Firstly, I want to say I am happy we decided to do two very different political books in June and July. (July's book is the more left-wing, Globalize Liberation.) I am very interested in Levin's book. And I think it is very interesting to read two books from different ends of the political spectrum, and reading just one or the other would have been biased, I think.
Anyway, what do you think of the book, Liberty and Tyranny?
I have not finished the book yet. I just finished the eighth chapter.
From what I have read, Levin generally seems to write in a reasonable, thoughtful way, and elaborates on his ideas. I also think he does a fairly good job of providing a philosophical explanation of his political ideology. In other words, he addresses the foundational ideas and principals behind his political positions.
I like that Levin uses the label 'statism' to describe the ideology opposite to his. If he had used the term 'liberal' or 'leftist' instead, then I would have disagreed that they support some of the statist things he says they support.
Anyway, I also consider myself an anti-statist in theory. So, like Levin, my basic political philosophy is simply that I support freedom, and I think Levin essentially shares my definition of freedom. Also like Levin, I think we need to be practical and careful when reforming society so that we do not cause chaos or major social problems.
However, I do not like that Levin calls that basic political theory of supporting freedom Conservatism. According to the basic principles he proposes (namely in the first chapter or so of the book), I think he is proposing anti-statism or libertarianism. He did admit that there are many brands of conservatism, but I still think it is incorrect to say that Conservative is anti-statism or that conservatives are anti-statists, which I feel he is incorrectly implying by his labeling his anti-statist ideology as conservative. I believe Conservative America and the Republicans are supporters of big government and a nanny state, especially when it comes to issues such as the war on drugs, the war on prostitution, border controls, massive increases in government spending, getting involved in the so-called sanctity of marriage, the war on gambling, media censorship, funding of religious organizations, militarism, etc.
Moving on, in arguing against statism, Levin provided the following quote by British writer-philosopher C.S. Lewis which I like:
I also like on page 10 (in my copy of the book) where Levin argues for freedom insofar as it creates jobs, saves people from illness, reduces poverty, etc. This shows that supporters of freedom support freedom not at the expense of social prosperity but for the sake of social prosperity.C.S. Lewis wrote: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.
In the third chapter, Levin explains his views regarding religion. He seems to think that a true conservative must be religious and not a secularist. I disagree. But I also think whether or not any given political policies are beneficial or not is independent of religion.
I do not share Levin's reverence for the US Constitution or the Founding Fathers of America. I do not think the value of ideas or policies depends on whether the founding fathers supported them or the Constitution supports them. I believe it's vice versa. To me, the value of any document such as the Constitution or people such as the Founding Fathers depends on the value of the ideas they support. The founding fathers said and did some things that I admire and they said and did some things that disgust me. The Constitution has prevented some intrusions by governments that I am glad it has prevented, but it also has allowed many horrors, and I think a major part of the reason it was even adopted was to use organized force to protect the unearned wealth of a small class of elitist slave-owners, who wanted to keep ownership of vast amounts of land that they claimed to own even though they had no more right to it than their slaves, indentured servants and the rest of the landless working class. I think even Levin would agree that the Constitution was created to protect the "property" of the property owners as was not being securely done under the Articles of Confederation.
On Levin's chapter entitled, On the Welfare State, I am confused by his condemnations of social security, medicare and medicaid. He seems to think these things are scams, but I am still under the impression that no more money has been spent out of these trust funds than has been openly paid for them in taxes. If there is a more efficient and effective way to insure that all of the elderly and disabled are not poor (i.e. have food, clothes, shelter, health care, etc.) then I would definitely support it. But I would not support allowing more people to fall into poverty in this already corrupt, messed up soceity.
Regarding Levin's next chapter about the environment, I think he and I still agree on the basic philosophy of freedom. We oppose one person or group causing damage to another against the second's will, which would include hurting them by hurting their environment. I think we also both support defending ourselves from those who would try to hurt us against our will. Levin does not appear to be arguing against stopping people from harming our environment. Instead, I think he contends that the major corporations are not harming our environment, that global warming is a hoax, and that the entire green movement is some sort of conspiracy by sadistic people who want to destroy society. I honestly felt as though I was reading a conspiracy theory while reading this chapter. Regardless, we can agree that insofar as some groups of people, namely corporations, are harming other people by polluting our shared environment that we want to stop them, make them pay for the damages, and perhaps hold them criminally responsible depending on the specific circumstances.
Anyway, I will write more comments on the book after I have finished reading the last few chapters.
What do you think?
For those of you who have started or finished reading the book, please post some comments on the book.