Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto - Mark Levin

Posted by Wonky 8 years, 1 month ago to Books
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I have little to no experience writing book reviews. As such, I'm as interested in a critique of my review as I am in hearing other thoughts about the book itself.


An admirable call to action for those who choose to live and let live under the misguided assumption that the U.S. Constitution and/or God will sort things out.

While I agree with a majority of the content, most of it is geared toward illustrating how Conservative values are in line with, and a faithful adherence to, the U.S. Constitution.

Levin's methodology for enumerating Conservative values consists primarily of contrasting them with the somewhat vague notions of "a Statist", "the Statist", and "Statist Agenda". The Conservative is portrayed as a very real, accessible, person or entity such as "you", "your neighbor", "a politician", while the Statist is simply portrayed as an amorphous, undifferentiated, entity seeking unconstitutional power and influence (with few exceptions, such as the FDR administration and a handful of politicians, groups, and agencies).

The premise that a Conservative individual is the polar opposite of a Statist individual is very difficult to envision. From Levin's depictions, any distillation of a Statist individual outside of the political arena amounts to a brainwashed zombie with no interest in his own freedom, ever fearful of the government's inability to protect and provide for himself or other individuals in society, who thusly votes blindly for big government. A more likely depiction of a Statist individual is one that is passionate about one or more social issues (such as caring for the poor, the ill, or the elderly) who, in ignorance, supports a sort of Statist "creep" by casting his or her vote without consideration of the consequences. Such a person can be envisioned, and is more accessible and recognizable as a human being, but it would not be accurate to label him a "Statist" in the sense that he endorses "Statism".

Levin does indicate that Statism is achieved slowly through the efforts of insidious collusion between impassioned groups and the mainstream media, using crises to their advantage for political, ideological, and/or financial gain. These groups gain power by leveraging the passions and fears of the emotional individual I described above. In this scenario, it is much easier to see "Statism", not as a philosophy, but rather as a machine whose gears consist of these impassioned groups which do not recognize the function of the machine that they power. The analogy of "Statism" as a machine may serve as a key to disambiguate Levin's persistent references to "The Statist" as the antagonist of "The Conservative".

It is not necessary to define an a anti-Conservative philosophy to justify a Conservative philosophy. A proponent of Conservative philosophy cannot simply identify his neighbor as an individual holding an anti-Conservative, or Statist, philosophy, and commence with debate over the merits of each. The passionate, fearful individual I described above does not necessarily have a philosophy, in fact, but rather a series of emotional attachments to some number of causes that he may or may not attempt to integrate into a coherent philosophy. If your neighbor does not hold a Conservative philosophy, and you wish to discuss the merits of holding one, you cannot get far by first assuming him to be a Statist. A more prudent course of action would be to identify those issues about which he is impassioned or fearful, and demonstrate how a Conservative philosophy addresses those issues. You may wish to point out that voting emotionally for politicians running purely on the issue du jour is more likely placing power-grabbing individuals (with or without coherent political philosophies) into power, while voting for politicians who vow to uphold the Constitution is, at the very least, voting for the political philosophy of the founding fathers (whether or not those politicians hold a political philosophy of their own).

Levin's use of an ambiguous "Statist" is not a fatal flaw in the book, but the fact that his book is a call to action that fails to clearly identify what must be acted against, and how, leaves me at a bit of a loss when contemplating how Conservatives will react.

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  • Posted by $ Maphesdus 8 years, 1 month ago
    I've seen plenty of self-proclaimed Conservatives express totalitarian ideology. The claim that authoritarianism and tyranny only ever come from the political left is a complete myth.
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  • Posted by MattFranke 8 years, 1 month ago
    I haven't read the book, so I will not comment on it. As far as what I have heard from Levin, he's right there with the rest of the radio talk show people. They all have their moments of truth that carries them. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. However, all of them seem to have a turd in their punchbowl, so to speak. In the end, despite the good they may bring to the table, I fear that they all may just be Judas goats for their listeners. Always take them with a grain of salt.
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  • Posted by khalling 8 years, 1 month ago
    great review for a non-fiction book. this is personal preference-I would have started with my summation.
    Your "engine" analogy is brilliant-and sort of a Dagny-like-not aware you are working for your enemy.
    pointing out the vagueness of the "statist" definition and the even more vague definition of the "conservative" as a negative statist. I found that interesting. The old war axiom, "my enemy's enemy is my friend." lol
    I didn't read the book, so I'm left with a few questions. What was Levin's goal did you think?
    I am picking up that you wanted a specific plan to argue points with family, friends and neighbors. Your distinctions about someone's political goals and how they identify themselves is spot-on and works both ways. Plenty of conservatives (including Levin) saying they are for the Constitution and the Patriot Act are part of that engine analogy. So he is activating conservatives on some contradictory premises.
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    • Posted by 8 years, 1 month ago
      It's an older book (2009). For the most part, he sticks to issues that are clearly unconstitutional, which in and of itself suggests he'd like to see conservatives rally around the Constitution. He does a great job of tracing the, now "third rail", programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) back to FDR.

      You're correct in recognizing that I was looking for better "ammunition" with which to argue points with individuals. While I found good information in the book, I did not find any "ammunition". It simply will not suffice to to recognize an accidental, emotional, reactionary "Statist" as a person with a sociopolitical philosophy. Nor will it suffice to recognize a "Conservative" as an "anti-Statist".
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