America's Descent Into Totalitarian Democracy

Over fifty years ago, Jacob Leib Talmon defined the battle now underway for America's soul by comparing liberal democracy with totalitarian democracy.

Talmon (1916-1960), Professor of Modern History at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, wrote The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (foreword dated 1951, published in English in 1960).  His notion of "liberal" democracy was founded on liberty, rather than collectivism. Talmon was a devout anti-Marxist.

In our search for language to describe what then candidate Barack Obama meant when he said, shortly before the election, that, "five days from now we will fundamentally change America," Talmon offers another option. Fundamental change meant the transition into totalitarian democracy.  (Michael Barone introduced a tactic of totalitarian democracy with his concept of Obama thugocracy.)

"The essential difference between the two schools of democratic thought as they have evolved is not, as is often alleged, in the affirmation of the value of liberty by one, and its denial by the other. It is in their different attitudes to politics. The liberal assumes politics to be a matter of trial and error, and regards political systems as pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity. It also recognizes a variety of levels of personal and collective endeavor, which are altogether outside the sphere of politics.

The totalitarian democratic school, on the other hand, is based upon the assumption of a sole and exclusive truth in politics. It may be called political Messianism in the sense that it postulates a preordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things, to which men are irresistibly driven, and at which they are bound to arrive. It recognizes ultimately only one plane of existence, the political.  It widens the scope of politics to embrace the whole of human existence." (pp. 1-2)

"Modern totalitarian democracy is a dictatorship resting on popular enthusiasm, and is thus completely different from absolute power wielded by a divine-right King, or by a usurping tyrant." (p. 6)

In a chapter entitled "The Social Problem," Talmon compares the two types of democracy and, ahead of its time, defines the battle underway today for the soul of America.

"The great dividing line between the two major schools of social and economic thought in the last two centuries has been the attitude to the basic problem: should the economic sphere be considered an open field for the interplay of free human initiative, skill, resources and needs, with the State intervening only occasionally to fix the most general and liberal rules of the game, to help those who have fallen by the wayside, to punish those guilty of foul play and to succour the victims thereof; or should the totality of resources and human skill be ab initio [from the beginning] treated as something that should be deliberately shaped and directed, in accordance with a definite principle, this principle being - in the widest sense - the satisfaction of human needs.

Where the latter attitude puts all stress on the injury caused to the weak by the cupidity of those who succeed in monopolizing all the resources, and on the disorder and confusion brought about by the lack of general direction; the former maintains that State-guaranteed social security would take away all incentive to exertion - the fear of poverty and the hope of gain and distinction - and thus cause a lowering of vitality and a weakening of all productive effort, in addition to the stifling of freedom by centralized regimentation.

At bottom the whole debate centres round the question of human nature: could man be so re-educated in a socially integrated system as to begin to act on motives different from those prevailing in the competitive system? Is the urge for free economic initiative nothing else than rationalized greed or anxiety, bound to die out in a order guaranteeing equal economic well-being, as the Collectivist ideology teaches?"  (p. 149)

The Obama administration and the Democrat Party leadership in Congress are herding American toward becoming a totalitarian democracy.  Push-back is well underway.  But will it be enough to forestall our descent into this "fundamental" change candidate Obama promised?


Over fifty years ago, Jacob Leib Talmon defined the battle now underway for America's soul by comparing liberal democracy with totalitarian democracy.

Talmon (1916-1960), Professor of Modern History at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, wrote The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy (foreword dated 1951, published in English in 1960).  His notion of "liberal" democracy was founded on liberty, rather than collectivism. Talmon was a devout anti-Marxist.

In our search for language to describe what then candidate Barack Obama meant when he said, shortly before the election, that, "five days from now we will fundamentally change America," Talmon offers another option. Fundamental change meant the transition into totalitarian democracy.  (Michael Barone introduced a tactic of totalitarian democracy with his concept of Obama thugocracy.)

"The essential difference between the two schools of democratic thought as they have evolved is not, as is often alleged, in the affirmation of the value of liberty by one, and its denial by the other. It is in their different attitudes to politics. The liberal assumes politics to be a matter of trial and error, and regards political systems as pragmatic contrivances of human ingenuity and spontaneity. It also recognizes a variety of levels of personal and collective endeavor, which are altogether outside the sphere of politics.

The totalitarian democratic school, on the other hand, is based upon the assumption of a sole and exclusive truth in politics. It may be called political Messianism in the sense that it postulates a preordained, harmonious and perfect scheme of things, to which men are irresistibly driven, and at which they are bound to arrive. It recognizes ultimately only one plane of existence, the political.  It widens the scope of politics to embrace the whole of human existence." (pp. 1-2)

"Modern totalitarian democracy is a dictatorship resting on popular enthusiasm, and is thus completely different from absolute power wielded by a divine-right King, or by a usurping tyrant." (p. 6)

In a chapter entitled "The Social Problem," Talmon compares the two types of democracy and, ahead of its time, defines the battle underway today for the soul of America.

"The great dividing line between the two major schools of social and economic thought in the last two centuries has been the attitude to the basic problem: should the economic sphere be considered an open field for the interplay of free human initiative, skill, resources and needs, with the State intervening only occasionally to fix the most general and liberal rules of the game, to help those who have fallen by the wayside, to punish those guilty of foul play and to succour the victims thereof; or should the totality of resources and human skill be ab initio [from the beginning] treated as something that should be deliberately shaped and directed, in accordance with a definite principle, this principle being - in the widest sense - the satisfaction of human needs.

Where the latter attitude puts all stress on the injury caused to the weak by the cupidity of those who succeed in monopolizing all the resources, and on the disorder and confusion brought about by the lack of general direction; the former maintains that State-guaranteed social security would take away all incentive to exertion - the fear of poverty and the hope of gain and distinction - and thus cause a lowering of vitality and a weakening of all productive effort, in addition to the stifling of freedom by centralized regimentation.

At bottom the whole debate centres round the question of human nature: could man be so re-educated in a socially integrated system as to begin to act on motives different from those prevailing in the competitive system? Is the urge for free economic initiative nothing else than rationalized greed or anxiety, bound to die out in a order guaranteeing equal economic well-being, as the Collectivist ideology teaches?"  (p. 149)

The Obama administration and the Democrat Party leadership in Congress are herding American toward becoming a totalitarian democracy.  Push-back is well underway.  But will it be enough to forestall our descent into this "fundamental" change candidate Obama promised?