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Liberty and Tyranny

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

For the past few years, I’ve been arguing that those who like to be called “liberals” should instead be called statists. You know these people. They are the ones who, full of righteous indignation, speak incessantly of injustice and oppression in America. They also speak, in sentences full of smug self-assurance, as if they and only they possess the empathy and intellectual fortitude necessary to provide “solutions” to a host of social “problems” thrust upon a good people by a bad “society.”

Edmund Burke was talking about these statists when he said “by (their) unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways, as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. Men would become little better than the flies of summer.”

The American conservative today finds himself in a position of fighting a form of progressivism, which seems to have taken on a life of its own. When confronted with the myriad of changes occurring with such rapidity it is hard to see the common thread linking them all together. But if there is one theme, it is this: Equality.

Mark Levin is correct in saying that this passion for equality is driven by the statist’s deep sense of inferiority. For the passion for equality is, at its core, a passion for anonymity. When the fabric of society is woven together in such a way that one thread cannot be distinguished from another, no judgment is possible. That is why the economic Marxist prefers a guaranteed average outcome. And it is why the cultural Marxist is receptive to the religion of moral relativism.

The statist may well say that he rejects traditional religion because it provides an opiate to the masses. But there is more to his opposition to religion than his fear of a disincentive to revolt against ruling classes. He also fears that religion leads to judgment and intolerance – the kind that reminds him of his inferiority.

Not wanting to be judged, the statist rejects the notion that man is endowed by a Creator with certain unalienable rights. No longer convinced of the permanence of any rights, the statist gives birth to the idea that a constitution – like a right – can be “living” and “breathing” and ever evolving.

And this gives rise to a serious question: If rights are not bestowed by a Creator, then under what conditions do they exist? In other words, who bestows them?

The answer for the statist is, of course, the statist. The answer grants a license to lawless activism that is arbitrary and subject to rationing by the statist himself. It is the kind of lawless activism of which Justice Marshall boasted when he proclaimed “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” It is a different way of saying “I don’t care what the Framers intended. I care only about what I intend.”

President Franklin Roosevelt was among those who believed that the rights our Framers intended to preserve in a Bill of Rights were not enough. Thus, he proposed a Second Bill of Rights, which included the following:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.

These are, of course, not rights in any sense of the word. This is a promise of Utopia from a Statist president seeking to justify unlimited intrusion upon the right to own property. It is a false promise from a president who fails to understand what separates man from the lower animals.

There is little question that a guaranteed outcome undercuts man’s ability to overcome his weaknesses. The statist fails to realize that by confiscating a man’s property – in service to equality of outcome – he confiscates his incentive to improve his own life by building his own home, growing his own food, and making his own clothes. When the statist confiscates property he also confiscates a man’s ability to improve his life.

The Great Depression made possible the tenure of one statist president whose “solutions” greatly exacerbated our economic woes. Today, we face a similar situation. That is why this discussion must continue in a future column.

Source: Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, by Mark Levin. New York: Simon and Schuster (2009).

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