Utopian visions have stirred men's souls at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. The philosopher Plato unmasked the folly and the evil of all such schemes in his famous "Republic." He did not merely criticize a current tendency but a perennial human temptation.
President Barack Obama is a utopian who believes that there are no limits to what can be done with political power. In contrast to the United States Constitution, the powers of which James Madison described as "few and defined," the ideological goal of the current administration is "transforming" the human condition.
Not content with equality in political rights and economic opportunities, Obama seeks to redistribute the wealth. To this end, he means to increase the income tax on the most productive and eliminate it for the least productive. By simultaneously commandeering votes with groups like ACORN, he will ensure that those who pay no taxes will access the money of those who do.
Obama has shown no respect for the law of nature that persons of the opposite sex alone should be married, that marriage should be upheld as a vital institution, or that unborn children should not be wantonly slaughtered. That is why he equivocates on same-sex marriage, ended restrictions on federal money for abortions overseas and for embryonic stem cell research, and supports legislation to end all restrictions on abortion whatsoever.
In perhaps the biggest conceit of all, our president actually says that he can negotiate with the world's most aggressive dictatorships and make them see the wisdom of restraining their military ambitions. Iran and North Korea somehow will stop producing nuclear bombs and missiles, the Taliban and Hamas will see the error of their ways, and Hugo Chavez, Danny Ortega and even the Castros will change their opinion of us.
Obama pledged during the campaign to cut back on nuclear weapons unilaterally and has repeated the pledge recently. He says that our moral leadership will show the rogue nations of the world that we mean them no harm and that we can develop common interests.
The only sensible response to socialism at home and ill-conceived peace missions abroad is to point out that "there is nothing new under the sun." There will always be persons — and nations — who envy the success of others, blaming others rather than themselves. What talents they do possess they turn to tearing down others' achievements. Socialism, as Winston Churchill so sagely remarked, produces nothing and makes people equal in their misery.
Mankind is certainly capable of improvements, as our ancestors showed when they founded the freest nation in the history of the world. But the enemies of the American Constitution, foreign and domestic, stretch the limits of human nature and wind up making things infinitely worse with socialism, communism and fascism.
The task of each generation of Americans is to elect leaders who understand that we are better off buying and selling with each other, in our neighborhoods or across national boundaries, than trusting governments to determine who should benefit from its power to redistribute the wealth through taxing and spending.
Those same leaders need to follow the maxim of Alexander Hamilton that nations do not have permanent friends, only permanent interests. Although the most reliable friends are those with a common heritage of liberty, we should never imagine that American independence can coexist with the fiction of a "community of nations." Many nations are as envious of our freedom, wealth and power as the least successful among us are of the most successful.
It is not in the character of the United States to be belligerent toward the world, but neither should it procrastinate while threats build up to such a degree that we lack the will and the means to counteract them and we are forced to wage defensive war, as we did in 1917 and 1941.
And certainly no American president should ever apologize abroad for policy differences with his predecessors, not to mention frivolously gloss over the great divide that separates the majority of Americans who embrace the Judaeo-Christian tradition and those who adhere to Islamic doctrines. For whatever Christians may have done in the Arab world a thousand years ago, there are no modern-day Christian equivalents of the violent Muslim minority that has declared war on the "Infidel."
Obama cannot legislate inequalities away or make the lion lay down with the lamb. Indeed, it is better for us to trade, as civilized nations do, than to seize wealth by force, as barbarians do. Meanwhile, we must always keep our guard up.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of " Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.