American Elephants

Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by The Elephant's Child

Mark Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, went on sale yesterday and is being snapped up quickly enough that stores are already running out.  It is essential reading on the major issues facing the nation today, exploring the difference between conservatism and statism.  The reviews are outstanding.

In a number of brilliant essays Mr. Levin compares the outlook of the conservative to the outlook of the statist toward the major issues of today.  He supports his arguments with insights from the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution, as well as lessons from history.  “”Think of it, said one reviewer, “as an outstanding tutorial in applied political philosophy.” He went on:

If you care passionately about America, and worry for its future — and who doesn’t, given the current national leadership? — then you owe it to yourself to buy and devour this marvelous work.  It is an essential antidote to what ails America at the moment.

My copy is waiting for me at the bookstore.  Can’t wait.

24 Comments so far
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I understand the appeal of the conservative viewpoint, and I agree with parts of it. What I don’t understand is the idea that liberalism has doomed America. From 1932 onward, we have been governed by Democrats far more than Republicans; by liberals far more than conservatives. That 75+ year span has been a profoundly glorious era for our country. We have seen prosperity, global influence (if not domination), cultural, moral and political leadership.

As a people, we strike a balance between conservative and liberal ideologies. If Levin is right, if conservatism is an indispensable necessity, if liberalism is inherently destructive, why has America done so well?

Comment by The Center Square

Perhaps you should read Mark Levin’s book. I was amazed during the last election at the extent to which people absolutely had no clue as to what the two parties stood for. The characteristics of one party were attributed to the other, and even active partisans often did not understand what their party advocated.

Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing. The passage of time allows you to look at history a little more clearly. Truman was not popular in his day, yet in looking back now, he had some monumental challenges and did a pretty good job with them. FDR was worshiped because people thought he saved them during the Great Depression, but he made the Depression far worse than it needed to be, and it lasted well into the 50s — 15 years before things really recovered. He did a lot of damage to the country.

Do read Levin’s book. Most bookstores are already out, but Amazon supposedly still has copies.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

That is a good suggestion, and I will read the book.

The one thing I hope is that Levin supports his thesis with an historically honest appraisal of Republican actions. My great frustration is that they talk a great “fiscal conservative” game, but in reality they have never behaved that way when in power. Anyone can say they stand for anything, but have they ever delivered???

Thanks for the tip.

Comment by The Center Square

You must remember that all of our elected representatives are just ordinary people, with all the flaws and character failings that ordinary people have. We elect, occasionally, some unethical crooks, and some with room-temperature IQs. That goes for both parties. We are stuck because we do need a government, and we need responsible people manning it. So we cannot expect perfection or anything close to it. But if we, as ordinary citizens, pay attention, try to keep informed, read on both sides of matters, and let our representatives know that we’re paying attention, it will help keep them on the straight and narrow.

Not every Republican is clear about what the Republican party stands for and why. That is the value of Levin’s book. He is reminding and clarifying us.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

The problem is that, by definition, what elected Republicans do defines Republicanism, not what Levin or anyone else thinks they should do, or might stand for, or would stand for if political realities didn’t get in the way, etc.

We don’t have the luxury of voting for Republican (or Democratic) principles. Just Republican and Democractic candidates. And if the party’s elected officials fundamentally depart from the party’s principles, and do so consistently over decades — as Republicans have in terms of government spending and fisal responsibility — then the principles are meaningless. Or worse: they are a flat-out deception.

Comment by The Center Square

Republicans do follow Republican principles. See my most recent post by Senator Judd Gregg. Democrats remain statists. They believe that government can solve all problems, and more to the point, the reason they believe that is because they are basically control freaks.

It isn’t Republicans who are telling you what kind of light bulbs you can use, what kind of shower head you are to use. There is just an article in the news noting that Washington State has restricted the citizens of Spokane to “kinder, gentler” dishwasher soap instead of the normal brands. Spokane people are shopping across the border in Idaho because the kinder soap doesn’t get their dishes clean. Any Republican could have told you that would happen.

Democrats believe in good intentions. They mean well, but they are uninterested in consequences. If a Democrat policy fails, it is because they did not allocate enough money. That’s why they always make the same mistakes over and over. Conservatives believe in consequences — they do studies, investigate, pay attention to history. The Obama administration is making all the same mistakes that FDR did, with Jimmy Carter thrown in, but allocating more money–way more. Read the book.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

Again, I will read the book. But also again, what budgets did Sen. Gregg support from 2001 to 2007? Is he a noble standard bearer of the conservative cause, or is he a hypocrite?

Comment by The Center Square

Her for example is a link to Gregg’s support for the 2006 budget:

In 2006 the federal government spent $2,655.4 trillion, up from $2,472.2 trillion in 2005, or a 7.4% increase.

What exactly does Sen. Gregg stand for?

Comment by The Center Square

Senator Gregg stands for fiscal restraint. He expressed himself rather eloquently, that’s why I posted it. The last Bush budget, and he was on track to eliminate the deficit until the housing collapse, was a little over $400 billion. Obama’s is projected by the CBO at $1.85 trillion — more than 3X as large, and continuing on into the future for the next decade.

If you just want to argue, go away.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

My intent is not to argue. I just find myself on hyper-alert these days as to the hypocisy of the political class. We have been betrayed time and time again, by leaders of both parties.

Gregg’s opposition to this budget has a lot of credibility if he was equally eloquent in his opposition to Bush’s runaway budgets.

But if he was not, well, then to me he’s just another me-first, my-party-first political manipulator. I honestly don’t know which he is, which is why I was asking if anyone knows what his stance was on those earlier budgets.

Comment by The Center Square

Bush’s budgets were pretty disciplined. Until the housing crisis hit, he was right on track to eliminate the deficit. The Republican Congress got all excited about being in charge and went a little bananas on earmarks, for which they were chastised pretty thoroughly.

“Hypocrisy” is a liberal boogyman. We are all hypocrites — at least if you are a parent. Show me the parent who has not expected things from their kid that they did not live up to themselves, and I will show you a liar. All presidents make mistakes. What matters more is whether they clearly aimed to do well for the country, honored the office, and defended America. Members of Congress are far worse. Members of the House have to get re-elected every 2 years! Senators settle in for the long haul. Term limits is probably a clumsy weapon, but it would be nice if people were more informed before they voted.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

Sorry, but I don’t agree with “Bush’s budgets were pretty disciplined. Until the housing crisis hit, he was right on track to eliminate the deficit.” Spending, deficits and debt all exploded from 2000 through 2008.

Here is the history of Bush’s budgets.

In 2000, Clinton’s last year in office, the federal government spent $1.789 trillion; ran a budget surplus of $236 billion, and federal debt stood at $5.674 trillion. That is the baseline.

After six years of the Bush presidency, with Republican control of Congress, federal spending in 2006 was $2.655 trillion (average annual increase of 6.8%, more than twice the rate of inflation); we ran a deficit of $248 billion (and remember that Iraq war spending was not counted against the defecit); and federal debt had grown to $8.507 trillion (an increase of 50%). That is 100% pure, undiluted Republicanism.

In 2007, the Democrats regained control of Congress. Spending in 2008 was $2.983 trillion (annual rate of growth versus 2006: 6.0% — still excessive, but slightly less than when Republicans controlled Congress); the deficit had reached $459 billion; and the federal debt had risen another $1.479 trillion.

Grand total: Under Bush’s watch, our federal debt climbed to $9.986 trillion, 43% of which accumulated during his presidency. The biggest budgset surpluses in history turned into the biggest deficits in history. Spending increased at runaway train speeds.

The numbers can be researched here:

Comment by The Center Square

Scroll up to the top and the post titled ‘The “Inherited” Deficits that Obama Keeps Talking About’. The same party that condemned President Bush for running temporary $300-$400 billion deficits (partially resulting from the war) has now approved budget deficits averaging $1 trillion annually over the next decade. A staggering $68,000 per household of new debt, to be paid by our children and grandchildren. After quadrupling the budget deficit in one year — a “pledge” to “cut the deficit in half” from that level by 2013 should provoke horse laughs.

The dollar figure is unbelievable, but more attention should be focused on the policies. They are even more unbelievable.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

@ EC: True, but I think there is more to the story than that.

Bush 43 (like all presidents of both parties) used typical government accounting to understate his deficits. Iraq war spending somehow doesn’t count. As you say, reported deficits were $300 billion to $400 billion per year (more like $450 billion the last two years), but somehow federal debt jumped by more than $4.3 trillion during his presidency. Huh??? Washington math does not work!

Here’s one detailed example. The government reported federal debt of $7.379 trillion at the end of fiscal year 2004. In FY 2005, they reported a spending deficit of $318 billion. So, federal debt at the end of FY 2005 is $7.379 trillion plus $318 billion, right? Wrong!!! It is $7,933 trillion, an increase of $235 billion more than the deficit. WTF???

The other additional context is the recession and the portion of the stimulus spending that Obama inherited. Deficit spending obviously was running far, far above a $400 billion annual rate by the time Obama took office in January. Amateur me would not be surprised if the true deficit rate was nearing $1 trillion by the end of the Bush administration.

And again, don’t get me wrong. I share much of your concerns with how the Democrats are handling this. I just have an equally deep disdain for the Republicans who created this mess, and the Republicans who have offered nothing constructive to address the mess.

Fire all the bastards.

Comment by The Center Square

You are barking up the wrong tree. You will get nowhere bellyaching about dollar figures. All federal funds are appropriated by the House of Representatives, in 2005, a Democrat House. The President presents a budget, which is a request for funds. What Congress appropriates may be something quite different. You must be informed and bellyache on the basis of policy. Congress depends, for reelection, on a poorly informed electorate.

And excuse me, the Republicans did not create this mess. It was entirely a Democrat project. Democrats have passed laws forcing banks to lend to people who were not qualified under any prudent banking rule, starting in the Carter Administration and increasing the pressure up to the present. The Bush Administration went to Congress 17 times to ask, demand, beg Congress to rein in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Barney Frank in the House and Chris Dodd in the Senate made sure that nothing passed. Barack Obama was active with ACORN who picketed, demonstrated, threatened banks to force more loans to unqualified people. In the Senate, he voted against any restraint on the system.

We have written about this over and over here, posted very informative videos. Explore the website a little and you will find a lot of information, all well sourced.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

Whoa… You are incorrect: The House, which controls spending legislation, was continuously Republican controlled from Jan 1995 through Jan 2007. Republicans controlled the Senate from Jan 1997 through Jan 2007 (other than the brief Jim Jeffords interlude in 2001).

Republicans had the elected numbers to thwart any Democratic policy for those twelve straight years. Even more, George Bush had Republican control of both chambers of Congress for the first six years of his presidency to propose any legislation that would reflect its conservative aspirations.

Given that, how can it be argued that the Bush administration foresaw the mortgge credit crisis, attempted action, but was thwarted by the Democrats? Just how did Rep Frank and Sen Dodd accomplish this magical feat?

Comment by The Center Square

The “Jeffords interlude” was pretty decisive. I really don’t pay much attention to so called control of Congress. It usually is not decisive since how Congress votes is usually not consistent with party membership. Except in the present. Democrat fealty to the party line is pretty much 100%. They get big consequences if they don’t line up.

See “Here is a clear explanation of the financial crisis” — enter in the search function just above “hope”, or any number of other posts. If you prefer to blame Bush, feel free. I would think that the difference between $400 billion and 4 times that would be fairly apparent, but you keep wanting to beat a dead horse. Go away.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I work very hard to carefully think through the claims of thinkers from all points on the political spectrum. For my own benefit, I try to apply information to distinguish between rhetoric and logical conclusions. I am sorry you find that tiresome.

Comment by The Center Square

All governments spend too much, and too much money is wasted. That is the nature of bureaucracy. Too many cooks, as they say.Once a candidate is elected, it isn’t easy to influence them. Big donations help. Phone calls are good. Show up at their office. But the real answer is always choosing an intelligent, responsible candidate with a resume that proves the former.

There are distinct differences between the parties. All those people who claim that there are not, are uninformed. Democrats believe in good intentions, or goals. They are uninterested in consequences or studies. They are statists, they believe that government can do things better, and they are control freaks. They want to be in control. Thus you have an administration taking over banks and taking over car companies, when the cause of the problems that these companies have is government. They usually believe that more money is the solution to any problem, and if their good intentions weren’t met the first time, more money is the answer.

Republicans believe in consequences. They do studies and research any policy to try to figure out what will work best. That is why there are so many Republican-leaning think tanks. They are inhabited by scholars who research policy and try to get the administration and the congress to pay attention. Republicans believe in the individual, that if government tries to get out of the way, does its duty at the things that a government must do–national defense, interstate highways, the basic regulation needed to protect the citizens, that free people will prosper. Besides, they believe that the great mass of individuals are way too complicated to be controlled by a statist government.

Democrats think that everything is political. They were having fits a couple of years ago because they needed a think tank to give them ideas, because they didn’t have any ideas. (There are way over 50 right-leaning think tanks). There are lots of Democrat organizations, all directed towards winning elections and increasing Democrat control. Note the difference: Republicans study policy, trying to find out what best works for the people, and trying to convince the government to pay attention. Democrats want to destroy the Republican party, and control the country. Democrats’ “good intentions” are usually to give people things to make them more dependent on government.

Example: Washington DC schools are notable the worst in the country. More money is spent on DC schools than any other. There has been a voucher program, an “Opportunity Scholarship” that by a lottery, gives kids a chance to go to private schools. The kids blossom, do extremely well, the program is very successful and proves the value of vouchers. Democrats killed it. The teachers’ unions are opposed.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

Personally I think your latest post is very wise. I also think an identical post can be written about the Republicans. It has been a loooooooooooong time since either party has done anything beneficial for this country. Wisdom, statesmanship, and critical thought are nowhere to be seen in America’s political parties. Alas.

Comment by The Center Square

Excuse me, but this is nonsense. In Saddam Hussein you had a tyrant who was intent on expanding his influence in the Middle East. George H.W. Bush saw his invasion of Kuwait as a chance not only to remove him, but to restore the UN to some semblance of its supposed purpose. He assembled a vast coalition of governments to remove Saddam from Kuwait. Saddam was close to invading Saudi Arabia at the moment. He said at the time that he should have waited until he had nukes. Because Bush 41 saw his mission partly as restoring the UN, he was persuaded not to invade Iraq. Mistake. G.W. Bush said very clearly that it was necessary to remove Saddam before he got nukes.Saddam had thrown the weapons inspectors out, had not accounted for the WMD that we knew from previous inspections that he had, was firing at our patrolling aircraft, and the oil-for food scandal emerged.

Democrats hated Bush, for what reason it’s hard to tell. One person I know commented that he asked several very intelligent professors why they hated Bush so much, as he was a good man, a good husband, a loving father — they responded that they couldn’t stand his smirk. They indulged in 8 years of using every avenue at their disposal to demonize the President and every action he took. Abu Ghraib,for example, was the work of a renegade crew of national guardsmen who had been in trouble for some sleazy stuff before. It was hugely embarrassing to the government, and the officer who was unaware of what was happening under her command was dismissed immediately, the miscreants sent to prison, but Democrats built it up into something that was supposed to have happened under Bush and Rumsfeld’s direction, which is absurd.

There were mistakes in Iraq, as there are always mistakes in war, but the loss of life was small in comparison to all other wars, and we now have a functioning democracy in the middle of the Middle East. And that is what the Iraqi people want. Not bad.

The Drug Benefit that Bush added to Medicare has been much disparaged, but we have had no report on how many lives it has saved. It has come in much less expensive than estimates. Good or bad? Depends.

I personally believe that Bush did a pretty good job, that history will treat him kindly. I think his biggest mistake was in not communicating enough with the public, not a defense of his actions, but a more thorough explanation. I don’t know if anything could have overcome the Democrat hate machine.

If you want to understand a little more about the underlying facts about the Democrats, visit and read their publications. They explore the flow of money and influence that have gone into this particular Democrat takeover.
If you do not think that the Bush tax cuts were a vast boost to the economy, you have not paid attention. Democrats claim that middle class income has been stagnant, but those figures come from the household survey. There has been a vast increase in one person households, which changes the statistics on one side, and at the other end, 2 income families have moved a lot more into the ‘rich’ category.

All of the think tanks have vast arrays of publications. Read a lot.;;,,,; to mention a few of the leading ones. Read what they have to say about current issues and policies — Health Care, National Security, the Current Financial Crisis, Government takeover of banks and auto companies. You will be hearing from scholars whose business is to research and study policy.

Real people, even the smart ones, are not necessarily wise or statesmanlike.Politicians are governed by the need to get re-elected. You are apparently expecting some kind of perfection. Not going to happen. These are real people with all the tragic flaws that real people have. Go do some reading.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

I could respond to your Iraq narrative by pointing out that I said, “benefical for THIS country.” Of course Iraq is better off. I think the U.S. is not, and Exhibit A is the tragic loss of American life and health that we have bitterly reaped from that conflict.

At any rate, I am sorry you think people who disagree with you are nonsense. I am sorry you think the Depression lasted unitl the 1950s; sorry that you think Bush’s deficits were running $300 to $400 billion annually and were heading toward elimination; sorry you think the Democrats controlled the House in 2005; sorry that you can’t explain how Democrats blocked Bush from changing mortgage policy during six years of Republican control of Congress. I am sorry you think everything you believe is right and everything I believe is wrong.

I have been nothing but civil to you, offering respectful disagreement and information to support my views. In return, you have been increasingly rude and insulting to me. Why is that?

Comment by The Center Square

I am annoyed because you just want to argue. You claimed that you would read Mark Levin’s book, which is where we started, but you have not.

Contrary to the Leftists in Academe, truth is not relative. There is such a thing as objective truth. It is discovered by study of all sides of a question.

Don’t tell me the Depression didn’t extend into the 50s. I lived it, and I have read the economics. I have read the economics on Bush’s terms. I spend a lot of time reading the works of a large assortment of economists, and I offer nothing whatsoever just because I feel it to be so. If I find information that demonstrates that what I believe is not so, I change my mind. My interest is in accuracy.

Most posts that I offer here are backed by links to articles that explore the issue more fully. Few readers follow up on the links, either because they are uninterested or do not want to spend the time to check them out. I have little patience with people who do not do their homework. Policies are complicated, economics is often counter-intuitive, and it takes a lot of study to be confident in your degree of knowledge.

Congress is a complicated body. The Stimulus bill, for example was passed in the Senate by 3 Republicans who sided with the Democrats in the belief that it would be a good thing. They should have known better, but they didn’t. I have all sorts of posts on this blog, including a number of videos that explain the facts. Search them out, read and watch.

Some of Bush’s requests never made it out of committee. Greenspan addressed Congress, the Sec. of the Treasury did. I got the figure of 17 times from someone whose information I respect as accurate. I have no idea why Bush’s requests never made it into law. The Congressional Black Caucus was adamantly opposed to any reigning in of Fannie or Freddie. You are basing your feelings on who was in control of the administration and who was in control of Congress — but the Senate was always a tossup. It is far more complicated than that.

Did you assume that bin Laden is holed up in Afghanistan by chance? That there have been no successful terrorist attacks in the US by chance? Compare death-rates in this and any other war.
Did you think that was just chance? Of course the US is better off.

My intent is not to be rude, but to get you to study up, instead of just arguing on a blog. You know my opinion — but you are asking me to repeat ideas and comments that are well documented in previous posts here, which you apparently choose not to read. I have recommended think tanks where serious experts study issues. You can consult the biography of any of their scholars, You can read articles from several scholars on the same subject. They are a wonderful source, and highly respected, except by very partisan lefties who dismiss anything a conservative says. If you belong to the latter group — I can’t help you, we will just have to agree to disagree.

Comment by The Elephant's Child

(1) I am emphatically not a liberal. I believe that nuclear power is our best current energy strategy, that budgets should be balanced, that teachers’ unions have partially paralyzed public education, and that entitlement programs should be curtailed (raise the freakin’ retirement age, for heavan’s sake!), to name a few. Perhaps you assume that everyone who challenges conservative orthodoxy is liberal. Not I.

(2) I am a voracious reader from all sides of the political spectrum. There is an excellent piece from Heritage Foundation on the subject of nuclear power, for example. But I spend a lot of time reading original facts. I very much dislike having my information processed for me. If you can read my commentary here and honestly think I am uninformed, well, I suupposed we are doomed to speak past each other.

(3) While truth is never relative, perspective is ALWAYS relative. It is our worldview that shapes what we make of the truth. I think this is the essential distinction between us, and I do not think we can ever bridge that difference.

Back at the beginning of all this, I wrote:

“From 1932 onward, we have been governed by Democrats far more than Republicans; by liberals far more than conservatives. That 75+ year span has been a profoundly glorious era for our country. We have seen prosperity, global influence (if not domination), cultural, moral and political leadership.

“As a people, we strike a balance between conservative and liberal ideologies. If Levin is right, if conservatism is an indispensable necessity, if liberalism is inherently destructive, why has America done so well?”

I stand by that. It still sounds like truth to me.

On what basis shall we agree to end this lively conversation? I’m done if you are; not done if you’re not *lol*.

Comment by The Center Square

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