Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin

Mark Levin is something of an aberration amongst conservative pundits. He's no opinionated blowhard like Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. He's smart - really smart.

Which makes Levin's new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, fascinating to read - even if you're liberally-inclined.

The concept of Liberty and Tyranny is a simple one. Written last year - when the lack of cohesive leadership within the conservative movement was at its most obvious - Liberty and Tyranny is essentially a call to arms for conservatives.

Styled after Karl Marx's 'Communist Manifesto,' it explores what conservatism really is, where the movement's origins lie and what its goals are. He challenges what it means to call yourself 'a conservative' - and Levin even finishes his 'manifesto' on the same note as Marx - a conservative version of the call to action: 'Workers of the World Unite!'

The book demonstrates what a multifaceted concept 'conservatism' has become - and how competing conservative voices often clash as they stand up for opposing values.

What Levin accomplishes is stripping down the values of competing voices, peeling away each prejudice until all that's left are the essential ingredients that make up a 'true' conservative.

It's in recognizing shared values that libertarians, social conservatives and other self-styled conservatives can find a common purpose, even if they disagree on other important issues.

It's in achieving this that Levin's manifesto becomes frighteningly effective.

In attacking liberalism, Levin resorts to crude, but effective techniques. His first step is in refusing to call the left-wing 'liberals' at all. He prefers the more chilling: 'statist.'
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.
But Levin uses more than name-calling to skewer the left wing - identifying key hypocrisies within the liberal agenda and nailing them with aplomb.

For example, Levin identifies how liberal government bypasses the 1st Amendment 'Right to Free Speech' by encouraging political correctness - the muzzling of free expression through accusations of racism, sexism or bigotry.
The Statist veils his pursuits in moral indignation, intoning in high dudgeon the injustices and inequities of liberty.
He similarly highlights how the left-wing use the U.S. Supreme Court to undermine popular law - 'legislating from the bench' to bypass the democratic process.

This is what he calls a 'soft tyranny' - a concept he lifted from Alexis de Tocqueville's book Democracy in America. Levin argues that America has been heading down this path of 'tyranny' ever since Roosevelt's 'New Deal' - and his manifesto warns conservatives that they share a common duty: Opposing the growth of a 'conglomerate' federal government.

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto is quite unlike any conservative book I've read before, because it has gravitas. Most conservative authors (like the clownish Glenn Beck) produce lightweight literature that's easy to dismiss. Mark Levin, on the other hand, makes a credible case that resonates even with die-hard liberals like myself.

It's not light reading - Levin has a doctorate in law and writes like it. But Liberty and Tyranny is nevertheless an energizing read for conservatives and a thought-provoking one for the rest of us. He might not win any new recruits, but anybody brave enough to read this book will certainly have a new perspective on the ideology of the right wing.

Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin is available now for $15.00


paul mitchell said...

Odd, I thought that it was very light reading. It seemed to me to be like beach reading. he wrote it for liberals, by the way, maybe that is why it seemed to be so easy to read. It took me less than four hours.

Roland Hulme said...

Oh come on! How about this sentence:

"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."

He used 'therefore.' All writers who gratuitously insert the word 'therefore' should be roughly spanked. It's BAD writing. And all the commas! Christ!

His ideas and concepts were quick and easy to comprehend - but his writing style leaves a lot to be desired.

Eve said...

Hmm, very interesting. I might read it if I have time between books. I'm not sure I agree with what he said about political correctness and the first amendment though. He seems to miss the point. I do think political correctness can be taken too far, and often is by some people. Still, the point of political correctness has nothing to do with stifling anyone's right to express themselves. It's about being polite. Of course, a lot of non-politically correct words and phrases are sexist or racist, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't have the right to say those things (it's just that in the real world such things will come across as being rude or bigoted...and that's their choice). Besides, being politically correct (within reason) doesn't require much in the way of verbal acrobatics. Saying the word "gay" or "homosexual" instead of "faggot" for example. Not too difficult, but much more polite.

Also, I agree that his use of "therefore" was unnecessary (not that I can do much better, but I assume he had an editor for the book).

Susanne said...

I just got this book at the local library the other day. It's on my shelf waiting to be read. Neat to see it here. :)

One Salient Oversight said...

Does he offer any criticisms of modern conservatives? Republicans? Reagan?

Roland Hulme said...

Hey Eve! I'm not sure I TOTALLY bought his political correctness thing, but coming from Britain, I can certainly see where the concept springs from. In the UK, there are almost two different standards for different demographics and in order to become 'politically correct' we tend to foster differences instead of mend them. I might not share Levin's hysteria about it, but I do see how political correctness has the potential to become almost fascist in a way.

Susanne - let me know what you think of it!

OSO - Because Levin was a Regan staffer, he's basically of the opinion that Regan conservatives are the mutt's nuts. The ones he DOES attack are neo-conservatives and 'compassionate conservatives' - although the book seems to simultaneously be a call to them to 'mend their ways' by recognizing what 'true' conservatism is.

I didn't realize being a conservative was such a complex thing until I read it.

Kali said...

I bought the DVD set when it first came out. Sometimes I find myself having to replay a particular segment b/c he's so darn thought provoking. He's so educational, I would recommend it to everyone regardless of political beliefs. Its a shame schools like Columbia University dont have political professors like Mark Levin.