DANIEL VAUGHAN: Democrats want to build the world Huxley warned about

August 30, 2019

The Democratic primary season has featured a constant barrage of candidates vying to come up with the newest, biggest, and most unique federal government program they can throw out in hopes of convincing voters that they are the one who will make Americans lives so much better with federal government intervention.

My favorite so far has to be Julián Castro’s animal care plan, which includes “ending the euthanasia of domestic dogs and cats in shelters” and improving “federal housing policy for those with pets,” according to Yashar Ali at HuffPost.

Castro seeks to “sign into law legislation that would make animal cruelty a federal crime, establish federal minimums for space for farm animals, prohibit the testing of cosmetic products on animals, and ban the unlicensed ownership of large cats like lions and tigers.”

The political plan here is obvious: earn Castro enough of a media splash to get him into the next round of debates. If you’re trying to cobble together a micro-coalition in the Democratic Party, appealing directly to animal rights activists makes some sense. But as a policy matter, it’s bonkers.

As Ali notes in his report, “All 50 states currently have laws against animal cruelty and consider the crime to be a felony.” In other words, state and local police are already handling the animal cruelty problem — you’ve probably seen some of these reports in your local news. Castro would give authority to the FBI to start handling pet abuse cases.

The ideas may be noble here, but they underscore a more troubling — and more and more common — push on the left: federal government solutions for everything.

It’s not just government solutions for everyday problems. It’s national government solutions that expand government police power beyond what the Founders ever intended. (And as an aside, it’s somewhat bizarre for a former head the Department of Housing and Urban Development to propose animal housing solutions when many major cities are in the midst of a housing crisis for humans right now.)

When questioned about the validity of all these fairy tale plans allowing the federal government to step in and run more parts of everyday life, Elizabeth Warren has opined: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

It’s a good line, to be sure. But when you’re looking at things like animal welfare — when states are already active in combatting it — and “Medicare for All” — when Democrats sold the public a decade ago on the idea that Obamacare would solve everything — you’re left asking: Do these people want to solve problems, or just consolidate more power in the federal government?

In 2012, when Barack Obama was running for re-election, one of the “visions of the future” his campaign put out was a storybook called the “Life of Julia.” It depicts a young woman going through various stages of life, ages 3 to 67, and at each life stage, she’s interacting with various welfare programs of the federal government.

But as James Taranto noted at the time in the Wall Street Journal:

Obama is setting forward a vision contrary to the American tradition of self-sufficiency — a welfare state that runs from cradle to grave. And it’s a dishonest vision, because it presents all of these benefits as “free,” never acknowledging that they are paid for through coercive taxation.

And while most current candidates are distancing themselves from the Obama legacy, this central thread — of a maternal federal government that governs every waking moment of people’s lives — carries through. Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal is so massive it makes Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s plan look like European austerity in comparison.

Even Axios recognized this: “Sen. Bernie Sanders, with a series of new policy plans, has put into full, detailed view how he would reorder or referee almost every part of American life,” they reported.

We’re moving beyond just the “Life of Julia” that Obama envisioned, and now, the left wants welfare programs and federal regulations that govern not only Julia’s life, but that of her pet, her landlord, and every business she ever interacts with in any way.

It’s not the dystopian future of George Orwell, but rather, that of Aldous Huxley in his classic, Brave New World.

Huxley envisioned a future where culture took care of every ill, every defect — and if you didn’t like the reality, you could drug yourself up to the point of being numb to everything around you. As Huxley explained his fictional world: “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”

As the left tries to consolidate more power in the federal government, it’s hard to miss this thread. It’s as if they’ve seen the dystopian world of Huxley, the life of Julia, and beyond, and said, “That sounds great!”

We have to make sure we aren’t conditioned to miss this form of state power dictating every part of people’s lives — even if it does come in friendly packages of animal welfare.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.