The Totalitarianism of “One Maryland”

Despite the fun we had with Governor O’Malley’s hackneyed oratory in yesterday’s State of the State speech, I want to seriously engage his words and expose the danger to our liberty inherent in them.

O’Malley’s flowery and sanctimonious language, which permeated the speech, struck some as odd. However, upon further review, once you get passed the self-serving piety you can see the thematic portion of his speech is firmly rooted in the progressive tradition.

That isn’t an acquittal, but rather an indictment.

The religiosity permeating O’Malley’s sermon-like speech should surprise no one. Politics is a religion for progressives and the god-state (or in O’Malley’s case “One Maryland”) is their deity.

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Don’t be fooled by O’Malley’s paen to the “individual” (used three times in one sentence in his conclusion). His faux concern for the individual crumbles under the weight of the inherent contradictions in his “One Maryland” rhetoric and his zeal for ever expanding government.

To the cynical who say government is not the answer, I ask, what then is the question? If the question is how to create jobs,… how to get our economy going again, how to re-imagine what it means to be a Marylander in these challenging times, and how to create greater freedom, opportunity, and justice for all,… then a working and effective government is an indispensible and essential part of the answer. But only part; for government cannot be a substitute for citizenship. It can never replace the power of the individual, the power of individual creativity, the power of individual choices responsibly and courageously made.

The questions are infinite, as are the myriad human interactions of the market place of our society and economy. They are so innumerable that government, no matter how “working and effective,” cannot understand or should attempt to control.

Like so many progressives, O’Malley’s concern for the “individual” isn’t about the individual per se but rather yoking the individual to the will of the state. It’s no coincidence that the individual is subordinate to the state in placement in that paragraph, for in theory and practice, progressives value the state above the individual.

O’Malley’s conception of “citizenship” is bound together with his quintessentially totalitarian notion of “One Maryland.” Now let me be clear, when I say totalitarian I do not mean it in the Orwellian sense i.e., the “boot stomping on a human face,” rather in the holistic sense as Mussolini did when he wrote “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” For Mussolini and his progressive adherents in America, the state is supreme and politics permeates all matters both spiritual and human.

O’Malley unwittingly admitted as much in the speech when he said stated that “progress” i.e., his political goals require embracing the “power of citizenship” and a “unity of spirit and matter” to “advance the common good.”

In O’Malley’s eyes the individual citizen as mere tool for advancing the will of the all encompassing state. “One Maryland” also serves as a cynical rhetorical weapon for O’Malley to wield as a cudgel against opponents. After all, the term, like “progressive,” is merely a synonym for “all good things,” and anyone who opposes it, is outside the realm of decency.

What’s dangerous here is that O’Malley and the progressives have the equation ass backwards. Our government, as the founding fathers devised it, was meant to be the solution to a limited number of questions. These “cynical” folks, as O’Malley would call them, understood as James Madison did that “you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” It’s why George Washington warned us that government is not reason but a “dangerous servant and fearful master.”

As Dennis Prager so eloquently described it, “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” In other words, the more government does for you the less you do for yourself, your family, and your fellow man.

The state cannot “create greater freedom” it can only take it away. The state cannot “create jobs” without first confiscating wealth from those who first created it. Contra O’Malley, the definition of citizenship is not limited to the individual’s relationship to the state. Citizenship encompasses all the countless social and economic interactions between individuals and private associations outside the purview of the state. These “auxiliary precautions” as Madison labeled them, ensure “the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights.”

Civic life is the space between the private sphere and government. Yet O’Malley’s progressive project of expanding the state increasingly encroaches on that space all the while “re-imagining” true citizenship—as Hayek warned in The Road to Serfdom—into a form of peasantry.

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