The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Tyranny of Delaney’s Dream

Generally speaking when a politician says, “Under my new plan blah, blah, blah…” you can bet the blahs will be about how they’re going to take control of other people’s lives and order them about.

One of the battalion of nobody Democrats who think they’re presidential material but who falls into the “Never heard of ‘em” category is John Delaney. Mr. Delaney likes to entertain the notion he’s a centrist Democrat. Normally I would applaud that but his centrism is rather authoritarian. He took an extremely authoritarian position where the state must confiscate one year of every young person’s life and force them into involuntary servitude.

Delaney unleashed a ream of hot air — sufficient to put the country into a heat wave — proclaiming: “Under my new plan, all Americans would be required to serve their country for at least one year. This requirement would apply to everyone upon turning 18, no exceptions. I believe that every American has value and every American can and should serve.”

What is shocking is Delaney is so utterly clueless he thinks enslaving the young is the way to bring “unity” to the country. He thinks forcing young people to surrender a year of their lives will encourage community — it encourages fascism. It sounds so authoritarian Trump could suggest it.

This utopian dreamer says: “We need a big, transformational change to stop America from dividing any further. We need mandatory national service. It’s time to bring the country together, to restore our sense of shared purpose and rebuild a common and inclusive national destiny.”

How is telling parents their children are now slaves to Delaney’s purposes going to heal division — except by encouraging unity in opposition to his dictatorial ambition?

Delaney thinks unity in politics is a good thing — something every authoritarian leader the world has ever seen could agree with. Everyone must march in lockstep. But the unity is always illusionary. It only exists when others are forbidden to dissent or make decisions for themselves. Like so many utopians Delaney’s dream of unity means on his terms, to his ideals and in keeping with his politics. It isn’t unity, it’s control.

Delaney believes dissent is “weakening us and killing the American Dream.” Delaney’s Dream is America’s nightmare — forced labor from the young in order to make them work on Delaney’s issues. He wants “shared purpose” in politics — that’s where everyone must labor for his causes like it or not. He really should check out the unity in North Korea — unity enforced by the power of the state.

One reason for the vitriolic divide is both Left and Right feel entitled to use government coercion to force the entire nation to embrace their causes. Of course people get heated about that. Consider how Delaney’s desire to impose unity through involuntary servitude compares to the theocratic ramblings of the viciously far Right Bryan Fischer of the hate group, American Family Association.

Fischer lamented the rise of the individual and people with differing values. He wanted an imposed unity. He whined “strength is found in unity and not diversity” and that countries should be like football teams: “Successful football teams wear identical uniforms, take directions from one coach, follow one game plan, and serve one high school, college or franchise. It is utter bilge and dangerous falsehood to believe that there is some kind of mystical strength in diversity.”

Delaney is just a secular version of Fischer — neither embraces the concept of individual rights — just collective responsibilities. Each imagines that if could just have the power to control the lives of others Utopia will be achieved.

Frederick Bastiat warned the Utopian “reserves all his love for the society that he has dreamed up; but the natural society in which it is our lot to live cannot be destroyed soon enough to suit them, so that from its ruins may rise the New Jerusalem.” Aldous Huxley made the point more strongly: “[F]aith in the bigger and better future is one of the most potent enemies of to present liberty: for rulers feel themselves justified in imposing the most monstrous tyranny on their subjects for the sake of the wholly imaginary fruits which these tyrannies are expected to bear some time in the distant future.”

Socialist Utopian Robert Owen advocated, what he called” the scientific arrangement of the people.” In such Utopian visions people are tools to be used, clay formed at the hands of the visionary to fit his ideals. It is said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to tyranny is similarly paved.

FA Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom, said once a society adopts “one common over-ridding end, there is no room for general morals or rules.” When a “few specific ends dominate the whole of society, it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty; that acts which revolt all our feelings… should be treated as mere matters of expediency…. because the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual.”

Mr. Delaney may claim to be a centrist, but his centrism is one of authoritarianism taking control of individuals for an entire year of their life. He wants to impose unity by forcing the young to work for Delaney’s priorities not their own. In the end, when he calls for national unity, he means unity on his terms. There should be one set of values — his own. There should be one purpose — the one he sets. Instead of placing him in the middle of American politics — a place where people tend to support both social and economic freedom — Delaney is staking out a radical authoritarianism and calling it the center. You can name a rattlesnake Fluffy, but I still wouldn’t cuddle with it.

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A blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute: a liberaltarian think tank.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.

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