Sunday, May 31, 2009

A must read: "Liberty and Tyranny"

Yesterday I finished reading Mark Levin's new book, Liberty and Tyranny. It's excellent, and I think all citizens should read it. He does a tremendous job of putting the rise of Big Government into historical perspective, explaining why and how it has happened, and scaring the bejeesus out of all those, like me, who have been worrying about this for a long time. I thought things were pretty bad, but now I know they are a lot worse.

I don't recall seeing anything in the book that I hadn't seen before, but the way he puts it all together (in only 200 pages) gives it new life and meaning. The book is crammed with facts and figures and hard logic. I'm pretty familiar with most of those facts and most of the arguments he makes, and with very few exceptions I don't think he has exaggerated or twisted anything. This is not a rant against big government, this is a very tightly argued case (he is a lawyer with lots of Washington experience) against Big Government, especially as practiced by President Obama.

The book is all about how Conservatives (those who believe in the supremacy of individual liberty, private property, limited government and free markets) have lost the battle to Statists (those who believe in the supremacy of government). From the Constitution's vision of a strictly limited federal government we have now reached the point where Washington D.C. mandates how much water our toilets can use.

I share virtually all of his beliefs (with the main exception being his views on immigration, which I think are overly xenophobic), since they are basically those of the libertarian party as best embodied (in my view) by the good folks at the Cato Institute. Libertarians are really what Republicans should be, and becoming more libertarian is the only way the Republican Party is going to have a chance to get back in the game.

In that regard, it is notable that Levin never mentions abortion rights or gay marriage. He and I would probably agree that those two planks of the Republican platform have always stood out as contradictory to the basic principles of individual freedom and limited government. The Republicans need to strengthen their message of limited government, freedom, and free markets, and leave behind the religious-right baggage that has alienated those who consider themselves fiscal conservatives but social liberals. Republicans should realize that a limited government has no business telling people how to run their personal lives, just as Democrats should realize that giving government too much power will only end up enslaving us.

This is all deadly serious stuff.

HT: My son Ryan, who gave me the book.

17 comments:

Bill said...

Great post but I would point out that there are far more people in America who are socially conservative and fiscally conservative (like me) than there are people who "consider themselves fiscal conservatives but social liberals". This is why libertarians achieve perhaps 1% of the vote in nearly all elections. The best thing in my view is for libertarians and social conservatives to work together on economic issues and overlook their differences on social issues as much as possible. Either we will hang together or we will surely hang separately, to paraphrase Ben Franklin.

Tom Burger said...

Thanks for the review, Scott. I have had it on my list based on other recommendations, but have frankly been put off by his use of the term "conservative" -- I think the words conservative and liberal lost their meaning somewhere between the 18th and 20th centuries.

Anyway, I will read it for sure now. The "big government" issue has been around, as you know, for most of the 20th century. You might enjoy Mises' tightly argued works in this area. For example The Anti-capitalist mentality, Economic Freedom and Interventionism, The Free Market and its Enemies.

I think you would enjoy the level of thought he put into these works. Just go to Mises.org, their "store," "all authors," then select Mises. All his available books are layed out for perusal.

barry said...

Ditto Bill's comment. Dissing religious people will empty the tent quicker than your libertarian brothers will fill it. Let's find a way to work together.

zumbador said...

Scott....Don made a comment on your Milton Friedman post of 5/29/09. I am not sure how to contact him so I thought in this post to you that you might pass on to him that Anna Schwatrz was a co-author with Milton Friedman on numerous publications and she "still" works at the NBER/National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge MA and SHE (though elderly is very astute) might respond to his inquiry. She was definitely around and involved during the time frame he is referencing. Easy to find the NBER on the internet and he could send a e-mail inquiry off to her through their site. I would be very interested in any response he possibly receives from her.

Ryan said...

Dad, I just finished the book today - loved it!

Antonio said...

Being a Spaniard used to all kind og Big Gov. excesses, I find very interesting the issue from a USA perspective, but I lack proximity in that debate. I guess you are afraid of a permanent Big Gov., rather than a temporal intervention, and in that sense you are right, for nothing seems more difficult than cut social welfare and expenses once it has been put in place. The price to be paid for that policy is a permanent and low-quality sluggish growth, as European experience and recent past shows. Saludos.

Brian said...

Two things - for where to go with the Tea Party movement, an excellent article by Steven Hayward:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZmY1OTc2NDYyNTg5M2UzNmFmMzVkZjQ4ODUwNTAzNjE=

And for the question of abortion - as a social conservative I would like to see this a state issue. Likewise, if the fetus is a human, laws against abortion are no more intrusive than laws prohibiting the killing of any citizen, so I don't really see such laws as standing against "individual freedom and limited government."

The fact that we differ over the importance or the definition of a fetus is unfortunate, yet should we not error on the safe side? After all, is not life the most fundamental of all liberties?

Gene Prescott said...

Hans Rosling, creator of GapMinder, just released an interesting video correlating human right, democracy, health and wealth.


http://www.gapminder.org/videos/human-rights-democracy-statistics/

Public Library said...

Brian,

Read Freakonamics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

One can argue that the drop off in crime during the prior 25 years had a lot to do with unwanted children never having the chance to loiter around as twenty something’s without futures.

If the pro-life camp really wanted to solve the abortion dilemma they would focus on building an alternative system of child care that worked.

And the dysfunction should make any fiscally conservative individual cringe.

"Despite more than a decade of intended reform, the nation's foster care system is still overcrowded and rife with problems. But taxpayers are spending $22 billion a year -- or $40,000 a child -- on foster care programs.

The highest ranking federal official in charge of foster care, Wade Horn of the Department of Health and Human Services, is a former child psychologist who says the foster care system is a giant mess and should just be blown up. He's most critical of the way foster care gets funded by the federal government -- $5 billion that goes mostly, he says, to keeping kids in foster care."

Scott Grannis said...

Antonio: you're right, Obama and most of the left here have long wanted to emulate European politics. They seem to forget that big government only leads to what was long ago diagnosed as "eurosclerosis."

Scott Grannis said...

Question: if the Republicans were to downgrade the importance of social issues, what alternatives would the religious right have?

Bill said...

Public Library:

We already have "an alternative system of child care that work[s]". It is called the family. In my household, I work while my wife stays home and raises the kids. This system has supported society for millennia and works every time it is tried.

BTW, the theory that the potential criminals of today were aborted thereby keeping the crime rate low is, of course, nonsense. There is simply no empirical evidence to support it. Crime has dropped across all groups over the last 20 years and a far more credible explanation for this is more effective law enforcement and stiffer penalties for criminals have been implemented.

Bill said...

Scott: The alternative would be for social conservatives to leave the Republican Party and either migrate to the Democrats (some social conservatives are not as pro-free enterprise as others) or to form a new party thereby making the Republicans the third place finisher in Presidential elections as in 1912.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Election_of_1912

This is not a road down which the Republican Party wants to go. We must remember that in politics there is ideological purity and there is victory and the two hardly ever go together. Politics is the art of the possible and, if you do not win, nothing is possible.

Michael said...

Scott:
Where would the religious right go? They would probably stay home -- at least enough of them that fewer Republicans could expect to get elected. As a proud member of the "religious right" I am strongly against big goverment control over the ecomony (and, increasingly, over everything else). Yet the commercial and financial ecomony is a secondary, if not tertiary, concern for me and many social conservatives. Even should the federal government destroy the economy so thoroughly that we have food riots, that would likely cause far fewer deaths than the brutal murder of over a million innocent children every year -- year in and year out -- that abortion causes. In any event, a strong economy, over the long run, requires a strong moral foundation in citizens. Yes, having too many toll booths creates massive traffic jams on the economic highway. That is a minor problem, however, in comparison to having the bedrock upon which the highway is built steadily eroded. One day, the entire roadway will collapse into a huge crater. All the economists will be standing around with their jaws hanging open, wondering how that happened when all their charts said everything was fine.

Scott Grannis said...

Thanks for the comments. I do feel strongly however that Republicans would stand a much better chance at the polls if they defined themselves as better fiscal conservatives (emphasizing limited government, low taxes, free markets, individual liberty) and willing to compromise on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. How they do that will be the key to success.

Bill said...

I think the real problem with the Republicans has not been the social conservatism but instead their infuriating tendency to try to be half-Democrats (i.e. "an echo, not a choice"). The Republicans should, in my view, remain culturally conservative but should become more conservative economically which means being absolutely committed to rolling back the size of government and spending in absolute and real terms, reducing bad regulation and taxes and cutting agencies and programs instead of trying to make them "work". Consistency of stated belief and action while in and out of power is the key in my opinion.

For example, by overspending while they controlled the Congress and White House, the Republicans have lost the moral high ground to properly criticize the incredibly outrageous spending by the Democrats today. An absolute intolerance for crooked politicos would be nice too. But, perhaps I am asking too much...

Bill said...

A good related article by Michael Barone can be read here:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/06/01/gop_should_run_against_the_power_of_the_center_96766.html