Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2013
The Liberty Amendments
©2012 Mark Levin
A short book report by Ron Housley
"The Liberty Amendments" wound up in my Amazon cart after I succumbed to the cable news blitz plus personal nudging from several friends.
Also, as I wrote in my book report on Levin's prior book, "Ameritopia," this author does have some penchant for scholarship. All of that was a sufficient hook for me.
Levin's thesis is that the country's lurch into statism can be reversed if we hold state conventions to amend the Constitution.
I came to the book sympathetic to its assumptions and goals, but thoroughly pessimistic that any such movement toward state conventions would ever happen. After all, I reasoned, the conservatives couldn't even figure out how to oppose Obamacare; how in the world are they going to succeed at the much more daunting goal of launching state conventions to propose Constitutional amendments?
LEVIN'S BASIC ORIENTATION
Like with Calvin Coolidge, Levin's heart is in the right place. But also like Coolidge, Levin shies away from the all-important MORAL case for liberty. Further, he uses the term, "liberty," over and over; but nowhere does he explicitly tell us that the central essence of liberty is protection against the use of physical force by others, particularly by government.
LEVIN'S BASIC ARGUMENT
Levin, like many of us, is deeply troubled by the decline of the West; by the decline of Western values; by the decline of the United States. And he is offering us a way to fix it, to reverse the decline. But what he gives us is an attempt to modify the rules, in the hope that better ideas will follow.
To me, it's like putting the cart before the horse. If ideas determine history, then it is ideas that one must change. Proper ideas aren't going to evolve merely by tweaking the legal structure (by passing amendments).
Besides, the dominant philosophy in our culture wouldn't support a movement aimed at developing amendments which are ideologically opposed to that culture's philosophy.
Take Levin's proposal for Term Limits, for example. Notice that California instituted term limits, and what has been the result: more taxes, more regulations, less liberty. And as an extra penalty, the California legislature lost some of its most articulate pro-liberty voices when term limits went into effect.
So, given the culture's current dominant philosophy, wouldn't any new amendments themselves then become corrupted by the same policies and decisions which have perverted the law for over a century?
Levin hovers in an area of critical relevance when he points out the importance of protecting private property. He is only a few steps away from telling us that each American has a right to his own life; a right to use and dispose of his own property as he judges appropriate for him; a right to prosper even if he doesn't want to sacrifice for a needy neighbor; a right to live for his own sake.
I waited nervously for Levin to cross into that discussion; alas, he never did. Hence, the opportunity to make the MORAL case is postponed for yet again.
THE 17TH AMENDMENT
Levin did have a compelling few pages about the direct election of Senators, the 17th Amendment! Here is his argument.
First, realize that the 17th Amendment is just one more manifestation of the rise of Progressivism in America, a tactic to further concentrate power in a centralized government.
For those who have not been able to grasp the argument here, just look at how Obamacare was foisted on America by an elite minority.
Over 50% of the population in over 50% of the states were against Obamacare, yet 60% of the Senators voted FOR it.
Prior to the 17th amendment, those Senators were tied to the states that they represented. So, with the majority of Americans against the permanent lurch to the Left, the majority of Senators would have been similarly against it.
But under the 17th amendment, the Senators who voted for Obamacare did not feel connected with the convictions of their own state's voters. These Senators, instead, were beholden to "lobbyists, campaign funders, national political consultants and national advocacy organizations" (p. 46).
We are certain that the majority of states were against Obamacare --when we see that 27 states filed federal litigation to overturn the law. If the Senators from those states were chosen by the state legislatures, our country may have had a reprieve from the nationalization of health care.
But don't count on any groundswell to repeal the 17th amendment. Because Republicans inside the beltway are no longer beholden to the states they represent. With the 17th amendment we lost an important "check and balance" that the Founding Fathers had implemented into the Constitution to prevent concentration of power into the hands of the few.
Now, the federal government becomes ever more powerful, undeterred by voting, even when the citizens object.
THE IDEA OF NEW AMENDMENTS
History has shown that we certainly can't count on conservatives to stand up on principle. Once conservatives appear on the field of ideas, they are pathetic.
But Levin's amendments idea is a gimmicky way to give conservatives some voice. Since conservatives are proven incompetents when it comes to principled thinking, maybe they could focus on the mechanics of supporting some of these amendments.
The conservatives, over all, have not been good on the battlefield of ideas. They are crushed by demagoguery; and they are thoroughly caught up in the altruism which tells them that it is good to force the citizens to sacrifice themselves. The reason that the conservatives lose on this battlefield is because the liberals are "more consistent" in their own advocacy of sacrifice. The more consistent adversary always wins.
Would the fact that the majority of Americans support statism change if Levin's amendments were implemented tomorrow?
Would passing these amendments change anybody's mind?
Any effort to propose or support these amendments takes time away from advocating underlying ideas that have to come first.
But as for the amendments themselves, the world would have to change dramatically to get to the point where these would pass, after which point you wouldn't need them anyway.
So I give Levin high marks for the effort. I sympathize with his fear of mushrooming statism. And I maintain a certain fervor in behalf of holding on to the fragments of liberty that we can still touch.
At least Levin's book brings attention to the problem that we all face as our government continues to grow out of control. His book may help us to focus on the good fight.