Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto

I said after finishing The Conscience of a Liberal, if you recall, that I’m committed to getting the other side of the story. So that brought me to this book by Mark Levin – radio personality, lawyer, and politician. I figured that Levin’s manifesto would be comparable to Krugman’s conscience, just from another standpoint. And it was. To say it was diametrically opposed, as you would guess, is not an overstatement.

But the purpose of this is not to compare and contrast. I’ll do a little, but I think I’ll save most of that for a separate post. This is just to run down what Levin’s book is about, kind of like I did with Krugman. I’m just trying to represent Levin’s views in an unbiased manner, which is what I think I did with Krugman. You tell me, do you detect bias?

Levin thinks that the idea of equality from a Statist’s (that is his term for a Modern Liberal) view is fundamentally wrong; that it imposes tyranny on the individual and is a Utopian myth that can never be achieved. He uses the New Deal as an example of poor federal regulation that “breached the Constitution’s firewalls” and started our society’s decline into a tyrannical state that “rejects the Founders’ idea of the dignity of the individual.” Here’s a snippet from Chapter 1:

In the midst stands the individual, who was a predominate focus of the Founders. When living freely and pursuing his own legitimate interests, the individual displays qualities that are antithetical to the Statist’s—initiative, self-reliance, and independence. As the Statist is building a culture of conformity and dependency, where the ideal citizen takes on dronelike qualities in service to the state, the individual must be drained of uniqueness and self-worth, and deterred from independent thought or behavior. This is achieved through varying methods of economic punishment and political suppression.

In chapters one and two he tears down the New Deal and lays out his case that the Statists, assisted by the international community, academia, and Hollywood, are promoting ideals that are bad for America. He goes into detail in the next eight chapters; devoting each chapter to a broad area of concern. I’ll go through those eight chapters in a little detail.

Faith and Founding

Levin sounds like a religious man, but I’m not sure which religion. He says this:

… It is Natural Law, divined by God and discoverable by reason, that prescribes the inalienability of the most fundamental and eternal human rights—rights that are not conferred on man by man and, therefore, cannot legitimately be denied to man by man.

He feels that the Statist does not hold this same view. That the Statist’s view that we will sink into a theocracy is unfounded. He feels that the Statist’s desire to make laws that prohibit prayer in public shools or eliminate religious displays on municipal buildings are a form of tyranny. He feels that the courts promote this tyranny. He says:

The American courts sit today as supreme secular councils, which, like Islam’s supreme religious councils, dictate all manner of approved behavior respecting religion. …

God-given rights are part of the “founding justification” for this country and Levin, it appears, will resist the Statist’s desire to pull God out of public schools and government.

The Constitution

Levin does not believe that the Constitution is a “living and breathing” document and feels that Roosevelt mangled the Constitution when he created the New Deal. The rights resulting from the New Deal are some of Levin’s favorite targets and he feels that the federal intervention on health care, farm reform, labor laws, unemployment, education, etc… were unconstitutional. Referring to these “rights” he says:

… These are not rights. They are the Statist’s false promises of utopianism, which the Statist uses to justify all trespasses on the individual’s private property.

Federalism

The 10th Amendment says:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Levin discusses just how important this is for our country and how Statists have subsequently torn it down to the detriment of society. The largest detriment being this massive “administrative state” put in place that he feels is a huge burden to this country.

He uses the rest of the chapter to explain why federalism was NOT responsible for slavery and how the civil rights acts of the 60’s and their reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment are examples of the federal government overstepping their bounds. This quote about what the “modern conservative” feels sums up his point:

For example, he accepts today, as certain Conservatives may not have yesterday, that the civil rights acts of the 1960s, while excessive in their application in some respects (such as imposing overly broad speech and behavior codes on universities, secular goals on religious institutions, and a wide range of employment and housing restrictions, which ultimately embrace an authoritarian approach that threatens civil liberties), were the proper exercise of federal statutory authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to address intransigent state racism against African-Americans.

The Free Market

Levin believes in the free market; it “promotes self-worth, self-sufficiency, shared values, and honest dealings, which enhance the individual, the family, and the community.” He believes that most of our taxes are a form of tyranny, that they destroy the free market, and that government should be allowed to tax only to gain enough revenue to “to fund those activities that the Constitution authorizes and no others.” Anything above this is tyranny, which Levin equates to government stealing from its constituents:

The Statist seeks to impose on individuals a governmental and economic structure that is contrary to human nature. He attempts to control the individual by subverting his spirit and punishing his natural impulses. For example, the parent teaches the child that stealing is wrong. Faith also teaches it is immoral: “Thou shalt not steal.” Laws, in turn, make it a crime to steal. One can only imagine the complete breakdown of the civil society that would result if stealing were an acceptable practice. For the Statist, however, thievery by government is a virtue in that it is said to be compelled for the “public good” or in the “public interest.”

We already knows that he feels that the New Deal was unconstitutional. He also feels that New Deal style of governmental regulation extended the Great Depression and that the current stimulus supplied by our government will delay our recovery from this current economic situation.

The reason stimulus plans of this sort do not work is a fundamental reality of governance: The government does not add value to the economy. It removes value from the economy by imposing taxes on one citizen and providing cash to another. Or it borrows money that would otherwise be used by investors and redistributes it elsewhere. Or it prints more money and threatens the value of the dollar. Nothing is stimulated. Spending power is not increased. Moreover, politicians and bureaucrats are substituting their uninformed, largely political decisions for those of the marketplace. Their past miscalculations demonstrate that they do not and cannot possess the information, knowledge, means, and discipline to manage the economy. Of course, the best way to stimulate the economy would be for the federal government to slash capital gains taxes, corporate income taxes, and individual income tax rates, thereby increasing liquidity available to individuals and businesses to make decisions about their own economic circumstances.

This is a good lead-in to his views on the state of public aid.

The Welfare State

Levin views Social Security as a complete sham and feels almost the same about Medicare and Medicaid. This should about sum it up:

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are built on a family of frauds—the fraudulent concealment of material facts, the fraudulent representation of material facts, and the fraudulent conversion of one’s money for another’s use. They are a complex mix of taxes, benefits, obligations, and rights from which no individual can make much sense and about which the government sows disinformation and confusion. The “working poor” subsidize “the wealthy,” “the wealthy” subsidize “the working poor,” “the middle class” subsidizes itself as well as “the working poor” and “the wealthy,” and future generations are left paying off the crushing debt created by all of it, since the government spends far more than it raises.

Levin brings up the New Deal again and refers to one of its major components, Social Security, as “one of the earliest and most tangible breaks from American economic and constitutional traditions.” In total, especially after reading Krugman’s book, it appears that one of Levin’s goals is to tear down Krugman’s reverance for the New Deal. But that’s about it for the New Deal. We still have the environment, immigration, and foreign policy to cover.

Enviro-Statism

Levin disagrees that global warming or any sort of environmental crisis is upon us; he debunks much of the science behind it and cites science to the contrary. So if there isn’t a problem, he asserts that the laws addressing the problem are/will be completely unnecessary and represent another attack on liberty:

But the coming invasion of the home and workplace, the restriction on individual liberty, independence, and mobility, and the deconstruction of America’s economic system and impoverishing of the citizenry are justified in the name of a long and growing roster of preposterous assertions that must be listed to be believed.

As you can guess, he goes on to list them.

Immigration

Levin feels that the Statist agenda regarding immigration is not in the best interest of preserving our society; that it is self-serving to keep the Statist in power:

The Statist tolerates the illegal alien’s violations of working, wage, and environmental standards, because the alien’s babies born in America are, under the current interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, treated as United States citizens. And under the Hart-Celler Act, upon turning twenty-one years of age, the child can sponsor additional family members for citizenship. From the Statist’s perspective, the pool of future administrative state constituents and sympathetic voters is potentially bottomless.

A powerful immigrant society in general rubs Levin the wrong way.

For more than two centuries, individuals with diverse backgrounds have come together to form a national “melting pot” and harmonious society sustained by allegiance to the country and its founding principles. But today’s open-ended mass migration, coupled with the destructive influences of biculturalism, multiculturalism, bilingualism, multilingualism, dual citizenship, and affirmative action, have combined to form the building blocks of a different kind of society—where aliens are taught to hold tightly to their former cultures and languages, balkanization grows, antagonism and conflict are aroused, and victimhood is claimed at perceived slights. If a nation does not show and teach respect for its own identity, principles, and institutions, that corrosive attitude is conveyed to the rest of the world, including newly arriving aliens. And if this is unchecked, the nation will ultimately cease to exist.

I guess to say that it rubs him the wrong way may be an understatement.

Foreign Policy

This is the last issue and I’m running out of steam (plus I’m trying to keep this the same length as Consience of a Liberal). Levin promotes that view that foreign policy decisions should be measured using one benchmark:

The Conservative does not seek rigid adherence to any specific course of action: neutrality or alliance, preemptive war or defensive posture, nation building or limited military strike. The benchmark, again, is whether any specific path will serve the nation’s best interests.

He punches a lot of holes in Obama’s foreign policy. Like this:

How is banning waterboarding—which Barack Obama did among his first acts as president—morally defensible when a few minutes of simulated drowning applied against the operational leader of 9/11 reportedly saved an untold number of innocent American lives?

Read the book to get his support for this assertion. In general, Levin feels that global citizenry should not be our goal because the powerful countries who aren’t global citizens will end up with the upper hand.

America’s adversaries and enemies do not consider themselves global citizens. Nor are they constrained by international sensibilities and arrangements. A resurgent Russia, an aggressive China, communist movements growing in Latin America, rogue regimes in North Korea and Iran, Islamic terrorism, to name a few, all reject the Statist’s Utopia as a weakness to be exploited. They are not motivated by world opinion but by their own desires. They seek strategic—economic and military—advantage.

So that gets us through the major issues that Levin vets. These appear to be the major issues that any American needs to vet as they decide on where they stand. I’ve just spent a big chunk of May and June sorting through both ends of the spectrum so I should be able to lay out a decent strategy for the next election. When I say ends, I mean extremes. Both Levin and Krugman espouse extremes. Certainly the answer for me is somewhere in between. I will lay out that strategy in a separate post (some day).