In Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, radio talk show host and president of the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation Mark R. Levin reminds conservatives why they are conservative, describes how liberals—whom he calls “Statists”—have worked to chip away at individual liberty in favor of the state, and lays out a roadmap for restoring America to its constitutional roots.
The tome is something of a history book in that Levin uses not only the words and ideals of the Founding Fathers to make his points; he draws upon the philosophers and thinkers that the Founders used for their inspiration. He then lays out a case for when the usurpation of liberty began and what events transpired to bring us to our current state.
But it is more than a history text because Levin plots a course that, if followed, would lead the country back to its original, constitutional self. It is a book of Levin’s opinions and conclusions, based, he writes, on decades of observation, exploration and experience.
Levin begins by defining what he believes conservatism is: a way of understanding life, society and governance. Conservatism is liberty and the opposite of conservatism, Levin writes, is tyranny.
Like the founders, conservatives believe that in a civil society 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 conscience. He is free to discover his own potential and pursue his own legitimate interests, tempered, however, by a moral order that has its foundation in faith and guides his life and all human life through the prudent exercise of judgment. This leads him to be virtuous—that is restrained, ethical and honorable.
For the conservative, private property and liberty are inseparable. The conservative also believes the rule of law applied equally provides the framework for and restraints necessary to nurture a civil society and serve as a check against the arbitrary use or abuse of power.
The Statist, on the other hand, believes in the supremacy of the state and rejects the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the order of the civil society. For today’s liberal, the individual’s imperfection and personal pursuits impede the objective of the utopian state.
Levin justifies the use of the word “statist” to describe modern-day liberals because in its classical meaning, “liberal” is the opposite of authoritarian. But modern-day liberals have an insatiable appetite for control, are constantly agitating for government action and seek to manipulate public perceptions in order to divest liberty and property from its rightful possessors.
Levin posits that the assault on constitution-based values began apace following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. He describes the tactics Roosevelt and an overwhelmingly Democrat congress used to breech the firewalls of the U.S. Constitution through the approval of federal projects, entitlements, taxes and regulations. Though the Supreme Court tried to fight it by striking down many New Deal programs, Roosevelt intimidated the court by threatening to pack it with sympathetic justices who would back his programs.
Roosevelt used his newfound power to expand political alliances and create electoral constituencies of unions, farmers, senior citizens and ethnic groups. Since then the federal government has become a massive, unaccountable conglomerate, by passing laws and creating administrative agencies. And the Democrat party and the federal government have over the years become inextricably intertwined and the party has become as dependent on federal power for its sustenance as the government dependents it creates.
Levin, through a series of essays, covers today’s trending topics and lays out a case for conservatives to use to counter the Statist’s arguments. He demonstrates how conservative solutions always lead to more individual liberty and how the solutions of the Statist result in less individual freedom, or, as he says, tyranny.
For the conservative frustrated by the seemingly endless assault on individual liberty and who wants to understand the endgame sought by the statist, this is a must read.