The American Iron Curtain

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


stack3In March 1946, Winston Churchill told a Missouri audience, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia.”

Today a new iron curtain is descending. It encloses the small Missouri town where Churchill gave his speech and all the great capitals of a great nation. Behind the iron curtain lie New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and countless others.

It covers a million streets and hundreds of millions of people. Its shadow passes over stores and factories, homes and schools. It is not a physical wall. There are no border guards with rifles to shoot those wanting to leave.

It is a wall of words, of laws, regulations and mandates. The 2012 Federal Register had 78,961 pages. There are 11 million words of ObamaCare regulations alone. With so many regulations, everyone violates a few of them without even knowing it. Assemble all the millions of them together and you have a great wall that would dwarf anything in China

The American iron curtain is still made out of paper, but in time it will be made out of cement and iron. Tyrannies begin with paper, but end with metal. The state begins by imposing bureaucracy on a free people and ends by imposing tyranny on them. When they will not obey the paper, it resorts to steel, iron and lead.

Four decades after Churchill invoked the Iron Curtain, in his Evil Empire speech Reagan named the Soviet enemy as those who “preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, predict its eventual domination of all peoples of the Earth.”

“They are the focus of evil in the modern world,” he said.

That is the struggle now before us.

Conservatives have lost the ability to lay out the stakes in the clear and simple language of a Churchill or a Reagan, to let the people know that they are not choosing between politicians, but choosing whether they will be able to have the car of their choice, the doctor of their choice, the meal of their choice and the book of their choice.

The struggle is over whether America will be an open system or a closed system. In an open system, you choose the life you live. In a closed system, your life is mandated for you.

In the open system you are in control. In the closed system you are being controlled for the good of the state and the five-year-plan and the policy paper and the sub-paragraph of the regulation of page 50,261 as reinterpreted by a Federal judge in a court ruling that you never even heard of.

In an age where the internet has proven the supremacy of open systems, liberals insist on pursuing the iron dream of the 19th century. The iron dream has failed everywhere. Its ruins dot the Russian landscape. Its corpses fill the tundra from Asia to Europe and the statues of its visionaries fill the scrap heaps of the east.

But there are still men who need to believe in the supremacy of the state, in the closed system and the iron dream; in 78,000 pages of regulations and all their millions and millions of words.

The American iron curtain is not substantively different than the iron curtain anywhere else; its descent is only slower and the men and women lowering it are more familiar. The politicians speak of American values and invoke American history even as they dismantle both; they stand in front of flags and speak of social justice at state fairs.

They claim that the old system is broken; that it’s unfair and unequal. They talk up the power of the people, but they only mean certain people will have power and other people will have the power to support them. And they build their paper walls higher and higher.

The laws are effectively infinite. Even if one were to try to read through them, going without food or sleep around the clock, it would be a hopeless task because no sooner will he have finished 100 pages than a fresh delivery of another 200 pages will have already been added.

There is too much law being made to count.

Laws are being passed to find out what’s in them and even reading them is useless because the added regulations define what the law does and judges decide how they should be implemented. Nearly 100 million Americans will have their health plans taken away because of how the regulations were written.

That is the power of the paper wall.

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt said, “The great fundamental issue now before the Republican party and before our people can be stated briefly. It is: Are the American people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves, to control themselves? I believe they are. My opponents do not.”

“I believe in the right of the people to rule,” he continued. “I believe the majority of the plain people of the United States will, day in and day out, make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller class or body of men, no matter what their training, will make in trying to govern them.”

A hundred years later, that is still the issue before us. Will we have an open system in which the American people govern themselves or a closed system in which they are governed by bureaucrats and politicians who promise to protect them from their own choices?

America has been moving toward the closed system whose bureaucratic chains come wrapped in populist rhetoric, whose power plays take the moral high ground for the oppressed and whose worst abuses are kept out of the headlines.

Each generation has less freedom than the last. And each generation fails to make the connection between its incremental poverty, its incremental loss of freedom and its growing government.

The iron curtain, like the Berlin Wall, is vulnerable. It can be torn down when enough men converge on it. Its greatest strength is that men do not even know that it is there.

When Churchill named the iron curtain, he expressed a reality that people were familiar with, but lacked the words to describe.

The Communists had seized control of Eastern Europe through deception and double-dealing; they had promised freedom and delivered tyranny with the collaboration of politicians and media abroad who spoke of them as humanitarians. Until they were named for what they were, it was impossible to see the iron curtain and the evil empire that Churchill and Reagan made real.

That is true of the American iron curtain, which goes by a thousand names like liberal, progressive, humanitarian, social justice, equality, opportunity, reform… and 993 others like it. To destroy it; it has to be named.

People do not try to tear down a wall that they do not even know is there. It is only when they see the wall, when they sense its shadow over their lives, that they will be ready to tear it down.

Until the men and women of the open system come with a clear message warning of the wall that is being built around a free people, then they will go on losing elections and the cause of freedom will be lost, drowned in iron and paper.

Only when Americans see the wall from ocean to ocean, will they be ready to tear it down. Only then will they be ready to be free.

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Don’t miss Jamie Glazov’s video interview with Daniel Greenfield about Obama’s Destructive Agenda, his Muslim Brotherhood Romance, the Anthony Weiner-Huma Abedin saga, and much, much more:

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  • 11bravo

    Great essay Dan.
    Pass this on to Bill Whittle with a note for him to run for president.
    You can be one of his speech writers. Again, very well stated vision of the conservative movement/Tea Party movement/libertarian movement.

  • timpottorff

    Mr. Greenfield, you are such a gifted writer. Thank you for your brilliant, direct, prolific writings. I pray the conservative cause will heed your words.

  • Naresh Krishnamoorti

    Even more oppressive than the iron curtain of paper is the thought control enforced by an unwritten code of political correctness. Cultural Marxists in America have achieved what the Soviets never could have imagined: willing slaves and the self-policing of thought. We have come to the terminus of the Road to Serfdom.

    • truebearing

      The linguistic tyranny of political correctness has dulled America’s instinct for self-preservation. Every American should go out of their way to violate PC false morality every day until it is expunged from their decision making process. It will take a conscious effort and practice, it is so deeply embedded in some people.

      • Sheik Yerbouti

        Unfortunately it has become so pervasive that anyone attempting what you have suggested will face utter ruin. Even self-employed people are discovering that violations of politically-correct dogma can result in a serious impact on their ability to make a living. While Paula Deen has many supporters, emotional support doesn’t pay the bills. God help anyone these days who gets slapped with the “racist” label (only white Americans of course).

        • truebearing

          What is the alternative? Do you think you, or anyone else, will avoid ruin by passively submitting to totalitarianism? Read about Communism in the 20th Century. And when the Left has the power to make life unbearable, and that is always what they do when they have that power, will you finally have had enough, snap, and rebel, only to be squashed like an impotent bug?

          Avoidance of conflict will only lead to greater strength for them and progressive weakening for you — now you know why they call it “Progressivism”.

          Fear of consequences will only yield worse consequences. Worrying about yourself will only breed more fear. Try thinking of the horrible things others will suffer and consider that it is better to suffer what you fear now then to turn your back on all of those who will live tortured lives under tyranny.

          Neither freedom or life are entitlements. Make the most of yours while you have them. When your freedom is taken away, your life will be hardly worth living.

          • Sheik Yerbouti

            Oh I agree, inaction will certainly be worse. What I am suggesting is that any action taken will have to be anonymous and decisive. What too many are overlooking is that the defeat of leftism is rarely accomplished in court. Its progression is usually halted by force.

    • kikorikid

      I SEE………A FORK IN THE ROAD.

    • mtman2

      And these same people ARE the blind leading the blind, fooling nobody else yet feel selfrighteous in their manipulations of OUR systems and freedoms.
      Often wrong but never in doubt = ‘intelligent liberal’ is the ultimate oxymoron. Truth is they don’t want to hear it, won’t believe it and will fight against it in the full face of logic, decency and legitimate proof.

  • truebearing

    Great piece, Dan. Written with passion and intelligence!

    Yes, the courage to speak the truth in public is what we desperately need from our leaders, and hopefully those who lack that courage will learn to humbly follow instead of second guessing them to death.

    The only antidote to lies are the truth. We can win if we counter the lies of the Left unrelentingly with the truth, regardless the consequences. Speaking the truth, acting with courage….it is time to dust off the virtues and polish the armor. We have a fight on our hands and the entire world is depending on us, whether they know it or not.

  • Patriots Rising

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a louse fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence:”

    From bondage to spiritual faith;

    from spiritual faith to great courage;

    from courage to liberty;

    from liberty to abundance;

    from abundance to selfishness;

    from selfishness to complacency;

    from complacency to apathy;

    from apathy to dependency;

    from dependency back again to bondage.

  • Mimi Mayes

    Excellent. The Paper Curtain.

  • Race_Dissident

    That’s probably as poetic an Op-Ed as I’ve ever read.

  • Attila_the_hun

    The question is how one can make the invisible wall visible for everyone to see?
    Hopefully 0care will shine the light over American Iron Curtain for everyone to see ad feel. Only if we are lucky

  • ObamaYoMoma

    One of the biggest reasons for the second amendment is for the people to protect themselves against a very oppressive government. If Obama’s administration doesn’t cross that line of being very oppressive, incredibly deceitful, and out and out dishonest, then nothing ever will. Now, I’m not calling for an armed revolution here just quite yet, because we probably won’t need one. Instead, I’m calling for millions of people and citizens across the USA to flood their local streets, to flood their local squares, and to march on Washington like the Egyptians did to protest for days if necessary for Obama’s ouster and as loudly as we can.

    If ever there was a time for action, this is the time right now before its too late! Indeed, we are sitting on the precipice. If we don’t rise up right now, tomorrow our freedom and liberty will be vanished. Are you going to sit down idle while that occurs? If the Egyptian people can use social media, which we invented thanks to freedom, to organize their political protests, then why can’t we the American people as well! Come on America; let’s show the world how to protest for freedom and liberty and justice for all!

    • cracker101

      THE reason for the 2nd amendment is to protect our selves from a ty ranical government, period!

    • kikorikid

      AP—-Agent Provacatuer (sp)

  • ADM64

    Teddy Roosevelt embraced progressivism and felt the constitution was too restrictive. Like his cousin, FDR, and his contemporary Wilson, he had more than a hand in creating the situation we now face. Apart from that, though, the article was correct.

  • http://www.shugartmedia.com/ Chris Shugart

    Totalitarian nations, dictatorships, and police states don’t happen overnight. They start out as supposedly good ideas with considerable support from the citizenry. In fact, history shows that in the beginning, despots and tyrants are often viewed as heroic protectors, benevolent rulers, welcomed with fanfare and open arms— champions of the people. But eventually, average citizens wake up one day amidst chaos and decay, look around, and ask in bewilderment, “Wha hoppin?” Of course by that time, it’s usually too late to do anything about it.

  • Randy Townsend

    Well said. What is missing is the fact that when Roosevelt made his statements, there was no “social safety net” that took taxpayer dollars from one group and made for another group a fairly comfortable life. There was no constituency of freeloaders who had the ability to elect politicians that would cater to the parasitic lifestyle. But there is today….

  • Mr. Rachford’s ire

    Absolutely great and poignant article. Right for our times. Cold war days seem simple times now.

  • Jeff Ludwig

    Wow. What an article! It really tears at my heart. He’s so right. All the words…. It’s a paper wall, a word wall, that is going up. It will end badly…. Thank you Mr. Greenfield.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      thank you Jeff

  • FrontPgSubscr

    See the brief “You Tube” presentation on “American Form of Government”
    (‘Google’). Unfortunately, it could not be ‘attached’ – ‘blows away’ all that
    rigamarole about liberals, conservatives, independents, ‘Tea Partiers’, so-
    called, (plus myriads of other distractions, technological & otherwise, which construct, very elaborately, a whole fantasy world (e.g., those who the American people elect “are our servants”)) where we (democracy?????) still “control”,
    effectively, our destiny as a nation …

    • FrontPgSubscr

      See (first) ‘Patriots Rising’ post below.

  • onecornpone

    The struggle is over whether America will be an open system or a closed system.

    Does this mean we may finally get the “border fence”(but to keep us in) ?

    After the 2010 (TEA) mid-terms, I heard Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) opine that Americans send congressmen to DC to make laws. He was dead serious, and anxious to get past whatever the latest quagmire he and his peers had been bogged down in. Can you spell tone deaf?

    Thanks for the food for thought, Mr G.

  • Peter

    Amazingly put. If all of us were able to put our thoughts into words like you, Daniel, the problem would be solved; our nation would be saved. Thank you for writing this article.

  • mtman2

    He’s made the connection clear that WE all have to the words and wisdom of Ronald Reagan; who took the time to study and ruminate on OUR Founders Wisdom and Faith; then he took years sharing those thoughts, truths and understanding.
    As Americans this heritage and responsibility should be the first order of knowledge, pride and hope.