Friday, January 27, 2012

Ameritopia – The Unmaking of America - A Book Review

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Ameritopia – The Unmaking of America
by Mark R. Levin
Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster

Last week saw the release of Mark Levin's new book, Ameritopia – The Unmaking of America. Mr. Levin has been marketing his book on his popular radio show for months and now that it has been released he has made his show an almost non-stop infomercial for the book. He did the same thing with his last book Liberty and Tyranny, which in my view was a better, more ground-breaking book. What has been proven by radio hosts Mr. Levin, Howard Stern, Glenn Beck and others with a book to sell is that using their microphone and their particular soap box, there is no better tool for selling books than a large radio audience. Unfortunately, Mr. Levin takes great advantage of this fact and rather than mentioning it just a few times and then moving on, his tomes become the centerpieces of his radio show for weeks.

All this said, I am a steadfast fan of Levin's radio show, but I cannot wait until he gets past being an unrepentant shill for his book.

As with his last book, Levin introduces a new term which he uses throughout the book, and ineffectively on his radio show, to describe the people who want to control our lives. Where liberal elite, radical egalitarian, elitist, and even Illuminati might be good enough terms to fill the bill, Levin repurposes mastermind, a term which is used by Napoleon Hill and his followers as a group of people serving as a larger sort of braintrust. Two heads are better than one. Levin's use of the term sort of parallels the use of the term in the sense of the evil James Bond anatgonist or of say, Osama bin Laden, but it doesn't work in the political philosophy sense in which he uses it and it is unnecessary in describing the political elite that want to control us.

While reading Ameritopia, it will be noticed that there is probably more quoted text in this book than there is original text by the author. That said, the quotes are generally enlightening and germane to the subject matter at hand.

In the first chapter of the book, Levin lays the groundwork for his thesis by saying: “Equality, as understood by the American Founders, is the natural right of every individual to live freely under self-government, to acquire and retain the property he creates through his own labor, and to be treated impartially before a just law. Moreover, equality should not be confused with perfection, for man is also imperfect, making his application of equality, even in the most just society, imperfect. Otherwise, inequality is the natural state of man in the sense that each individual is born unique in all his human characteristics.” This statement about equality is one that Occupy Wall Streeters and liberals in general will disagree with.

The author suggests that in the utopian worldview, an individual is just a cog in the wheel of society. This runs counter to what America is all about and, what Levin argues every utopian society offers, that is a loss of individualism, not to mention freedom.

Speaking of labor, property, and freedom Levin says: “...the individual's right to live freely and safely and pursue happiness includes the right to benefit from the fruits of his own labor. As the individual's time on Earth is finite, so, too, is his labor. The illegitimate denial or diminution of his labor—that is, the involuntary deprivation of the private property he accumulates from his intellectual and/or physical efforts—is a form of servitude and, hence, immoral.”

Throughout Ameritopia, Mr. Levin looks at utopian societies as envisioned by political philosophers of the past, starting with Plato from two thousand years ago. He finds that: “Utopianism requires power to be concentrated in a central authority with maximum latitude to transform and control.”

For example, Levin looks at Plato's Republic and de-idealizes his Ideal City. “But in the City, the individual is indentured to the state. Justice is synonymous with the well-being of the City. The classes exist to work as a harmonious collective to ensure order. Dissent, independence, and change are considered destructive. Ironically, it is unlikely Socrates would have survived long in Plato's City, given its totalitarian complexion.”

In his look at Thomas More's Utopia, published in 1516, Levin calls it “...a tyrannical society, destructive of individual sovereignty and free will, with many of the attributes of a communist state.”

The author next turns his critical eye toward Thomas Hobbe's Leviathan, written in 1651. He applies some slippery slope logic to Hobbes' utopian government, saying: “Indeed, is not an all-powerful Sovereign, which is Hobbes' answer, a great and more certain threat to the individual?” And having concluded that Hobbes' model government is sure to be despotic, Levin says, “Hobbes creates a false choice between polar opposites. Either they live in anarchy or live under despotism.” I disagree with Levin here concerning the quoted Hobbes material. He takes Hobbes Sovereign to its ultimate logical extreme, which would not always or often be the case. But Levin is correct that the civil society always needs to worry about who it invests its power in.

Levin then moves on to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' Communist Manifesto, written in 1846. Levin publishes a damning quote from the anti-humanistic treatise which those authors seem proud to expound: “In this sense the theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

First of all, “Abolition of private property” is a phrase, not a sentence. But be that as it may, Levin handily evicerates the Communist utopia calling them “totalitarian regimes” where the people have no “individual liberties and rights”. I think it may be easily said that there is no single document which has resulted in more dead humans than the Communist Manifesto.

Levin then looks at some of the people who had a positive influence on the Founding Fathers. John Locke was one of those, a thinker who had a great deal of influence on the nascent country. Levin points out that Locke believed “that the wealth created and possessed by one individual does not prevent another individual from creating and possessing wealth.” This is a popular belief among conservatives in the U.S. today, and is something that is forbidden in the various utopias.

One of the thinkers that Levin reviews and talks about often on his radio show is Alexis de Tocqueville. In regards to the tyranny of government Levin mentions this: “De Tocqueville then made the profound observation that this dreary existence is accepted by the people, for they go through the motions of electing their guardians, deluding themselves that they and their fellow citizens remain free for they participate in self-government. However, as the administrative state grows, the vote is less effective and the individual is increasingly disenfranchised.”

I agree with Levin and de Tocqueville that the result of elections sometimes seems to result in little change, but voting is all we have when we want change in a representative republic. Revolution in a democracy can be as simple as voting the bums out. And as Levin often espouses on his radio show, it is imperative that if we want to effect change we must vote, not sit at home.

Mr. Levin's brief look at the liberal/statist Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt was instructive to me and I am sure will be to others as well, considering the whitewash these guys are given in the public school system. Of Wilson, Levin points out: “In short, for Wilson, rights are awarded or denied the individual as determined by the government.” And of Roosevelt Levin opines, “Roosevelt repositioned the utopians as enlightened, modern, and futuristic, and, conversely, presented the advocates of civil society and constitutionalism as obstructing individual and societal progress.”

Roosevelt's New Deal increased the scope and reach of the federal government in ways unprecedented since the ratification of the Constitution, some would say in breach of it. And in speaking of Roosevelt's “Second Bill of Rights” Levin says: “There is little space between Roosevelt's premise and the distorted historical views of Marx and Engels.” He goes on to point out how closely Roosevelt's “Second Bill of Rights” mirrors the Soviet Union's 1936 constitution.

Levin argues that America is already well on its way to being Ameritopia, the utopia that statists, liberals, and progressives want it to be. The federal government has burgeoned to an uncontrollable size. Taxing, spending and debt are irresponsible and immoral. Regulations and bureaucracy are leviathans unto themselves, intruding into every corner of our lives in spite of the Constitution, and entitlements burden and provide foundation for the growing utopia.

Levin says that the Constitution “...secures for posterity the individual's sovereignty...” Little wonder then that utopians attack the Constitution as much as they do. Levin states that it is still not too late to preserve the American republic.

Ameritopia is a cogent argument against utopianism. The reader will learn much of political philosophy. It is a fine historical essay as well. It's not an easy read by any means, especially considering all the middle English usage in the quotations, but you can grasp it if you soldier on.

But as far as fighting liberalism, progressivism, socialism, and Marxism, Liberty and Tyranny is the better book and it will have the longer lasting value.

Mark Levin's radio show can be found here.

Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny can be found here.

Mark Levin's Ameritopia can be found here.

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