What are we to make of this? Whittaker Chambers, who had been a member of the Communist Party USA, Soviet spy, proponent of the New Deal, editor at Time magazine, and who later condemned communism and the New Deal, wrote in his 1952 autobiography, Witness, “I had to acknowledge the truth of what its more forthright protagonists, sometimes unwarily, sometimes defiantly, averred: the New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution of violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and lawmaking. Insofar as it was successful, the power of politics had replaced business. This is the basic power shift of all the revolutions of our time. This shift was the revolution. It was only of incidental interest that the revolution was not complete, that it was made not by tanks and machine guns, but by acts of Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, or that many of the revolutionists did not know what they were or denied it. But revolution is always an affair of force, whatever forms the force disguises itself in. Whether the revolutionists prefer to call themselves Fabians, who seek power by the inevitability of gradualism, or Bolsheviks, who seek power by the dictatorship of the proletariat, the struggle is for power.”27
The “living Constitution” is a constitution on its deathbed. The Founders are dismissed as quaint or worse—ancients, slaveholders, and landed gentry. This is as it must be, for utopianism is bigger than history and politics. It is a break from the past. The utopians are impatient, anxious, and frenetic, for life is short, destiny calls, and a fantastic future awaits humankind if only man, with all his flaws and imperfections, would relent or get out of the way. Therefore, the earthly grind of societal reinvention must continue unabated. One hundred years after the publication of Wilson’s Constitutional Government in the United States and sixty-four years after Roosevelt delivered his Second Bill of Rights speech, presidential candidate Barack Obama declared, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Five days later, he was elected president.28 The counterrevolution, which is over a century old, proceeds more thoroughly and aggressively today than before.
There are those who are hypnotized by the utopian message, which sounds much like Karl Marx’s false historicism of the material dialectic—that is, of the two-class society, where the rich bourgeois capitalists victimize the hardworking proletariat laborers, with the latter eventually destroying the former, thereby setting the stage for the end of human struggle. This kind of class warfare, pitting straw men against straw men, is now a routine and regular part of the American political dialogue.
There are also those who delusively if not enthusiastically surrender their liberty for the mastermind’s false promises of human and societal perfectibility. He hooks them with financial bribes in the form of “entitlements.” And he makes incredible claims about indefectible health, safety, educational, and environmental policies, the success of which is to be measured not in the here and now but in the distant future.
These masterminds—the politicians, judges, and bureaucrats—have become America’s version of Plato’s philosopher-kings and guardians, with obvious exceptions. As Plato wrote in the Republic, “Philosophers because of the love of Forms [a perfect thing or being], become lovers of proper order in the sensible world as well. They wish to imitate the harmony of the Forms, and so in their relations with others they are loath to do anything that violates the proper order among people” (404). Moreover, only they are able to know “the Good” (the ultimate truth). They are wise and learned beyond the capabilities of the people they rule.
Thus central planning is not about rationality and reason. It is not about knowledge and experience. It is about illegitimately exercising power over others. It is about the deceit of moral relativism and situationalism. It is about the coercive imposition of a hopelessly impossible utopian ideal—an ideal that is complex and ambiguous; fixed and elusive; comprehensive and piecemeal; and abrupt and gradual. However, its direction is certain, steady, and one-way—tyranny, in one form or another.