I recently had the opportunity to interview bestselling author and nationally syndicated talk radio host, Mark R. Levin, about his new book, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America.
BILA: I see Ameritopia as a necessary and complementary sequel to Liberty and Tyranny, especially at this point in our country’s history. What role can they both play as we approach this pivotal election season?
LEVIN: There is mostly talk these days, even by leading conservatives, about the disastrous symptoms of big government. The debt, Occupy Wall Street, the border, etc. While that is very important, it does not delve into the driving force behind these policies and movements. Ameritopia digs deep into the thinking and causes behind that which is unraveling our society. It asks the question (and answers it): What kind of force allures millions of people yet destroys them? The philosophical underpinning of this mindset is utopianism. That is what attracts people, and that is what the self-appointed political masterminds use to herd people. And utopianism is as old as Plato’s Republic and older. That said, there is a counter-force, and it is based on individual sovereignty, natural law and unalienable rights, and the civil society. In Ameritopia, I look at the philosophical underpinnings of these truths and facts. Where did the Founders come up with the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
I am hoping that when more of my fellow citizens truly understand what is behind these different approaches to humanity, more will cherish liberty and fear the gradual tyranny that, unfortunately, grows too often in the midst of democracies. In turn, I am hoping to ignite an even more vigorous and energetic effort to preserve our society and trounce efforts to fundamentally transform it.
BILA: While discussing utopianism in Chapter One of Ameritopia, you write the following: “After all, only an army of drones is capable of building a rainbow to paradise.” Can you expand upon that, particularly with respect to the lure of utopianism and who is susceptible to its promises?
LEVIN: Utopianism is an attack on the individual in favor of a centralized, powerful governing body. Utopianism is what drives the growth of government or, as I call it, statism. In order to lure people to it, utopians make impracticable or impossible promises that are grand or even fantastic in scope. The goal is paradise, heaven on earth, where everything is equal—there is no pollution, there is no risk, health care is free, etc. In exchange, the individual must be reshaped, he must be denuded of his spirit, his self-interest must be condemned, and so forth. For the utopians, the individual is menacing and obstructing, whereas “the masses” and “the workers” can be pushed, prodded, and coerced to do what the masterminds deem necessary for their ideal society.
BILA: In speaking about the “masterminds” who rule utopian societies, you write the following: “Although the mastermind’s incompetence and vision plague the society, responsibility must be diverted elsewhere—to those assigned to carry them out, or to the people’s lack of sacrifice, or to the enemies of the state who have conspired to thwart the utopian cause—for the mastermind is inextricably linked to the fantasy.” I couldn’t help but draw my own parallel to Barack Obama’s incessant blame game when faced with his own abysmal record. What do you think about that?
LEVIN: You are right. Obama is only the latest in a long line of such masterminds. All that is necessary to become a mastermind in this sense is lots of power and a fanatical allegiance to an impossible idea. Since utopianism is a fantasy that cannot work and, as history has shown time and again, is in fact inhumane and disastrous—for it promotes authoritarianism and totalitarianism—the mastermind cannot accept blame for its endless failings, for to do so is to condemn himself. Instead, he condemns the efforts as piecemeal or blames it on outside forces or whatever. You can see this in Obama’s endless blame games, where he condemns prior administrations, the free market, the rich, corporate executives, ATM machines, you name it.
BILA: You write at one point in the book that utopianism is “transformative not reformative.” You also note that “When the fifty-five delegates met in Philadelphia in 1787 at what became known as the Constitutional Convention, their purpose was not to transform American society but to preserve and protect it.” Once again, I can’t help but think of Barack Obama’s “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Many of our GOP candidates are talking restoration. Are we seeing a utopianism versus constitutionalism battle play out right before our eyes this election season?
LEVIN: I believe in terms of the public debate we are. How it actually works out should a Republican be elected president is another matter, given that recent Republican presidents have contributed to the massive growth of the federal government—from TARP and the auto industry bailouts to the expansion of entitlements and the debt. I also think that when folks read Ameritopia, they will have a much better understanding of this hugely important conflict of philosophies, so that when Obama says what he says, they will immediately understand the roots of his contempt for individual sovereignty, the civil society, and the limits the Constitution places on would-be masterminds, which is what he meant when he said he wants to fundamentally transform our society. Transform it into what? Well, his ideal society. It is important to also understand that despite all the grand talk of his supposed paradise, he cannot produce an actual, comprehensive blueprint for his ideal society. He mostly operates from the notion that centralized, consolidated power in his hands and in the hands of those who agree with him is the necessary requisite for rearranging society in the most optimal way.
Again, this is why I undertook this project. If people read Ameritopia, they will, I believe, see more clearly what is transpiring around them.
BILA: You make a statement with respect to Plato’s Ideal City that really hit home with me: “In short, human passion cannot be regulated by any mathematical formula, class structure, or state directive.” Why is that so important in understanding the failure of utopias?
LEVIN: It is important because it is an essential element of utopianism. The individual is the object of his manipulations. Passion for an impossible fantasy is encouraged. Passion for the mastermind and his plans is applauded. But passion for self-interest, self-respect, and personal pride is not. The individual must be dehumanized if he is to become part of a greater pursuit—and an impossible pursuit. He must surrender to the fantasy or be conquered by it. It must accept his fate as an insignificant part of a greater purpose.
BILA: I find Ameritopia to be a very realistic assessment of where we are, no sugarcoating whatsoever—“America has already transformed into Ameritopia.” You close with a very important question: “The essential question is whether, in America, the people’s psychology has been so successfully warped, the individual’s spirit so thoroughly trounced, and the civil society’s institutions so effectively overwhelmed that revival is possible.” Are we too far gone to get back on the right track? And what will it take—practically speaking—to make that happen?
LEVIN: I do not know if we are too far off track to get back or not. I pose the question to the readers. Of course, time will tell. But I do think it is a daunting and formidable task, no question about it. I provide a limited list of suggested steps that can be taken to possibly begin reversing course in Liberty and Tyranny in the chapter “A Conservative Manifesto.” But whether enough of our fellow countrymen wish to live in Ameritopia instead of America is something we will learn in the near future, as the hour is short.
**My review of Ameritopia was published in Newsmax on January 16, 2012.