It is hardly a surprise that conservative constitutional scholar and advisor to former President Ronald Reagan would take a swipe at President Obama and his administration. What did surprise this reader was the historical and philosophical background to the criticism. Levin writes, “Concisely put, this is the heritage and lineage of the American people, which dates hundreds of years before the American Revolution and transcends all else. From the earliest settlers escaping persecution or seeking opportunities in the New World, to the original colonies asserting self-rule through popular sovereignty and numerous local governing bodies; from the demand for independence, the assertion of inalienable individual rights, and the Revolutionary War, to the founding of the constitutional republic to secure individual liberty and the civil society, the American people engaged in the most widely considered and far-reaching exploration of humanity – its meaning, cultivation, and application – in world history. Even half a century after the adoption of the Constitution, the character and psychology of the American people were apparent to Alex de Tocqueville, who wrote, ‘They have been allowed by their circumstances, their origin, their intelligence, and especially by their morals to establish and maintain the sovereignty of the people’ (Democracy in America, I, 54)” (P. 184)
The book is divided into three main sections – Part 1 ‘On Utopianism,’ Part 2 ‘On Americanism,’ and Part 3 ‘On Utopianism and Americanism.’ As these titles indicate Levin describes the “utopian mind-set and its application to modern-day utopian thinking and conduct in America.”(P. xi) He then traces the great philosophical influences incorporated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Finally, he contrasts the two political models and the dangers inherent in each warning that “America is no longer strictly a constitutional republic, because the Constitution has been and continues to be easily altered by a judicial oligarchy that mostly enforces, if not expands, federal power.” (P. 187)
Levin quotes the original philosophers at length and their language as well as Levin’s own scholarly analysis of these writings can make for some heavy reading. Nevertheless, it is well worth the effort. Especially as this nation undergoes another Presidential election, it is easy to tire of the political rhetoric and the nasty name-calling. Behind the rhetoric, beyond the name-calling, Levin has demonstrated that the America of the past has already been lead down the path to Ameritopia, and he asks “whether the ongoing transformation can be restrained and then reversed, or whether it will continue with increasing zeal, passing from a soft tyranny to something more oppressive.” (P. 245)
The book concludes with the inspiring words of President Reagan, “We’re not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.” (P. 248) What Levin would have us to do when faced with the choice of passively allowing the statists to turn this nation into a utopian tyranny or acting to preserve and protect the liberty and sovereignty of the individual endowed by our Creator and insured in the Constitution, he would have us fight for America.
Posted by Jim Ritter