Madison v. Marx: Does USA Stand for “United States” or “United Statists” of America?
“A government that is big enough to give you whatever you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” This political aphorism is often wrongly attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Although said by Gerald Ford, nevertheless, Jefferson would likely have agreed since he observed, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”
Statism extols this seemingly inexorable tendency to centralize power in the state. Rather than lodging power in individuals and independent bodies of government, statists believe that the highest good of life is human government. A corollary of statism is that government is best able to meet the needs of its people. Statists are committed to an ever increasing role of government in all spheres of life. In statist philosophy, family, church, business, religion, education and local government should all be under the control of a vast centralized governmental bureaucracy. If followed to its logical conclusion, statism leads to some form of totalitarianism. Ultimately, the emphasis on the collective destroys the significance of the individual.
A prime example of collective statecraft swallowing up individual liberty is communist ideology. Communism is a statist movement motivated by socialistic doctrine. The classic source for this is Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. At the request of the Communist League, Marx wrote the Manifesto which was first published in Brussels in February 1848. Marx declared:
It is high time that Communists should openly, in the efface of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, and their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.
Communism’s statist vision is to be achieved through the class struggle between the Bourgeois (industrialists/capitalist) and Proletarians (modern working class or laborers). Marx explains, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles….In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things…. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
Marx, calling the “workers of the world to unite”, summarized communism’s tenets by identifying its remarkably radical goals:
The immediate aim of the Communists is…overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat….In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up on the single sentence: Abolition of private property….Abolition of the Family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists. On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital. But, you will say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social….But you communists would introduce community of women. The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality….The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical, and generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.
Yet even with such unbiblical commitments, various schools of Christianity have embraced elements of communist teaching under the rubrics of “Christian Communism”, “Liberation Theology, “social justice” or “Christian Socialism”. Marx anticipated this and ironically remarked in the Manifesto:
Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the state? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.
While Marx recognized that socialism is a milder form of communism, clearly not every socialist or every statist ideology holds to the more radical tenets of communism. Yet, when the often heard concept of “social justice” is employed, it implies an enforced redistribution of wealth. This raises the legitimate query whether social justice legitimizes injustice by the diminishing or violating the rights of others by despoiling them of their personal property. Economically or politically speaking, it is not possible to have complete liberty and complete equality at the same time. Statism recognizes this tension and solves it by making the government the ultimate arbiter of liberty and equality, administering them as it alone deems best. In a statist regime, the state alone is free.
The statist vision has advanced with alacrity in the United States. The regulatory state in America increasingly extends the reach of federal power. The proliferation of executive orders and legislation from the bench manifest a metastasis of government power beyond constitutional limits. Federal taxation often seems to dismiss the truism enunciated by Chief Justice John Marshall, “the power to tax is the power to destroy.”
Courts seem to change the Constitution at will while legislators and executives bend the Constitution to achieve their political aims. A growing concern among many Americans is that we are losing our Constitution. We ought not forget what James Madison wrote in the National Gazette, January 19, 1792, “Every word of [the Constitution] decides a question between power and liberty.” Was that just a bit of political hysteria by Madison, a primary author of our Constitution, responding to his uncertain times? Or had Madison anticipated Marxists and their quest for the United “Statists” of America?
We could lose Madison’s Constitution as followers of Marx strive to rename our nation and redefine, or worse, destroy the work of Madison and his fellow Framers. Jefferson understood this danger when he observed, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” It’s up to the friends of freedom to determine if the “S” in USA stands for “States” or “Statists”. For now, it’s still the first. But, as Ben Franklin once declared, this will only be true “If you can keep it.”