This book is equal parts history, philosophy and call to action. Beginning with the principles of Conservative thought as articulated by the Founders and distilled from the writings of Adam Smith, Charles Montesquieu and Edmund Burke, the author traces the relationship between Conservatism and liberty and compares Statist philosophy and outcomes. He defines Statism as any political ideology, (liberal, progressive, socialist, national socialist, communist and points in between) based on the notion that the state should order human affairs. He also observes that, not coincidently, Statists see themselves as doing the ordering.
In 12 lucid and fact-filled essays, Levin autopsies Statist attacks on the freedoms the Founders sought to protect. He unmasks global warming, ethanol subsidies, immigration, the welfare state and more.
He points out that the Statist needs “a class struggle and it must be a never-ending struggle, for it is perhaps his most valuable weapon against the individual, the free market, and ultimately civil society.” To rev up the engine of envy the Statist pits people against each other using color, ethnicity, economics and whatever else will sell. The author enumerates the disastrous outcomes of Statist policies beginning with the New Deal and concluding with those of the Obama administration.
The author credits FDR’s New Deal, made possible by an “overwhelmingly Democratic Congress,” for “its sweeping break from our founding principles and Constitutional limitations.” The Statist has always thrived on crisis, real or imagined, for it allows him to cloak his goals in noble purposes. Levin quotes British writer-philosopher C.S. Lewis,
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Levin doesn’t stop with his excoriation of the New Deal and Obama’s policies. He faults the Bush administration for straying from constitutional principles, and for opening the door to President Obama’s extreme measures. He blames Republicans for both their timidity and their eagerness to compromise for short-term political advantage.
Levin conveys a sense of urgency to stem the Statist tide while we still may, and warns that ours “is a society steadily transitioning toward Statism. If the Conservative does not come to grips with the significance of this transformation, he will be devoured by it.” He reminds us that Saul Alisky claimed the key to success is to capture the middle class with “appeals of further government intervention.” In other words, the game plan is to find ways to make the middle class dependent on government largess (think government health care) while at the same time singing the siren song of equal outcomes. Due to deficient civic education, many are vulnerable to both strategies.
Conservatives must “deconstruct” the Statist argument and cite the clear evidence that the abundance Americans enjoy is a function of the free market and the system the Founders put in place. Every Statist system in the history of the world has ended either in tyranny or bankruptcy.
The book concludes with “A Conservative Manifesto,” that is a call to the battlements, and a practical plan for restoring the republic. Levin reminds us that President Ronald Reagan said,
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on to them to do the same, Or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.
Liberty and Tyranny is a book to give your children and grandchildren, your friends and their children and everyone else; so they will know what is at stake and join you in the fight.