My friend Mark Levin is nothing if not a patriot of the first order. He loves the United States and its founding principles — and his latest book, “Rediscovering Americanism,” explains his passion and encourages ours.
Levin believes that America’s greatness lies in its unique founding ideals — and documents — and correctly observes how far we’ve strayed from those principles and the structure of government they inspired.
In his other books, Levin has outlined the problems confronting us and proposed solutions, but in this book, he takes a deeper look into the Framers’ vision and examines the anatomy and historical development of the pernicious progressive mindset that has systematically chipped away at our governmental structure and our liberties.
This book is remarkable in its simultaneous succinctness and thoroughness. It’s hard to fathom how Levin could have adeptly covered so much important, relevant material in a relatively short book. But he did.
Why would Levin take us on this historical tour of our nation’s competing political and philosophical ideas? Haven’t we moved beyond such considerations in the modern age, with the federal government micromanaging so many aspects of our lives? Do these lofty notions even matter anymore in our modern era of short attention spans, sound bites and our endless obsession with daily polling? Why contemplate the proper role of government when our ruling class rarely concerns itself with preserving our liberties, when the Washington establishment rarely focuses on whether government has the authority to act but fights instead over the most efficient way it should act?
The answer is that Levin understands that our belief and confidence in our founding principles and our steadfast commitment to them are essential to preserving our individual liberties, our prosperity and our national uniqueness and greatness. In Levin’s words, “philosophy and practical politics are linked and, therefore, have a real effect on the life of the individual.” As our history has increasingly demonstrated, we cannot preserve our constitutional structure — and thus our liberties and the rest — if we do not understand and embrace its necessity. For our failure to grasp that truth has resulted in the steady erosion of the system built on it.
Levin is convinced that unless we have a national reawakening of the indispensability of our first principles, we will continue our march toward statism and squander the blessings bestowed on us by our visionary ancestors. “What will (future generations) say about us?” he asks. “Will they say that we were a wise and conscientious people who understood and appreciated the blessings of our existence and surroundings and prudentially and conscientiously cared for them; or will they say we were a self-indulgent and inattentive people, easily shepherded in one direction or another, who stole the future from our own children and generations yet born, and squandered an irreplaceable heritage?”
In other words, our remarkable system of government, despite its brilliance, is not self-sustaining. An intellectually lazy and spiritually negligent body politic will not nurture and care for this gift, and it will continue to descend by incremental steps into tyranny beyond the point of redemption.
By reintroducing us to our founding ideas and their importance, Levin is both sounding an alarm over the threats that imperil us and calling on us to man our battle stations by first understanding the gravity of our predicament and then arming ourselves with a true understanding of our national uniqueness.
In Chapter 1, Levin unpacks the concept of natural law (and natural rights) — “the foundational principle at the core of American society.” This principle “permeated American thought from the beginning of our republic and well before.”
As clearly and firmly reflected in the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal by God and have certain unalienable rights. These rights are universal to all men and are divine and spiritual in origin — not government constructs — and thus no government has the right to deny them. Levin shows further the importance of the rule of law, the mutual dependence between private property and freedom, and the interrelationship between economic liberty and political liberty.
The Framers designed our system to preserve these rights (and liberties), thus crafting a constitution that empowered and limited government — with those powers and limitations each designed to achieve the overarching goal of establishing and preserving our individual liberties. The Framers understood that mankind is imperfect and that a government led by imperfect people would, unless checked, tyrannize citizens and swallow their liberties.
Progressives, on the other hand, believe that mankind is perfectible and that centralized government is the means to achieving this social engineering, and they have been working steadily toward that goal in America for more than a century.
Whereas our Framers ardently believed that mankind’s natural rights are transcendent and that the principles they enshrined in the Constitution are also timeless, progressives have always been convinced that our founding principles and documents were applicable only to their unique historical setting and that our system must constantly evolve to accommodate the changing times.
The tragic irony is that our short national history has vindicated the Framers and exposed the folly of the progressives, who are still in denial that their arrogant attempts to engineer human perfection through expansive government — particularly the runaway administrative state — have resulted in a stunning erosion of our liberties.
Unless we dismantle the federal leviathan and its suffocating bureaucracy, we’ll slide ever further — and irreversibly — into tyranny. Unless we “rediscover” our “Americanism,” we can’t conceivably resurrect and sustain our liberties.
Read this book and rediscover.