Mark Levin’s ‘Liberty and Tyranny’

March 19, 2009

Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” couldn’t be more relevant or important. It is a masterful restatement of conservative principles that is succinct (205 pages) and yet comprehensive. It is thoughtful and deep but highly readable. It is timely yet timeless.

Conservatism is under attack from puffed-up liberals, feeling their oats with the ascendancy of President Barack Obama and the huge Democratic congressional majorities, and from a disgruntled group of conservatives who believe that conservatism, to remain politically effective, needs a face-lift.

Liberal columnists are writing with unrestrained glee about conservatism’s internecine wars, and conservatives are engaged in intramural debates about which principles and policies conservatives should be promoting. Levin’s book will go a long way toward muting the liberals’ premature gloating and refuting the arguments of those who, perhaps with good intentions, would hijack conservatism from within and transform it into liberalism lite, all in the name of political pragmatism. “An ‘effective’ government that operates outside its constitutional limitations is a dangerous government,” Levin writes. “By abandoning principle for efficiency, the neo-Statist, it seems, is no more bound to the Constitution than the Statist. He marches more slowly … but he marches with him nonetheless.”

There has not been a widely read conservative manifesto as such since Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative” in 1960. Given the unbridled assault on conservatism today, not to mention the personal attacks on its leading proponents, we must celebrate the release of “Liberty and Tyranny” as the modern road map back to our conservative roots.

Having eaten, breathed, slept and studied conservatism, politics, law and history his entire life, Levin, who is my friend and client, is uniquely qualified and situated to have written this book. In undertaking this formidable task, he stands on the shoulders of the giants who have preceded him but has made those giants very proud with this work.

Don’t make the mistake — no matter how learned you are in politics or related disciplines — of assuming you have nothing to gain from reading a primer on conservative thought. This is much more than a primer. It delves into the historical and philosophical roots of conservative thought and ties them to America’s founding. It explains the enduring principles that undergird our unique constitutional system and exposes the dangers in continuing to violate those principles.

Levin identifies conservatism’s relentless nemesis, the statist, who seeks to grow the state at the expense of the individual and his liberty. The statist’s goals are clear, but his methods are deceitful: promising equality, security and Utopia but delivering tyranny. In the current administration, we are witnessing the rise of the statist to new heights. And he must be stopped if we are to preserve our freedom, prosperity and moral order.

When you read this book, you will learn or be reminded not only that private property and liberty are inseparable but also why. You will learn that a conservative is not only a free market libertarian but also one who believes in a civil society with an underlying moral order in which “the individual is recognized and accepted as more than an abstract statistic or faceless member of some group; rather he is a unique, spiritual being with a soul and a conscience.” You will be disabused of the myth that conservatives are fixed in some time warp that requires them to oppose all change. Rather, they believe in change as reform, undertaken with prudence — “informed by the experience, knowledge, and traditions of society, tailored for a specific purpose, and accomplished through a constitutional construct that ensures thoughtful deliberation by the community. Change unconstrained by prudence produces unpredictable consequences, threatening ordered liberty with chaos and ultimately despotism, and placing at risk the very principles the Conservative holds dear.”

You will learn the meaning and significance of our Founders’ belief in unalienable rights and that they are unalienable precisely because they come from God. Conservatism is otherwise unintelligible. “An individual may benefit from the moral order and unalienable rights around which society functions while rejecting their Divine Origin. But the civil society cannot organize itself that way.”

You will learn why interpreting the Constitution in light of its original understanding is essential to preserving our ordered liberty and how we’ve departed from those principles, as with the erosion of the doctrines of federalism and states’ rights and the destructive consequences that have followed.

Levin also unpacks for us the complex issue of immigration, the ravages of the welfare state, the liberty-threatening practices of the radical environmentalists, and the indispensability of safeguarding America’s sovereignty and national security.

As the Obama administration has unleashed its extremist statist agenda, it seems providential that this book is just now being released. If this nation is to beat back the current administration’s rush toward enslaving-and-impoverishing socialism, it must reclaim its founding principles, as brilliantly expounded in this book.