Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reading Mark Levin's LIBERTY AND TYRANNY (Part 1: Introduction)

Dear friends and readers of Letter of Liberty:

Yesterday, Mark Levin's 2008 book Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, along with The Liberty Amendments (his newest book), came in the mail. I was thinking of reviewing one of the two books from the libertarian perspective, and so I decided to do the former book, which is his manifesto.

Let me give a little introduction on my experiences with Mark Levin. When I first got into politics, I used to be a big fan of Mark Levin. I liked a lot of what he said, agreed with much of it, and liked his style on the radio, where he would tear down all those liberals and "wimpy" Republicans.

However, since I became a libertarian, I don't listen much to him, and both he and I are polar opposites when it comes to politics. While I may agree with him here and there, I disagree strongly with his foreign policy, as strongly as he opposes the libertarian foreign policy.

So I will review Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, section by section, so I can keep track of my own notes and keep the details fresh in my mind. Keep in mind that when Mark Levin refers to the term "statist," he is mostly referring to the idea of social liberalism and what he sees as the view of "Repubicans."

Let's start now

"Prologue: A Conservative Manifesto", pp. 1-13

Here is where Mark Levin begins his manifesto, and the opening statement is correct: "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 mostly enforces, if not expands, the Statist's agenda (p. 1)." Later on, he states that America "is a society steadily transitioning toward statism." I would disagree with this statement. The country was already statist since the early 20th century, since the Progressive Era. It was in the 20th century that we started the welfare state in America and the New Deal, and it is the era where we built up the military-industrial complex and the warfare state (though there were hints of imperialism in the 19th century too). 

He rightly condemns the Republican Party for acting "as if it is without recourse." However, he later says that their was a brief eight-year respite with the Reagan administration. That is not true; for more information, see here, here, here, here, here, and here. Reagan merely cut the rate at which government grew, not the growth of government itself. Some might say that it was because of the Cold War, but they neglect the fact that Communism is inherently unstable and that it needs nothing extra to fall. I would recommend that people read this for more refutations of the myths of the Cold War. And he rightly criticizes the warmonger Bush for abandoning free-market principles "to save the free market system." He also points out that just as the "laissez-faire" Herbert Hoover laid the foundation for FDR, so did the "free-market" Bush lay the foundation for Obama.

Skip to page 3, where he says that "it is in the [Conservative's] nature to live and let live, to attend to his family, to volunteer time with his church and synagogue, and to quietly assist a friend, a neighbor or even a stranger." Well, I will concerned that most conservatives may not exactly want to be in politics, but they do advocate policies that are anti-liberty; many advocate laws against vices that are not crimes (such as prostitution, drug usage, and other things) and they also advocate the warfare state, which is truly abominable. While granted some conservatives reject the warfare state and take a friendly attitude toward libertarianism, most are not. I did agree with Levin, however, on this point: "The Statist's counterrevolution has turned the instrumentalities of public affairs and public governance against the civil society." And he basically advocates that conservatives get into power, though to his credit he doesn't solely rely on that to fulfill his goals. Anyways, while I may disagree with Levin's conservative worldview, I do agree that we should counteract statist education by "conferring [our] knowledge, beliefs, and ideals on them over the dinner table, in the car, or at bedtime (p. 4)."

Skip to page 5, where Mark Levin smashes the Statist's control of public vocabulary, using terms such as "deniers" to attack the skeptics of global warming, "favoring corporate polluters" or "against saving the planet." However, he acts hypocritically when he does this too in some of his programs; for example, when people show skepticism of current American foreign policy, most conservatives (and especially Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin) attack the skeptics as "anti-Americans" for attacking American exceptionalism, "anti-Semites" for rejecting the giving of foreign aid and help to the State of Israel, and "terrorist-lovers" and "nuclear bomb lovers" for opposing the stripping of civil liberties in the name of counterterrorism and opposing preemptive warfare and economic sanctions in the name of preventing rogue States from getting nuclear weapons. For example, some conservatives claimed that Ron Paul wanted Iran to get nuclear weaponry, despite the fact that Ron Paul did not either advocate for nuclear weapons or congratulate Iran for wanting to get nuclear weapons. Yet another example where conservatives twist public rhetoric is that many categorize anti-war conservatives and libertarians as "anti-defense" because they don't support military bases overseas, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and other unjust wars.

On page 6, Mark Levin says this: "America's founding, the Civil War, and World War II were epic, and, at times, seemingly insurmountable wars of liberty against tyranny, which would have destroyed the civil society had they been lost." While I agree as to the first war, I disagree with Levin and most conservatives and left-statists on the Civil War and World War II. As to the Civil War, it was a war launched by Lincoln against the South, with mass bloodshed and a growing bureaucracy as an overreaction to the bombing at Ft. Sumter. Thomas DiLorenzo, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, and Charles Adams have explored the deeper issues of the Civil War and have given a revisionist libertarian account against the Lincoln, the first and third of which make the case for the South. And Joseph Stromberg has this article in defense of the Southern secession from the libertarian viewpoint. Opposing Lincoln does not mean that we support the Confederacy (except in its secession) or that we whitewash the evils of slavery and make the Confederacy out to be a "libertarian utopia." Murray Rothbard famously said of Lincoln, "Lincoln was a master politician, which means that he was a consummate conniver, manipulator, and liar. The federal forts were the key to his successful prosecution of the war. Lying to South Carolina, Abraham Lincoln managed to do what Franklin D. Roosevelt and Henry Stimson did at Pearl Harbor 80 years later – maneuvered the Southerners into firing the first shot. In this way, by manipulating the South into firing first against a federal fort, Lincoln made the South appear to be 'aggressors' in the eyes of the numerous waverers and moderates in the North." He was a "reform liberal," and he was, in the words of Isabel Paterson, a humanitarian with a guillotine. 

As to World War II, I would understand why even some anti-war conservatives and libertarians would have a soft spot for this war; after all, it was the last constitutionally declared war after which we had the Korean, Vietman, Afghanistan, Gulf and Iraq wars, most of which were unconstitutional. However, many libertarians pointed out that even the American involvement in WWII was itself unjust; for example, in 1991, Sheldon Richman explored the continuation of the Pearl Harbor controversy, which involved FDR provoking the attack through his economic attacks on Japan. Robert Higgs explores the truth about this, as have many other authors. Search up either "Pearl Harbor libertarian view" or "truth about pearl harbor" and you can find a vast amount of resources on this issue. And as Murray Rothbard said, "In World War II, we have another big quantum leap – enormous government spending and military-industrial pump priming, and the permanent cold war, and so we then have the plans for a permanent peacetime welfare-warfare state – a corporate state – pushed through of course by partnership of these powerful forces plus intellectuals, done by means of wartime crisis." And let us not forget the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which did not save lives, despite what Harry Truman said.

Now let's get to some of his proposals

Taxation, pp. 7-8

Mark Levin's proposals here are mixed; for example, he rightly suggests we abolish the income tax—but then he suggests that we replace it with a flat income tax or a national sales tax, the former of which is decidedly un-libertarian (see here, here, and here). Overall, I agree with Levin on most of the other points, and in the last proposal, I could cut a little more, like its limit to less than 50% overall spending.

Environment, p. 8

1. I would simply deny lobbies the ability to use the state for their means, but I will still keep a tax-exempt status for these groups.

2. I agree with this second point: these groups are attacking liberty. They may have some legitimate concerns, but overall they are looking to the wrong place, and they use the wrong means to accomplish their ends.

3. Agreed

Judges, pp. 8-9

I agreed with the first two points, and I did agree with the third point, but just who defines what originalism is? In my opinion, from what I have learned, there really is no "originalism." Even in the days of the Constitution, there were debates as to how the Constitution should be interpreted. Sure there was a general agreement as to the fact that the Constitution was intended to curb power. But what powers were curbed? There were two answers: the Jeffersonian compact theory and the Hamiltonian-Federalist nationalist theory. The former held that there should be a strict construction and that the union was not permanent. The latter held that the union was indivisible, and that nullification and secession were impermissible. So there is no real "originalist" interpretation. The current view is an uber-Hamiltonian interpretation of the Constitution. Thus, for the limitation of government, we need the Jeffersonian view. The Jeffersonian, classical liberal interpretation of the Constitution was most exemplified in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, in reaction to John Adams's Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson did not, like some people are in the habit of doing, wait for the courts to solve the problem, so he depended on the concept of nullification to do so. 

My point is, constitutional originalism is not exactly what many conservatives and libertarians make it out to be; constitutional originalism, at the heart of the story, was much more complex and divided.

The Administrative State, p. 9

Mark Levin suggests on the first point that we ought to "sunset" all "independent" federal agencies each year, "subject to Congress affirmatively reestablishing them." What exactly does this mean? It is here that Mark Levin fails to provide any concrete examples as to how this will be done.

I did, however, agree with the other points. 

Government Education, pp. 9-10

Mark Levin here argues that we ought to eliminate monopoly control of government education by applying "antitrust laws to the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers." I disagree slightly in that there should be no antitrust laws; Dominick Armenanto has done some vital work on this issue, refuting many of the myths surrounding antitrust. And the NEA and AFA will only lose their monopoly power over education if compulsory education is completely abolished.

I did agree with the other points except the one where he suggests that we strip the statist agenda from curricula "and replace it with curricula that reinforce actual education and the preservation of the civil society through its core principles." I would have to say that Levin is misguided here. It is impossible for the state to strip its own agenda from its own curriculum; it is in the State's interests to promote itself in education, and replacing one statist agenda with another statist agenda is not a move in the positive direction. Replacing multiculturalism with nationalism will not help us at all.

Immigration, p. 10

Disagree with almost everything except the last part; while I agree with ending multiculturalism and "diversity," as well as bilingualism in public schools, I disagree with nationalism and putting our trust in nation-states. Also, as to the libertarian position on immigration, I subscribe to the idea of open borders, not as the Gang of Eight defines it but as the traditional libertarian view holds. However, there is room for debate in libertarian circles about this issue; some libertarians such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Stephan Kinsella reject the idea while others such as Walter Block and Jacob Hornberger accept it. I do accept the idea that immigration can be used to benefit the state, but at the same time immigration can hinder it. For example, if many immigrants were looking for a free and libertarian society and the State rejects the idea, mass immigration of these types will probably hurt the cause of the State, which is to restrict liberty and grow itself.

Entitlements, pp. 10-11

Agreed with most everything in this section

Foreign Policy and Security, pp. 11-12

This is the area which I most disagree with Mark Levin and the vast majority of conservatives, and where the vast majority of conservatives disagree with libertarians.

1. If pursuing the safety of Americans means constant interventionism and mass wiretapping of civilian information, then this is not true safety; that is a false dichotomy between privacy and security; however, I am all in support of defending our borders, just not using conscription, mass bombing, interventionism, imperialism or any other statist tool to do so.

2. Agreed with this one; that also applies to Israel too, which many neoconservatives won't want to admit; any peacetime alliances and entanglements (with the exception of total free trade) are excluded from the founding republic of America and from libertarian thought and action. But I do agree with Levin's point against the idea of "global" interests.

3. While America can remain number one in freedom and noninterventionism, it shouldn't be the world's superpower, if that means high debts, more wars, increasing erosions of civil liberties, more killing of civilians, more soldiers participating in unjust wars, regime changes, coup de etats, and whatnots. While I am all for the military being used to defend our country against foreign invasions, that doesn't mean that we use it to be the world's policeman. While the US can be a force for peace and peacefully talk with other nations, that doesn't mean it must join the conflicts of others in the name of "humanitarianism" or "blessing the Jewish nation" or whatever. And there are some unjust and unconstitutional wars that should be ended quickly (case in point: the justly derided Vietnam War).

Faith, p. 12

I agree with much of Mark Levin's statements here, but here he generally derides the Statist for having contempt for faith. This is not necessarily true, as statists can use faith for their own devious purposes. Some examples are Woodrow Wilson (who often spoke about his faith in God even as he got in the war he wasn't supposed to), George W. Bush (whose Christianity is just one big bad joke) and Barack Obama (whose Christianity is also one big joke).

The Constitution, pp. 12-13

I agree with most of what Levin says in this section. Moreover, I would add that since Congress is forbidden by the First Amendment to regulate the free speech of individuals, that would imply the complete abolition of federal speech codes and legislation on speech. And I most certainly oppose any "constitutionalization" of the statist agenda.

Now, having concluded the introduction to Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny, look for my analysis of Chapter One soon.

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