No one understands the dysfunctions and debilitating impact of America's political system in the swamp better than Mark Melcher and Steve Soukup. For decades between them, they followed Washington for Wall Street at one of America's largest brokerage houses. For the last 16 years, the two have run their own, independent research shop, delivering political commentary and forecasting to the investment community, studying the intersection between politics and economics. This pushed them into a relentless pursuit of the new left -- measuring its deleterious impact on everything it touches -- most especially Western civilization.
To this end, Melcher and Soukup have put the fruits of their study into print. "Know Thine Enemy: A History of the Left," is nearly 1,000 pages long. It has been divided into two volumes, the first of which is available from Amazon (and Barnes & Noble). The purpose of this effort is to teach readers everything they can about the left, its origins and its many forms. They also identify the men and women who pushed back against the left, including the conservative icon Russell Kirk, to whom their book is dedicated.
The authors start their story at the Enlightenment, one of mankind's greatest achievements, but also one of its most dangerous moments, or as they write in the introduction:
"(The left) emerged in the eighteenth century during the so-called Enlightenment period, and was based on the belief that science and reason should replace religion as the foundation of a modern society. The purveyors of his new ideology had trouble agreeing on details of this new belief system, and this resulted in the wide proliferation of leftist prototypes, among the best-known of which are communism, socialism, Marxism, fascism, and, in the United States, progressivism and liberalism.
"While different from each other in many important ways, all of these models originally shared several important philosophical ideas. These include an aversion to Christianity and religion generally, to capitalism, and to the concept of private property; a belief in the perfectibility of mankind; a belief in the superiority of reason over faith; a claim to an affinity with the working classes; and the promise of a world of peace, equality, and prosperity, free from the evils that religion had foisted on the mankind."
In volume one, the two political historians trace the left from Voltaire and Rousseau, through the French Revolution, to Kant and Marx, to Great Britain with its Utopian Socialists and Bloomsburies, back to the Continent for the anarchists and proto-fascists, and then to the United States and its "progressives." Most people think of the left only as Marx and his murderous acolytes, but Melcher and Soukup demonstrate that the left has been a consistent feature of Western civilization since the French Revolution, each scheme dedicated to undermining the existing order and creating a "new" man -- whether he likes it or not.
The book allows the left to indict itself by citing the words of leftists themselves -- most of which were written by dense and arrogant men in dense and arrogant prose. Fortunately, the authors' narrative and their collection of easy-to-understand and highly respected secondary sources provide the reader with more than enough information to see just how dangerous and how similar various leftist movements have been.
I have spent my entire career advocating for free-market economic policies, trying to convince the leaders of this country that unnecessary government interference in the marketplace -- and let's face it, most government is totally unnecessary -- destroys liberty and inhibits prosperity. The authors help to explain why this effort is absolutely necessary. The authors document the inevitable destruction unleashed by the left wherever it has reared its ugly head. They show how the ideas of leftism played a huge role in the creation of our administrative state, the bureaucratic apparatus that defies the Founders' instructions that the government exists to secure our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"Know Thine Enemy" is a comprehensive takedown of the left and it should be read by those who want good to triumph over evil. (No, I'm not inciting violence here, but those who have abused political power for their own self-aggrandizement are not just misguided intellects.) Too often, we say that the left is wrong but well-intentioned. Some are. But most simply want government to control other people's lives and they believe in Stalinistic methods to achieve that goal.
Stalin, Lenin, Marx, Mao, Pol Pot, Antifa, Castro, Che Guevara and the like use power to reduce the sanctity of the individual for the common good of the collective. It is a kind of enslavement that degrades the human spirit and makes us poorer over time. But the real villains here are not the leftists of yesteryear who set back the quest for human freedom and material progress, but the modern left -- the academics, the politicians, the media mavens -- who know, or should know, full well the destruction and retardation of statism, but still selfishly pursue it.
The underlying message of this book is that the modern left must be stopped and thoroughly discredited before they do society real and irrevocable harm.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy."