Barack Obama’s new progressive agenda has attempted to fundamentally transform every aspect of American society during his administration, argues the author of Takeover: How the Left’s Quest for Social Justice Corrupted Liberalism. While the liberalism voiced prior to the 1960s focused on caring for society’s disadvantaged and protecting citizens against what were seen as the flaws of capitalism, asserts co-author Donald T. Critchlow, 1960s radicals changed liberalism to focus on limiting consumption in the name of social justice. But, he argues, this new progressivism–the new liberalism espoused by Barack Obama and many of within his administration–seeks to control consumption by regulating from the cradle to the grave.
“Takeover examines how new progressives colonized many areas of American life in creative and powerful ways,” Critchlow said at a recent Heritage event. “They achieved their two most noticeable successes in rewriting the Democratic party’s nominating rules and remaking the legal profession.”
“Barack Obama almost certainly could not have won the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination without the McGovern Commission’s changes to the nomination’s system that favored, and continues to favor, progressive activists,” he argues.
Critchlow’s speech serves as an excellent parallel to the dangers of an ever-growing entitlement state, by pointing to the consumption-side of regulation. According to Critchlow,
“To the new style liberals, the breadth of their very agenda is the very point. They call for new standards of public morality built on the foundation of social justice, in which individual rights are subsumed in the collective interest of the community, with new progressives defining what these collective interests are. Such public morality does not stop at determining how government treats the needy, or how much leeway businesses are allowed to operate. It involves how all citizens live their lives–how much energy they consume, the health plans they purchase, the cars they buy, the lightbulbs they use, and even the food they eat and drink.”
As pointed out previously, even smart grid technology could be used to remotely alter the energy consumption of appliances in the home.
This quest to control the nanny-to-granny state could eventually create “a country even more bureaucratic, and even less free, than any European-style social democracy,” Critchlow argues.
As William Voegeli points out in his book Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State, liberalism, defined according to rights, “stands for the belief that every genuine need corresponds to a right to have that need addressed. Additionally, and even more happily, it holds out the hope that sufficient examination of any want will eventually reveal that it, too is a kind of need, the satisfaction of which will further expand the catalog of rights.” As the government outlines rights to food, shelter, a good job, heating, or other human comforts, so too it reserves the right to dictate the consumption of these goods in an ever-expanding welfare state which fails to acknowledge an optimum (or rational) size.
This is made worse when the welfare state, and, correspondingly, social justice, are made prerequisites for a just democracy. Voegeli writes that “The paradox is that making an extensive welfare state a prerequisite for democracy has the effect of delegitimizing democratic deliberation about the welfare state. Voices and votes against it become subversive and undemocratic; democracy’s ability to make a difference contracts as the list of democracy’s prerequisites expands.”
“You can always turn around freedom and capitalism, but it’s very hard to turn around a democratic system that is based on a large part of the population being entitled to government handouts,” said Lars Seier Christensen, Founder and Co-CEO, Saxo Bank, Denmark, at another recent Heritage event. He urged listeners to be careful with their upcoming votes.