Just finished this 2004 book from the most dangerous man in America. Having finished it, that’s not such a far-fetched designation! Want to follow Bam-Bam’s twisted logic to utopia? You’ll find the regulatory pole-vault over the constitution in this book. As an aside, the guy is scary smart. He makes some key, crucial leaps which reveal GIGANTIC blind spots in his theses, but the guy is friggin’ brilliant. Seriously. Wow. This is not the first Sunstein writing I have read, but it’s the first full book of his I have finished. I can see why Bam-Bam wants him around. Yikes.
One of the big blind spots is his repeated assertion that the rich only got rich because of the protection of the tax fed regulatory state, therefore, they owe whatever is demanded of them in taxation as gratitude for living in this great nation under such rules. Well, fine. I don’t think anyone would argue that we should all be grateful to have our precious citizenship (though he cheapens it by wanting to give it away to everyone, but that’s another blog post). I don’t think anyone (reasonable) would argue that something off the top is due by way of gratitude… but 50% + $1? He doesn’t argue that figure but is that the ceiling? Half of everything I have is yours to take but $1 over and I get to complain? Because based on nothing but my sense of it, that’s where I felt he was going. At least I hoped only that far. He really believes that if you accumulate wealth you did it because you were born lucky or rich or better off than the next guy and should be forced to give chunks of it away to another American because they really, seriously, cannot enjoy their constitutional rights to purse happiness without it. Seriously. Like hard work has nothing to do with it! Like people can’t come from nothing and be something – like it never happens when it happens all the damned time!
Like we didn’t spend over TWO TRILLION in transfer payments last year and the year before! TWO TRILLION in 2009 and TWO TRILLION in 2010 of DIRECT PAYMENTS to INDIVIDUAL AMERICANS of the $3+ Trillion we spend each year! And 95% of that is paid by those earning $66k and above AND HE THINKS WE’RE SELFISH!!!! As a people… I mean… Has he NOT looked at the nation’s checkbook? Does he NOT know HOW MUCH we are ALREADY redistributing wealth and WHO is paying the tab?
Please. I want that number to sink in. TWO TRILLION of EVERYTHING the federal government takes in is SPAT BACK OUT as WELFARE to those who earn $66k and BELOW (basically – and this is off the top of my head I and I’m probably off a bit but I know I’m just a few points off). THINK ABOUT THAT. Feel selfish now?
He takes a Madison quote and a few other quotes from out founders utterly and totally out of context (and that’s not a charge you can fairly or easily lay at Sunstein’s feet, but he falters there.) but he somehow missed the entire import of our founding documents. It’s breathtaking. Did he not hear the one about I cannot undertake to lay my finger upon the article which says we should take from one man to give to another? I butchered that, I know, but that’s the heart of it. Hell, that’s the heart of ALL of it!!!!
Let me just also add, upon further reflection, that the book made me deeply sad at points, not only over his idea of America, who She was, is, and should become, but why. His reasoning is based in dust, ashes, even. There’s nothing of the soul in it. It’s all intellectual morality, above the neck, made of the thin, but brightly hued indignation of someone who has read about wrongs and decided, from on high, to fix them, whether those getting fixed like it or not, or even want his condescending help (so-called). The heart/gut/soul that informs his intellect is made of the thin parchment what he can prove (what’s he read & can cite), not what he knows (in his gut, in his soul). It’s the maxim of any good lawyer (Stick to what you can prove first, not what you know.), but, paradoxically, Sunstein thinks he’s doing God’s work, while somehow managing to regard god in any form as some kind of curiosity for the less informed unwashed masses, down to and including the Founders! It’s amazing, really. And, it needs to be said that I am a lapsed Catholic, now Wiccan! I am not advocating for any one god of any name, capital G or not. I am firmly of the opinion that every path to the divine is man-made, so the path you choose to get there is just a matter of branding, as far as I’m concerned. But I do, firmly believe, there is a there, there. There is a divine destination, and our Founders crafted our rights as having come from Nature’s God, not an issuance of branding, if you follow me full circle… Sunstein doesn’t believe that. He thinks all rights are issued by man. That’s a very dangerous philosophy for the simple reason that the old saying neatly captures – Any government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.
I can see why people fall for this vacuousness, because it’s elegant, and, if you don’t think about it too hard, superficially (and only very superficially) right. It also works if you don’t think about it with any deep, principled underpinning of the profound spiritual roots and exceptional nature of our American liberties. His misreading, his misunderstanding of the simple beauty of who we are would make Rube Goldberg proud if it weren’t so elegantly hewn. But he’s designed a kind of gorgeous mahogany pond yacht – out of particle board… and the tears of our Founders will set it, well, foundering, before it ever leaves dry dock.