Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Conservatism is Not the Answer

Mark Levin's latest book, Liberty and Tyranny, has received a lot of press and I've heard good things from others by word of mouth. As I began reading Liberty and Tyranny I was skeptical that Levin would consistently apply small government principles well, as I knew full well that he is part of the conservative establishment.

Having finished reading the book, I now know my skepticism was well founded, and that Levin is yet another conservative activist that is hopelessly committed to a political ideology that has proven to be thoroughly impotent.

Levin begins the book well, articulating the principles espoused by the founding fathers, defending the free market, decrying the welfare state, and exposing environmentalist extremists. Yet even in some of these arguments you can detect a measure of comfort with big government. Yes, he decries big government and laments its existence, but the careful reader will recognize his proposals are not as radical as his rhetoric.

Levin really began to lose me on his chapter on immigration. He finds fault with the government in creating legislation in the 1960's that made it easier for poor, uneducated immigrants to come to America, and eventually making it easier for illegal immigrants to come to America, which I don't dispute. Yet he doesn't find any fault with minimum wage laws that have grossly distorted the labor market such that a market for below minimum wage workers is created, and filled by illegal immigrants. Nor does he recognize the role the Federal Reserve played in creating a housing bubble which in turn led to a huge black market in labor to fuel the housing boom. Yet these are relatively minor criticisms compared to what follows.

Levin finds great fault with FDR's New Deal programs, as he should, and states that FDR effectively turned moved our government from being governed by Republicans to being governed by Democrats. He even goes as far as to say that only Ronald Reagan has articulated and governed with conservative principles. I agree with these assertions, however, he never criticizes Ronald Reagan for his role in delivering our nation further into the hands of statists. Reagan's massive budget deficits legitimized the notion that "deficits don't matter." For better or worse, he also strengthened America's military power across the globe—something that has cost us dearly and has its own role in the massive indebtedness of our nation.

Reagan left a mixed legacy, something that few conservatives will acknowledge. He surely did much good, but he also did much badly. Conservatives such as Levin lionize Reagan far more than may be legitimately done.

Levin's chapter "On Self-Preservation," focuses on defense and foreign policy. I was struck by a passage where he criticizes a speech by Barack Obama in 2007 on foreign policy that was essentially a messianic George W. Bush speech. By this I mean it was the kind of speech George W. Bush would give with the messianic spirit of an Obama speech. He then (rightly) ridicules Obama for being willing to do nation building in other countries, but not in Iraq—this after Levin argued that nation building is an illegitimate use of government!

Essentially Levin says we must not allow ourselves to become involved in nation building, except in Iraq, where it is acceptable because it serves a national interest. He tows the standard Bush line that Iraq was a legitimate pre-emptive war, and he even quotes a no-name founding father to attempt to legitimize this position. I was dumbstruck by how hypocritical this argument came off in the book.

Levin closes the book with his "manifesto," his short list of what is wrong and how to fix it. The list is the typical conservative laundry list, and wouldn't really surprise anyone familiar with the talking points of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and so on. Yet what is missing from the list is glaring. Levin never argues for dismantling the federal government as it exists. In fact he leaves much of it alone, only making what is already there smaller. He doesn't even mention dismantling the most evil of all Washington institutions—the Federal Reserve.

One of Levin's most ludicrous ideas is to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP. Yet nowhere does Levin even address the manner in which the government cooks the books to overstate the GDP! If the government is the one calculating GDP, don't you think they'll make it as big as they need it to be to spend as much money as they can?

Levin criticizes by name George W. Bush, John McCain, Denny Hastert, and Newt Gingrich, but he doesn't level any criticism at any current "conservatives." He doesn't even discuss the statism of the Republican majority Congress during most of George W. Bush's presidency.

Levin recognizes that conservative principles are not being practiced in Washington, but he does not argue for the kind of mass conservative revolt that would have to occur to bring any real change to Washington. One only gets the sense that Levin desires a return to Reaganism. In my opinion conservatives look silly believing in the notion that this is even possible or desirable. The reality is that conservatives have desired another Reagan since he left office, yet nowhere is anyone like Reagan to be found.

Conservatives must realize that "their party" has moved on, and it isn't coming back. The Reagan revolution is dead, and has been dead for two decades. Republicans, and by association conservatives, have sold their heritage to the statists and there is nothing they can do to get it back. Reagan was an erratum, a short blip on the march toward statism.

Conservatives don't understand the magnitude of what has happened in the past decade, what is happening right now, and what is going to happen. They don't understand because they are part of the establishment—they are part of the problem. By towing the Republican line through thick and thin, they have lost sight of their principles and have become blinded by false disagreements with the liberal statists.

Our nation is massively indebted and is insolvent. Every president since Woodrow Wilson has contributed toward the demise of America—Ronald Reagan included. Once the legislative and executive branches of government sold the nation to the bankers by chartering the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, America's demise became inevitable. The Fed made it easy for the government to grow, to go into debt, and to go to war. The Fed, Congress, and our presidents all found it politically expedient to inflate its way through wars and to enable the welfare state. No president has ever halted the slide toward statism—they've only shifted the largesse to favor their own constituencies rather than their opponents.

The deficit spending has finally caught up to us and things will never be the same again. Our politicians, liberal and conservative alike have brought us to the brink of disaster and it won't do to simply have the left point to the right and the right point to the left—they're both at fault and neither is going to be able to get us out of the mess they've made together. Levin doesn't recognize this, and probably won't until it is too late. Rather than believe we need more conservatives in government, I say we need a new government.

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