on a particular piece of property that you own, all of this is regulated and managed by government.
So you have to ask yourself: How did we exist before all this? How did we manage to get along before all this? And I’m just starting. If we take the automobile: Automobiles are now designed in Washington D.C., pretty much. If you look at even the labor market: The labor market is basically a response to all these government laws, labor laws and other laws that are in place. Go down this hallway here to the vending machine. The vending machine is now regulated by the Department of Agriculture and other parts of the government on what can be said and cannot be said about the stuff that’s in the vending machine.
Jeffrey: To sell somebody a candy bar.
Levin: Okay. Now let me ask you this. Is this a constitutional republic? Is this a liberal federal–What is it? It’s an “Ameritopia.” Let me tell you something. The problem with “Ameritopia,” or any utopia, is that it doesn’t end well–unless the people do something about it, because there is no end to it. Karl Popper talked about this. Karl Popper said there’s piecemeal utopianism, piecemeal social engineering. He came up with that phrase “social engineering” and he was quite right. The fanatics– which is what Obama and the Democratic Party have become, fanatical utopians–there is no end to what they want to do. There is no end to the spending, the taxes and the regulating. How do we know when we’ve reached this fantasy? How do we know that we achieved whatever it is we are supposed to achieve? Where are the designs? Where is this written? There are no designs and it isn’t written. The one thing we know for sure is that the circle of liberty for the individual gets tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter.
Jeffrey: Mark, before 2010 election, there was the emergence of the Tea Party movement, which seemed to represent the real spirit on the part of the American people to roll the government back and start us in the other direction. It resulted in the election of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It seems like maybe the steam’s gone out of that since the 2010 election. Do you think there is an actual constituency in the country that real political leaders in the practical world can put together to elect a government that will actually head us back in the right direction?
Levin: I don’t know the steam’s gone out yet. I think in many respects the Tea Party is more sophisticated. I think they are organized and so forth. The problem is if our political system is not responsive to tens of millions of people who rise up, who vote, who after the election expect significant change in the right direction, the reestablishment, or the beginning of the reestablishment, of constitutional government and limits on the central government, and when the party they get involved in doesn’t do that, in fact rejects them, in fact in many ways mocks them, I’m very concerned about this.
Jeffrey: Then what do they do?
Levin: Well, I’m concerned about it because if there are not civil legitimate ways to effect political change, things can get ugly. And, by the way, from the left or the right. So part of the problem with this whole utopianism is it balkanizes people, it appeals to the lowest common denominator–in other words it responds to malcontents and miscreants and so forth. Successful people, industrious people, Tea Party people, are the targets of their attack, the targets of their laws and their spending decisions, and so a society begins to unravel and the civil society begins to unravel. I say at the end of the book, I don’t know where this is going to go. And I am very, very worried about where this is going.
Jeffrey: In this campaign there has been some candidates who have gone out and expressly appealed to the founding documents, particularly the Declaration of Independence, and said: You know, if Americans can unite around anything, it’s this idea you talked about in the book: that there is a natural law, there is a God, He’s created this order, we can create a civil society based on that that’s free, and they’re basically putting their faith in the idea that the American people will rally around that idea. Do you believe that idea still has the currency to be the core theme of a political campaign?
Levin: Well, I hope so, because if it doesn’t we’re done, aren’t we? Because that means that enough people in this country have been conquered or have surrendered their free will, and their independence and their sovereignty to a utopian design promoted by temporary politicians that will be their undoing. And when you go back to the beginning of the book, I say what I want to examine here is what kind of force lures millions of millions of people and destroys them. And that’s this utopianism. So we have a president and others who talk about how they are going to—and notice also he doesn’t want to run on his record because we know this stuff can’t work. It’s impracticable. It’s impossible. You’re not going to have a healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for everybody under cost, cuts the deficit, and it’s available whenever you need it. That’s a bold-faced lie.
Jeffrey: –without rationing.
Levin: Without all kinds of dislocations and so forth.
Jeffrey: It’s a utopian scheme.
Levin: It’s the scheme. So what do they do? They talk about what they’re going to do five years from now, or the next term, or ten years from now, or thirty years from now. And Popper talked about this. They come up with these grandiose schemes and they want you to keep looking at the end of the rainbow, not the rainbow, because they can’t actually construct the rainbow. But at the end of the rainbow there’s this paradise. And all you have to do is surrender more of your liberty, and more of your private property rights, and follow the Pied Piper over the cliff, and one day we’ll all get there.
Jeffrey: On a few occasions Mark, when President Obama has alluded to the Declaration of Independence, he has very cleverly edited it–dropped out the Creator, nowhere our rights came from. Do you believe that Obama’s fundamental vision–with his talk about class war and victims and victimizers, and the way he frames the political debate–that his fundamental vision is basically Marxist, is basically similar to the sort of vision that Karl Marx and Engels were laying out?
Levin: By the way, he’s not the first one to abuse the Declaration this way. FDR used to do it all the time. No, he didn’t take God out, but he talked about rights as privileges. And, also, the man FDR relied on for his Social Security program, Seager, Seager went on and on and was very outspoken and direct about it: We need to attack this notion in America that’s very deep about individualism; we’ve got to change that to collectivism. And FDR picked up on that.
Look, I’ve said that Obama is a Marxist. Now, there’s 50 different types of Marxists, but it really doesn’t matter if I call him Marxist or not. If people are more comfortable, call him a utopian, because that’s exactly what he is. Call him a statist, call him whatever you want. What I do know is when a man runs for office and he says repeatedly that he wants to fundamentally transform America, I know two things: Number one the Constitution does not empower the president to fundamentally transform America. It gives him certain responsibilities. That’s what he gets to do, that and nothing more. Fundamentally transforming America is unconstitutional on its face. Number two, fundamentally transforming America, as I’ve said before, means you must hate America. Why would you want to fundamentally transform something that you love? So, he doesn’t like the Constitution because the Constitution stands in the way of these people, the leftists. The Declaration of Independence is rejected.
Woodrow Wilson, in a speech he gave in the early 1900s, before he ascended to the presidency, he dismisses the Declaration of Independence. FDR dismisses the Constitution of the United States. They have to. They have to destroy the existing society and traditions to impose on us this abstraction that they’ve created. This dogma, this religion, which we’re all compelled to follow even though it results in our own demise.
Jeffrey: Which can never be achieved.
Levin: It can’t be achieved. The only thing that can be achieved is the destruction of the individual.
Jeffrey: Mark Levin, author of “Ameritopia.” Thank you very much.
Levin: My pleasure, God bless.