Liberty & Tyranny, by Mark Levin
A Book Review by Dr. Paul Jehle
Mark Levin is one of those no-nonsense writers that are all too uncommon these days. As Americans struggle with the fast-paced change of the landscape that will make the U.S. of their childhood seem like a dream that never existed, Levin reminds them, in shocking terms, that the changes have been taking place steadily for more than a hundred and fifty years. His opening paragraph of his Prologue sets the tone for the book when he declares:
“So distant is America today from its founding principles that it is difficult to precisely describe the nature of American government. It is not strictly a constitutional republic, because the Constitution has been and continues to be easily altered by a judicial oligarchy that most enforces, it not expands, the Statist’s agenda. It is not strictly a representative republic, because so many edicts are produced by a maze of administrative departments that are unknown to the public and detached from its sentiment. It is not strictly a federal republic, because the states that gave the central government life now live at its behest. What, then, is it? It is a society steadily transitioning toward statism. If the Conservative does not come to grips with the significance of this transformation, he will be devoured by it.” – Prologue – “A Conservative Manifesto”, page 1
From his opening “manifesto”, to his closing remarks, this book is one that should be studied by neighborhoods, local Political Party headquarters, Sunday School classes or at a local Tea Party group; all of whom need to know what is really going on in their country. Not only does Levin analyze the confusing scene in American politics quickly and with brush strokes that easily move away the clutter and debris of ideological tangents and detours, he articulates the original view of the Founders in such a way as the average American who has not spent time in historic archives can understand.
Not only does Levin tackle such pertinent issues as taxation, the environment, judicial system, bureaucracy, education, immigration, entitlements, foreign policy, faith, economics and the constitution, he does so in a way that gives leadership to the frustrations so evident in the average hard working American who are just now noticing how far our nation has strayed from its founding principles. The small, progressive steps away from our origin Levin calls “soft tyranny”.
“The Conservative is alarmed by the ascent of a soft tyranny and its cheery acceptance by the neo-Statist. He knows that liberty once lost is rarely recovered.” – page 25
Unlike most books written to a conservative core of Americans, Levin does not leave out the Christian foundations of America. He states the obvious to any historian who has honestly looked at the evidence. “Despite its different denominations, Christianity was and is America’s dominant religion” (page 42).
He covers another topic often ignored – religious liberty. Levin articulates the real meaning of the First Amendment with clarity and in clear contrast to what is demanded presently and historically with Islam. “Islamic law, or ‘sharia’, dictates the most intricate aspects of daily life, from politics and finance to dating and hygiene. There is not, and never has been, support for a national construct of this sort in America.” In other words, the relationship between church and state demanded by Islam has never been envisioned between Christianity and civil government in America. Then, he sweeps away the misinformation and revisionism so common today when he says:
“The Constitution’s Framers wrote the First Amendment to include the words ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ because they believed the establishment of a theocracy would be destructive of both liberty generally and religious liberty in particular. Although the First Amendment, as originally intended and applied, had no effect on the states, its adoption by the federal Congress and ratification by the states evinced a national consensus that liberty and religious liberty are inseparable…” (page 43)
Probably the most important part of Levin’s book is his treatise on the nature of the Constitution as well as his application of it to the issues dominating the American political landscape. By articulating and documenting the twisting of simple definitions in the Constitution, Levin sweeps away the false dichotomy of revisionism on one hand and the simple ignoring of the Constitution on the other. He then concludes with the simple statement “by now it should be clear that the debate over constitutional interpretation is a false one. The Statist is not interpreting but manipulating” (page 57).
Levin clearly articulates the “either-or” fallacy of the Statist where in our media and the higher levels of academia we are faced with the supposed choices of anarchy on one hand and tyranny on the other, as if these are all Americans have to choose from today or throughout history. It is an obvious dichotomy all too familiar in today’s “debate” on the choices we have from the theoretical philosophy of government to the choices for candidates. It is obvious that Americans are facing tyranny, because the Federal Register, as of 2006, contained 74,937 pages of regulations no one can truly understand and businesses spend billions to try to comply with (see page 69).
Levin’s dissection of the free market, welfare state, environmentalism, and immigration is both commendable and helpful for the American seeking to find out the most recent reasons why we have arrived at such a confusing and complicated state of tyrannical affairs in American politics. In conclusion, Levin states that “the conservative believes that the moral imperative of all public policy must be the preservation and improvement of American society” (page 189).
Though there are a few historical areas where I disagree with Levin’s analysis of American history and our Founders’ intent, as well as disagreeing with a few of his goals to reverse direction, such as in taxation and foreign policy, for the most part I am in agreement with Mark Levin’s overview of where we have been as a nation, where we are, and what must be done to stop the slide and reverse directions. It won’t be easy, but an easy to read road map of where we have been and where we must go has been given to us in this New York Times bestseller published in 2009.
Whether you are an historian or an avid reader of current events, you will enjoy this book. From the constitutional scholar to the one who has never even read our founding documents, you will find this book enlightening and easy to comprehend. I highly recommend it, and if you are a teacher or student at the high school or college level, or an individual who has a chance to share at a local neighborhood or Tea Party social gathering, bring the book with you and share quotes to spark interest among your peers. America; this is a book worth reading to help guide our nation toward sanity and self-preservation!