Mark Levin’s new book, Ameritopia, is scheduled to be released in January. Though the talk show host has only hinted at its contents, Amazon’s description says that:
“In Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America Levin asks, what is this utopian force that both allures a free people and destroys them? In the end, Levin’s message is clear: The American republic is in great peril. The people must now choose between utopianism or liberty.”
In a brief segment of his radio program earlier this month, Levin pointed out that Catholic philosopher and lawyer Sir Thomas More (who was executed by Henry VIII in 1533 for his failure to approve the King’s divorce from his first wife) first introduced us to the concept of “utopia” in his 1516 book of the same name. More imagined an island kingdom in which there was no private property and the state provided for the welfare of its citizens.
I’ll leave it to Levin to point out the fallacies entailed in More’s version of Utopia, but it brings to mind the numerous political philosophies that introduce the phony notion that schemes to redistribute wealth are inherently morally superior to those that base societies around the concepts of private property and unequal distribution of wealth.
A century after the ill-fated More, Gerrard Winstanley tried to hijack the Leveller Movement by promoting his own “Biblically based” redistributive society. Winstanley’s followers, known as “Diggers,” temporarily appropriated land owned by others, and attempted to establish “Christian communist” communities in 17th century England.
Citing Chapters 2 and 4 of the Book of Acts, in which Luke described the communitarian practices of the early church in Jerusalem, Winstanley argued on behalf of a society in which all members contributed according to their capabilities, and took out according to their need. The early Christian church in Jerusalem was populated by many poor members, and a few who were wealthy. In that church, all who joined voluntarily joined this redistributive “covenant.” Barnabas, for instance, sold a property he owned on the island of Cyprus, and gave the entire proceeds to the church.
Christian socialists have for years pointed to the events of Chapter 5 in the Book of Acts as evidence of the moral superiority of their philosophy. Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of this first church in Jerusalem, and had apparently agreed to the covenant that bound the early members of that church…any property sold by any member would be given to the church. Ananias and Sapphira owned a piece of property, which they sold. Rather than give all the proceeds to the church, they gave only a portion to the church. This broke the covenant they had voluntarily agreed to. They compounded their problems by lying to the Apostle Peter by claiming they had given all the proceeds from the sale to the church. Since they were immediately struck dead for their hypocrisy, Christian socialists have since claimed this confirmed a divine command that every wealthy person must share all their wealth with their community.
In the modern era, Marxists of various stripes have often followed the example of More and Winstanley to argue the moral superiority of forced redistribution of wealth. Lenin and Stalin, of course, removed all references to God and Christian principles. In 21st century America, left wing Christians from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to Jeremiah Wright to Jim Wallis constantly prop up their redistributionist philosophies with Biblical references taken out of context, as Winstanley did with the tale of Ananias and Sapphira.
Morality–whether based on religion or secular logic–can not be enforced upon the individual by the state. The state can compel behavior through the exercise of authoritarian power, but only the individual can authentically develop his or her own understanding of moral behavior.
Like the false concept of the perfectability of man, it’s a lesson that redistributionists ought to learn before they once again strut their phony moral superiority in front of the rest of us. After all, it’s our honest struggles with imperfection and ambition that yield a free market society far more beneficial to the “poor and downtrodden” the redistributionists claim to champion.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series and co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter and the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. His new book, Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement, will be published by Broadside Books in spring, 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy .