America’s Long March toward a Secular Socialist Democracy
The United States is the only nation in the annals of mankind to be established on the basis of a political and social philosophy centered on natural, or God-given, rights. Yet, within 230 years of our founding, America has been essentially transformed into another secular socialist democracy. This metamorphosis is the end-product of a subtle but determined assault on that philosophical underpinning.
Property rights are the bedrock of the American political system; without that foundation, there is no freedom. The Founders held that property rights encompass not just physical property but also one’s life, labor and livelihood, as individuals own their own lives; therefore, they must own the products of that life that can be traded in free exchange with others. They further believed that the primary role of government is to guarantee and protect these property rights, and further, that these property rights are natural, or God given rights. Thus, the Declaration of Independence proclaims that Men “…are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”
Signing of the Declaration of Independence, as painted by John Trumbull (1817-18)
However, over the past 150 years, the statists, including the current iteration of the American Left, have marched in lock step to what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels espoused in their Communist Manifesto “The Theory of Communism may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” They contended that one’s labor or livelihood (and by extension one’s life) is not private property and is thus subordinate to the common good as determined by the state.
Opposing views regarding the purpose of the state and individual property rights have been bandied about for 2,500 years. The Greek philosopher Plato (427 BC-347 BC) called for a communist social order in which property is held in common (the state) and that human nature can and should be molded and transformed to benefit the state. On the other hand, Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) argued that if property is held in common then there exists the potential for animosity and anger; further, man possess a human nature that cannot be molded or transformed to some ideal of a perfect state. The laws of nature and the rule of law demand that government should govern for the good of the people, not for the good of those in power. In Rome, Cicero (106 BC-43 BC) asserted that the “right of ownership is inalienable” His reasoning was rooted in natural law and the “laws of human society.”
While the conflict between communism and democracy has been the centerpiece of the history of the past 100 years, the underlying philosophical battle over the role of property rights was waged in 17th Century Britain between Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704).
Thomas Hobbes published his seminal work Leviathan in 1651. In it he described man’s essential nature as one of aggression, avarice, destruction and near constant war. Therefore, an all-powerful sovereign (or government) was a necessity in order to protect against and repel this base human nature. Hobbes believed this sovereign would by necessity have near limitless power to take and use any and all property (including one’s labor and livelihood) for the good of society. Individual rights did not exist and whatever rights an individual had were merely at the whim of the government and could be revoked at any time.
John Locke published his Second Treatise of Government in 1690. In contrast to Hobbes, Locke wrote:
…though the things of nature are given in common, yet man, by being master of himself and proprietor of his own person, and the actions or labour of it, had still in himself the great foundation of property; and that which made up the great part of what he applied to the support or comfort of his being…was perfectly his own and did not belong in common to others. Thus labour, in the beginning gave a right of property.
Since…preservation and the means of subsistence, are discovered by natural reason, they are ipso facto derived from natural law. [The origin of government is therefore] …to secure property and the translation into a constitutional right of a fully validated right based on natural law.
The Founders of the United States were profoundly influenced by the writings of Aristotle, Cicero and Locke when they wrote both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is the natural right of property as a constitutional right that has enabled the United States to evolve into the most prosperous and successful nation in the history of mankind.
Nonetheless, since the 1930’s the Progressives have been extraordinarily successful in gradually transforming the country into what the Founders feared: a nation dominated by an all-powerful central government running roughshod over man’s inalienable rights.
Throughout the past century and around the world, the disciples of Plato, Hobbes, Marx and Engels have achieved political hegemony in many nations due to their callous manipulation of human nature.
The most dominant trait of mankind, as of all living creatures, is an innate desire to survive and prosper. While many may willingly choose to pursue subsistence on their own terms, to the majority of the human race, the path of least resistance is the most desired. Thus, mankind is susceptible to financial scams, gambling, crime, and resentment towards those who may have more. But above all, far too many people are open to the concept of a central authority providing them with the means of survival.
A secondary characteristic of the human race, also shared by other species, is the need by some within the group to conquer or maintain control over their fellow man. In the post-Industrial Revolution era, the easiest course to assume this power was to promise, in exchange for the votes of the people, that the state, through a new ruling class, would provide the citizenry cradle-to-grave security. Thus, a Faustian bargain encompassing the desire by the majority for ease of survival and others for the need to rule through the vehicle of an authoritarian central government whose primary purpose would be control of virtually all economic, political and societal activity.
As the history of the 20th Century affirms, this goal is relatively easy to achieve in those nations built solely on a foundation of ethnicity and national identity (e.g. Germany, Russia, China, Japan). To do so in the United States required more cunning and deviousness.
The Progressives, beginning in the 1890’s, seized upon the concept of “fairness” and redefining “fundamental rights” as the basis of rejecting the Founders’ concept of a natural moral order. Rather than accept the theory that the purpose of government is to protect man’s natural rights, the Progressives put forward the notion that government’s primary purpose is to ensure fairness and economic equality. Therefore, fundamental rights, as prominent Progressive thinker Charles Merriam (1874-1953) wrote, “...are considered to have their source not in nature, but in law.” John Dewey (1859-1952), often considered the father of American Progressivism, also wrote: “Natural rights and natural liberties exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.”
While the early Progressives achieved a few prominent successes (the 16th Amendment -- Income Taxes and the 17th Amendment -- direct election of senators), the seeds they planted took root in the 1930’s with Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression. The basis of the nation’s founding was forever altered as the coercive taking of one’s labor or livelihood to give to another, for whatever purpose the state may determine, became accepted as a fundamental role of government. This role was further expanded in the 1960’s with the passage of a panoply of government-sponsored and -funded social and health care programs.
Also in the 1960’s, a more radicalized Progressive movement, motivated by Vladimir Lenin’s assertion “Give us a child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik for life”, began to aggressively infiltrate the education establishment. The “fairness” strategy of the early Progressives was reinforced by the incessant propagandizing in academia that the United States as a civilization was responsible for all manner of evil throughout its history. A majority of two generations have been indoctrinated into believing the nation must, therefore, discard the basis of it’s founding in order to make up for its past sins. This can only be accomplished by guaranteeing the new “fundamental rights” of equal societal and economic outcomes.
Today the nation finds itself facing a calamitous $222 Trillion in unfunded liabilities due entirely to government sponsored social programs and debt service -- the funding of which is totally dependent upon the confiscation of the labor and livelihood from one American to give to another. The ongoing debate regarding health care is centered on the degree to which the government will ultimately appropriate the labor of those in the medical profession, the management of hospitals and the products of pharmaceutical companies.
As one’s life, labor and livelihood are no longer considered God-given rights but subject to the whims of the state, the state can determine what is life. Thus, abortion is no longer illegal or immoral, as it is sanctioned by the state. Since 1970, 175 million babies in Europe (115 million) and the United States (60 million) have been exterminated. Additionally, euthanasia is increasingly being accepted and decriminalized. The most recent example of the end-product of this mindset is the callous ultimatum by the English government and the European Union directed at the parents of 10-month-old Charlie Gard. As my good friend and colleague Daren Jonescu recently wrote:
Under socialism, you don’t own yourself. Parents do not have the final say in the fates of their children. The state owns all, and decides all, for everyone.
On the 17th of September, 1787, the last day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin wrote what has turned out to be, perhaps, a very prescient speech:
Sir, I agree to this Constitution…and there is no form of government but may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. [Emphasis added]
The Republic the founders bequeathed to future generations is no more. There will never be another nation founded on the principles of natural, or God given rights.
The United States will continue to exist. However, as it has embarked on the same downward trajectory as the nations of Europe, America also faces the same ultimate destiny of collapse and turmoil. In what may well be the last chance to avoid this fate, the electorate, for altogether different reasons, chose Donald Trump as President and placed the Republicans in charge of Congress.
However, Donald Trump refuses to address entitlement spending, chooses to be oblivious to societal degradation and is, in fact, proposing new government funded social programs. And a majority of the Republican members of Congress are sympathetic to much of the Progressive agenda. Thus, the march, albeit slowed, toward a full-scale socialist democracy continues apace.
If, in the 2018 primaries, supposed conservative Americans do not cast out the establishment Republican members of Congress sympathetic to the Progressive agenda, then the die will be cast as the last line of defense will have disintegrated.