By Thomas Lifson
March 23, 2009
Mark Levin's new book, published today, is essential reading. It is a remarkable work on several different levels. It takes no degree of clairvoyance to predict that it will become an enormous best seller and very soon begin to influence the national political debate.
Liberty and Tyranny artfully presents a harmonious marriage of the timeless with the timely. On the one hand, the book is a thorough yet compact briefing on the major political issues of this era. On the other hand, the author brings to bear the principles of the American Founders and Framers of the Constitution (and the great thinkers who guided them), illustrating, dissecting, and explaining our current political arguments, while enlightening the reader with the genuine wisdom bequeathed to all of us -- the sacred trust of the Founders, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and Federalist Papers, all of which are quoted and applied with insight and precision.
Think of it as an outstanding tutorial in applied political philosophy, and you will begin to grasp the scope of Mark Levin's achievement. The fact that the book is lucid, unpretentious, and utterly accessible to anyone who cares to focus and think, means that it will elevate the quality of political thought and dialogue across a broad swath of the American populace.
If you care passionately about America, and worry for its future -- and who doesn't, given the current national leadership? -- then you owe it to yourself to buy and devour this marvelous work. It is an essential antidote to what ails America at the moment.
Each chapter is a well-constructed essay, so the reader is quite free to read it a little at a time. But, unlike so many contemporary political works, it is also a well-constructed and coherent whole. So you may be tempted to stay up all night reading it as soon as a copy comes into your hands.
Conservatives who read Liberty and Tyranny will be supplied with ample ammunition to outsmart, outthink and out-reason their liberal friends who are brave enough to actually engage in a serious political debate with them.
The overall plan of the book is simple and logical. Chapter One, "On Liberty and Tyranny," lays out the basic conceptual scheme. Levin contrasts two opposing political philosophies currently in contention: The Conservative versus the Statist. He grounds the Conservative in the values and insights on human nature of the American Founders, and does so economically and convincingly. For the other side of the debate, he quite correctly rejects the label "liberal", because in current usage the term has become entirely divorced from its literal meaning. He writes:
The Modern Liberal believes in the supremacy of the state.... For the Modern Liberal, the individual's imperfection and personal pursuits impede the objectives of a utopian state. In this, Modern Liberalism promotes what French Historian Alexis de Tocqueville called soft tyranny, which becomes increasingly more oppressive, partially leading to hard tyranny.... As the word "liberal" is, in its classical meaning, the opposite of authoritarian, it is more accurate, therefore, to characterize the Modern Liberal as a Statist. (p.4)
The following nine chapters, plus an epilogue containing Levin's own manifesto -- the political changes he posits as desirable (and with which I agree) -- are organized thematically, with titles such as On Prudence and Progress, On Faith and the Founding, On the Welfare State, and On Self Preservation (i.e., national security), wherein he encapsulates nearly all the major political issues of our day, providing essential up-to-date information, while also weaving in the wisdom a timeless thinkers ranging from Alexander Hamilton to St Augustine. As the book progresses, the chapters become more and more focused on current political disputes. But the beauty of the structure is that the principles discussed in the earlier chapters are brought to bear on the subsequent topics.
I am proud to note that American Thinker's Lee Cary is quoted in the book's chapter, "On Immigration." Considering the company Dr. Cary is keeping as a source for the book, this is a high honor indeed, both for him and for AT.
The epilogue, wherein Mark tells us what we conservatives can do, and where he outlines what changes he sees as necessary to beat back the now-ascendant forces of statism, may certainly spark some disagreement, because Mark pulls no punches. He is setting a lofty target, but one that is amply justified by the clear-headed research and writing that went into the body of the text.
Fans of Mark Levin's syndicated radio show will recognize the voice of the hard-hitting champion of conservatism they know and love. But there is also, for those unfamiliar with Mark's radio work (but perhaps propagandized by liberal media into dismissing him as a crazy right wing radical), a remarkable and persuasive tone, based on solid research, extensively documented, and unchallengeable reason. This book could actually change some minds, especially as the nation’s peril becomes more and more apparent.
All in all, Mark Levin has given us a remarkable gift. Read this book, and buy copies for those you care about, too. Anyone from a clever high schooler to a scholar of political philosophy can benefit from reading Liberty and Tyranny.
Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.