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Discussion of Liberty and Tyranny by Mark R. Levin

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Discussion of Liberty and Tyranny by Mark R. Levin

Post by Scott » June 4th, 2009, 10:48 pm

This is the thread to discuss the June book of the month, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark R. Levin. If you have not read the book yet, please get it, read it and come back to discuss it here.

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:
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.
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.

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.

Thanks,
Scott
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The Founders Where Not Set On Protecting Slavery

Post by punkkid » June 5th, 2009, 10:00 am

I have not read the book yet as I was just updated today via email but I will check it out. I do take issue that you repeat one myth which is spread over and over in American history and that is that the founders wanted to protect the institution of slavery. There are a couple really good books that address this issue head on "Challenges to the American founding : slavery, historicism, and progressivism in the nineteenth century" as well as "The American founding and the social compact "

Our founders believed in natural right theory which made justifying slavery very difficult for the vast majority of them. By the 1830's the original stance of our founders would have been discribed as ranging from anti-slavery to abolisionism. My fist piece of evidence is look at how progressively anti-slavery each constitution got. Under British rule slave owners had more rights than under the articles of confederation and under the constitution many rights that had been allotted in the articles of confederation were stripped. The constitution was set up to limit and end the slave trade. And it did that most effectively.

The United States was the first country to end the slave trade. Unfortunately it did not completely end slavery. This is not becuase the founders believed that slavery was an institution worth protecting its because the founders were (for the most part) brilliant pragmatists who understood human nature and kept their feet solidly in reality while striving for the ideal.

Unfortunately their pragmatism hurt them here. They all agreed that slavery was unjustifiable under natural right theory, and they all accepted natural right theory, this is what led Jefferson to say that with slavery they were holding "a wolf by the ears." The plan was always to abolish the horrid institution. The concern was since the blacks had been oppressed and were uneducated that perhaps they would rebel and riot. But they did not believe that slavery would always be necessary nor did they believe as the next generation of Americans that slavery was a positive good.

I say this becuase our founding fathers did more for the liberty of humankind than every generation before them or since. (That I'm aware of, if anyone in the group could find another group of individuals who did so much I would be glad to hear.) Of course I wish they would have gone further giving more rights to women, indians, and destroying the institution of slavery.

But when I look at the foundation of liberty which they created it appears to me that what they were trying to do was lay the foundation for a liberal (or we'd say libertarian) society. One that they did not believe entirely achievable in their generation.

It was the next generation who believed that the constitution was set up to protect their "property" or in other words slavery.

John C. Calhoun reffered to slavery as a positive good. But it should be seen that Calhoun did so by denouncing Jefferson, the founders in general, natural right theory and the constitution! Calhoun was no friend of the founders or their philosiphy as can be seen in speech on oregon territory or any of his books on government.

I would like end by saying fundamentally we agree. The constitution and the declaration of independence are good becuase they support the principals of liberty. The errors of the founders (which I believe to be much smaller than what most learn in history classes) should not be worshipped just becuase the founders came up with them. I am very excited to read this book. I can tell by your post on Ayn Rand that you and I agree on a lot.

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Liberty and Tryanny

Post by Dewey » June 5th, 2009, 5:14 pm

I prepared the following comments right after reading Mr. Levin's book. I had hoped to post them early enough to serve as a kind of a guide to this discussion -- to set aside the book's presentation problems and concentrate on its worthwhile parts.

I'm late, but these comments may still be helpful.

Before entering into a discussion of Liberty and Tyranny, it might be best to level the playing field. I think it’s heavily tilted in favor of those who would contest Mr. Levin’s claims. They are at too great an advantage. They can too easily deride his
book for its one-sided arguments and vilification of all who might differ. We need to rescue Levin from his style of presentation.

What is Levin’s style? Narrow casting is its name. Narrow casting addresses a like-minded audience without having to engage in debate over the material. Its aim is to polarize and radicalize this audience. It’s more concerned with firing up the base by distorting the positions of those who disagree than with building a national consensus. It reduces the political dialog to hateful zinging and name-calling.

Levin has made it so, so easy for liberal democrats like myself to dismiss his book altogether on the basis of its unfortunate style. I think that would be a mistake. Many of the inroads on the individual’s privacy and freedom that he alleges are genuine and should concern us all. We should try to overlook Levin’s prejudicial expression and debate these issues respectfully, without echoing his rancor. That way we will level the playing field.

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Post by whitetrshsoldier » June 5th, 2009, 5:30 pm

Before I begin post my reply to Scott and begin dissecting the book, I must agree with, and thank Dewey for his claims.

I think most who have read my posts know my political affiliation, and so know I associate with Levin [for the most part] ideologically. However, I can't stand the bastard's demeanor :wink:.

If you've listened to his radio show, or heard him speak in general, you might disregard what he's said. Please don't. This book has more to offer than you would normally expect of him. I dislike his radio show, and normally don't like hearing him, but there was a lot of great content in this book.

In short, objective analysis is best, as always. Thanks for the preface/foreward, Dewey, and I appreciate your open-mindedness. And thanks for accepting this book choice, Scott. I look forward to next month's book!
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Post by whitetrshsoldier » June 5th, 2009, 8:03 pm

Scott wrote: 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.
Agreed. I'm thrilled, and very excited for this exchange. I hope we can all maintain a logical, lucid discussion, and set aside our partisan differences so that everybody can gain some insight from these entirely different philosophies!
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.
You'll have to forgive me for not commenting on your support of Levin's arguments, Scott, as I generally agree with what you have to say. Please accept my responses to your critique of him not as entirely negative, or in defense of him necessarily, but just as my interpretation of what he says.

Having said that, my definition of "conservative" always meant "conservative" application of government. The less we apply government as a solution to the problems of individuals, the better off we are as a society. I think this is why I would defend the use of the term, as that is how I view the traditional meaning of the word.

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 agree. He does defend the fact that you can be a secularist in America, and that this country offers the most religious freedom of any other, however, he contends that you must acknowledge "natural law" as derived from a supreme being. I disagree with his logic on this point as well.

And I agree with your assertion that political policies' goodness [so to speak] is independent of religion. In fact, I think many of us will agree that sometimes religion can corrupt laws and policies.
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.
This you'll read about later in the book, Scott. Levin makes an argument about property ownership being necessary for mankind, and it's very compelling, but I won't spoil it for you just yet. Let me know when you're ready to discuss it! [I'm not ignoring the first part of what you said regarding his reverence for the framers - I will reply to that in a later post]
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.
I'm 25. I've paid $12,000 into social security so far in my life. Most scholars agree by the time I'm 65 the system will be bankrupt. The fact that there will not be any money for me to draw from this system when I retire leads me to believe that this system is a scam. Many of my contemporaries agree with me on this, and I've often heard it referred to as a "ponzi-schme". So I would say social-security is a bunch of crap, as it's the government taking my money to invest for me, basically telling me I'm not capable of investing myself for my own future [and then handing my money out to others without replacing it in the meantime].

As far as medicaid, one of my main contentions is that illegal immigrants [in California, at least] are elligible. I have a friend who is a paramedic. Every time he is on a non-emergency call, he asks the person if they have their medicaid card. If they do, he reminds them to thank him for paying for his own wasted time and effort, which could have been better spent saving a life. I think that pretty much sums up the argument. There is no rationale for a system that rewards somebody for "breaking and entering".
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.
I agree that he's not arguing against stopping people from harming the environment, per se. He's specifically stating that it's not the federal government's role, as defined by the constitution. I do, however, disagree with your assumption that his contention is that major corporations aren't harming our environment. I think he's saying that they're not throwing all their eggs in one basket [i.e. we don't need to force them to invest in wind power because if they thought oil reserves were not viable they would invest for their own self preservation]. I don't believe he says that they're not polluting at all.

However I DO agree that he says global warming is a hoax. Not that the world isn't warming, just that this warming is part of a normal trend, and that we cannot discern whether 1.We as humans are to blame, 2. We can stop it, 3. If we could stop it, we should, 4. Government would be the best method to be the ones TO stop it. His biggest contention with "global warming", I think, is also mine. That it is fear-mongering, and that it has been perpetuated by politicians and scientists for fame, wealth, and mostly, power and attention.

[p.s. I'm still waiting for us to have a discussion on the issue of Global Warming. I'm ready when everybody else is!!! :wink: 8) ]
Anyway, I will write more comments on the book after I have finished reading the last few chapters.

What do you think?
I'm glad to hear your thoughts, and I hope to hear more from you soon, Scott. I hope that you enjoy the rest of the book!
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Post by Nick_A » June 5th, 2009, 9:50 pm

Scott wrote:
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 haven't read the book yet though I do intend to. But I'd like to leave information as to why Im agree with Mark Levin. As usual, Simone Weil explains this as well as anyone. The following is from a summary of Simone's politically incorrect book called "The Need for Roots."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_wei ... sus_rights
Obligations versus rights

There are several key themes in the work. The first is the precedence that obligation has over rights. For Weil, unless a person understands that they have certain obligations in life, towards themselves, towards others, and towards society, notions of right will have no power or value.

At the same time, obligations have a transcendental origin. They come from a realm that imposes an imperative — this must is a light from the other world which shines on this world and provides it with direction and order. For Weil, this is a spiritual concept — this means that it transcends the world of competing interests and power games. It opens up a world where justice is possibility and a promise and provides the foundation upon which any purely selfish and relative means find their true perspective.

Obligation has its analogy to the “Thou Shalt not…” of the Ten Commandments. It is the feeling of sacredness with regard to the holy. It is that which stops us from transgressing certain boundaries of ethical or spiritual behavior. It is that which, if profaned, inspires in us feelings and torments of guilt, and has its home in the conscience.

For Weil, there is one obligation that supersedes all others. This is the obligation to respect and love the Other. It is recognizable in the feelings and emotions associated with harming something so essential to being human that if we violate it, we violate a holy shrine. This something in a human being is what makes them who they are and what they are.

For Weil, without this supernatural world, we are left to a human world where power and force hold sway. The struggle for power is the motor of human history, she believes. It is the human condition. It is the source of human suffering and injustice. In her analysis, there is no human answer to this struggle for power, nor is it possible to stop the struggle with any form of ideology, such as Marxism or capitalism or any other form of human-made political system.

The world of spirit, for Weil, confronts this struggle for power. Spirituality is not a way out, an unearthly and utopian dream — instead, she believes that there are techniques that enable humans to become spiritual. These techniques are the ones that the great mystics of every religious tradition have recognized and practiced. For her, the mystical practices of Saint Francis of Assisi or Saint John of the Cross are especially telling. For Weil, they are manuals for dealing with the pain and suffering of concrete life while maintaining a link to the transcendent world of God.

Obligations, therefore, provide a link to the spiritual realities that give life meaning and sustain the oppressed and sufferer with its healing power. But obligation is also that power that calls to each of us from the face of another. For Weil, this aspect of the other is that which is inviolable in each and every human being. As she states in one of her essays, it is that part of each of us that expects the good to be done to us. It is that which cries out for justice when it is violated.

Rights, on the other hand, are those relative ends which we strive for. They are not eternal in the way that obligations are, and instead rely on obligations to have legitimacy. That is, unless we have an obligation to respect the human in people, rights can not have any legitimacy.


Spirituality and politics

Another aspect of this question is the awareness that Weil brings to social and political problems of why spirituality is necessary. It might be a truism that true change in a society cannot occur unless there is a subjective change as well. There is an example of this in alcohol or drug treatment programs. Unless the person wants to change, all the counseling and the support groups will not make a person change.

For Weil, on the social level, this is true of societies as well. In her analysis of history and revolutions, she showed that every revolution ultimately replaced one form of oppression with another. For her, this showed that the reality of history is struggle for power. This is why she believed that for true change, a spiritual awakening must occur in individual conscience.

Take an example: why, with all the money thrown at poverty in the US, is there still poverty? For Weil, the answer to this question is that the programs and money were directed at the wrong problems. Because they were programs by those who had for those who did not have, the misrelation in power continued — in many ways, the rich instituted programs that would continue to benefit them and maintain their hold on power.

Perhaps this in and of itself justifies the notion that living with the poor and oppressed changes one’s consciousness. Of course, a simple or superficial identification with the poor will not be an authentic experience. But a continued and extended opening up of oneself to the pain and suffering of the poor and oppressed — putting oneself into their condition and seeking that condition would seem to work a change in the spirit.

Perhaps this is why Weil commends the mystical practices of the saints — this rigorous and methodical emptying of oneself does not come easily — it is too easy to believe that one is there while still holding on to the escape route in the back of one’s mind. It demands something like a spiritual practice to seek out all those ways we have of deluding ourselves and lying to ourselves. Weil never says that it is simply a matter of living with the poor — there is a constant reminder in her writings that this experience must permeate one’s entire spirit and being. In her words, one must become a slave to understand what a slave endures.
In short conservatism appreciates the need for a balance between obligations and rights to sustain a free society. Without the spiritual influence to sustain this balance by allowing the inner appreciation of obligations, the collective devolves into being governed by power and force normal for human hypocrisy requiring more governmental control and the loss of the free society conservatism values.

"Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace." Simone Weil
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Ironies and hopes between liberty and tyranny

Post by alien1 » June 6th, 2009, 12:11 am

The extremes of liberty and tyranny in the political arena produce similar results whereas the prior can cause disarray while the latter can cause unruliness. At their extremes only do these two opposing forces may find a meeting point. It seems more a matter of percentage where they instead overlap in an ideal manner that protects excessive liberty through the appropriate amount of authority or power. The perfection of this theory is the Constitution of the United States. It is a timeless documentation.

The First Amendment, freedom of speech, is the most abused power that is also the most influential power upon the people of the U.S. This Amendment applies to the entire spectrum of media or any medium of speech. In this case, liberty has a negative effect because it can reach an unlimited extreme. It creates turmoil when unleashed and too easily leads to untruths. It can instill an uneducated picture for self-interest agendas, causing confusion and taking advantage of the public eye. Within the media realm of the U.S. lays the downfall of our culture. It is not to say that being uneducated is better, but receiving intentionally uneducated viewpoints has changed our culture from the more cohesive community we once had. It has created a shattering or splintering effect between generations of our traditional morals and values.

There is a time and place for tyranny, unfortunately. In some third world countries, if the people are self-abusive, then tyranny or dictatorships may be the only answer. However, this necessity must exclude its neighboring temptation of power and proceeded as a matter of control for the benefit of the people. I don’t believe there is name for this self-less act of governing. In this way, control and power are two different intentions.

In today’s crisis here at home, I can only predict the fall of a society as we once knew it only a few months ago. Our traditions are slowly being peeled away over the past 50 years. Our government will strike at our way of life of the right to pursue opportunity. It may stifle growth in so many industries the trickle-down effect will lead to indifference, discouragement and lack of ambition and incentive. Tyranny far more affects mentality and morality than being oppressed or controlled through a government with a set of laws. As people can be conditioned to accept change, to adapt and to forget the past, it would be the present state that will eventually arise to a revolutionary war.

In some sense, as I explained the influence of media and its resulting downward cycle of traditional values and culture, the present circumstances may be the beginning of its end and a return, through revolution, to a better time in history and a better future beyond the horizon. Call it growing pains or the evolution of culture, I’ve always believed in the “silver lining”.

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Post by Juice » June 6th, 2009, 9:26 am

I would first like to say that I am not white. I feel that this is important in order to lend credibility to my remarks. Not that any bias towards me will ensue, but in the hope that structured dialogue concerning conservative premises will add value to the commonality of concepts it purports.

I am the product of an ancestry that can trace its origins to Africa. My ancestors were forced to this hemisphere in chains and their own filth. I served this country in its military and fought in a war which liberated a conquered peoples from the tyranny of a single megalomaniac. I know, first hand, how much people honor and deserve the right to choose an individual destiny. The right to freedom and liberty is gifted by an innate drive of a self determined free will. This is the foundation of conservatism.

That conservatism has found its way into the building blocks of the Republican Party and is supported by Judeo-Christian principles is not meant to usurp the foundational value of conservatism from those who do not ascribe to those teachings. As such, it is important to discuss liberalism, socialism, fascism, and statism in order to understand the core values of conservatism. And, that this core principle is grounded in individual responsibility, and self ownership.

The fact that we choose to be governed should not detract from those principles. Granted that for over fifty years there has been strong push in this country towards growing the federal government and this has had a negative effect on our society. We are currently experiencing the culmination of a coordinated effort, implemented over time, of a radical shift in ideology far removed from the framers of the Constitutions intent.

“Liberty and Tyranny” was written as an indictment of the current administrations power grab and selective disenfranchisement of the American people. It is also a plea to encourage the type of dialogue Philosophy Forum has initiated in order to garner enough support to insure effective policy change that benefit all Americans.
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Post by Juice » June 6th, 2009, 10:00 am

Any monies collected by the government are essentially a tax regardless of what it is called or dressed up to be. Remember that congress can pass any law regarding the use of government funds. Consequently social security and medicaid/medicare are broke due to bad administration of an altruistic bad idea. Further more, remember that the dollar in your pocket belongs to the federal government and as such it is the federal government that decides its worth and by proxy your worth. The intention of SS is so the government can control the value of the people who depend on it for subsistence in thier later years. People are living longer and subsequently SS cannot provide well enough for them in an inflationary market. Isn't it strange that even SS is taxed.

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Post by Scott » June 6th, 2009, 3:37 pm

I finished reading Liberty and Tyranny yesterday, so I will start by commenting on the last few chapters.

Regarding immigration, it seems to me Levin is supporting the statist position of border controls and massive government regulation over free trade. And I don't mean to reduce his contentions to one line, but I smiled at this apparent oxymoron from page 158 (in my book): "Of course, the administrative state has prospered hugely from the immigration anarchy the Statist has unleashed." In this chapter Levin seems to have forgot the benefits of liberty and the free-market and "the additional costs, market dislocations, and management inefficiencies that distort supply and demand or discourage research and development" as a result of government intervention.

Regarding international policy, Levin seems to me to be proposing an US-supremacy point of view, apparently believing that military force can be used to attack other non-American people for the "preservation and improvement of American society," even speaking highly of "wars of choice" such as when America used forced under the banner of Manifest Destiny to increase territory. I cannot support this apparent hypocrisy; how can one support America using military force to harm others in whatever globally destructive ways might benefit America but not supporting other countries being just as self-centered? Whether or not we support country X dropping a bomb on country Y cannot reasonably depend on whether or not we are from country X. Such hypocrisy and ethnic nationalist supremacy is utterly inconsistent with the ideas of human equality and unalienable rights to liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. Levin also apparently supports so-called "preemptive military attacks" à la the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which confuses me since the engagement in Iraq has made the US less safe and has done quite the opposite of advancing the "preservation and improvement of American society." This I also cannot support, seeing such war as offensive and unnecessary not defensive. We could agree fundamentally about when we accept or support war and still disagree about when any specific war meets or fails to meet the criteria. But I think Levin and I differ fundamentally on when we find war tolerable or supportable. I think he is far too willing to support war and military attacking people, so much that he is supporting tyranny. I have outlined my much more skeptical feelings towards war and militarism in these two blog posts: War as Self-Defense? and Lo taamod al dam reakha


punkkid, you believe the errors of the founding fathers to be much smaller than what most learn in history classes. I believe the errors to be much greater than what most non-College students learn in US history classes. But we mainly agree in that we do not want the ideas of the founding fathers or in the Constitution to be worshiped just because the founding fathers came up with them or because they are in the constitution; we agree we want the ideas and actions to be admired or not on their own merits.

Dewey, thanks for your important and insightful point. Indeed, it seems Levin has written the book for people who already agree with him. I admire your first instinct to look past his style and discuss the issues in a more open-minded way.

whitetrshsoldier, thank you again for suggesting the book. As for the ideas in the book, we agree on a lot, and I'm sure we'll have fun discussing our disagreements.

Regarding the financial bankruptcy of social security, it is a problem that needs to be fixed; and it is a horrible scam insofar as people are forced to pay into it when young and do not receive their benefits when old. But what can be done to repair social security and stop it from going bankrupt--or will it balance out once the baby boomers stop collecting? If we wish to denounce the entire social security system even if we can stop it from going bankrupt, what other way can we ensure that the elderly do not go poor? And the same goes to medicare and medicaid.

In regards to medicaid, I also cannot support allowing somebody to "break and enter" and to get the benefits of the coverage without paying the dues; that's stealing the dues. I support treating these people as thieves, making them repay what they stole and perhaps charging them criminally which can result in incarceration or fines. But I do not think that is not a flaw of medicaid as much as it is a flaw of immigration policy, tax policy and the enforcement thereof. I do not think we need to abolish or drastically reform medicaid for this reason anymore than we would close a grocery store for the reason that someone broke the law and stole products from the grocery store.

Regarding your comments on the environment, whitetrshsoldier, I again think we agree fundamentally. I think Levin, you and I all would all support using force to stop one person or group of people from polluting the environment in a way that causes harm to other people (or their property), right? As for particular, specific issues such as whether or not one specific corporation's activities are hurting our environment or exactly how much we need to limit one person or group's pollution requires a specific analysis of that specific case, as I outlined in my article Public Health - A Gray Issue in Political Philosophy, which for that matter can apply to issues of public health, public safety, the environment, national security threats, terrorism, etc.

As for the scientific issue of whether mankind's activity is causing our climate to warm, I think it is but that is a factual disagreement and one that I do not think we need to sort out at this time. To me, this is analogous to agreeing to oppose murder but disagreeing about whether or not the defendant in a single murder case is guilty.

Nick_A, thanks for posting that interesting passage. I do see how a religious person could support freedom or other political policies based on the religious person's beliefs. But I do think a person can support freedom or other political policies without religion. In fact, I am a little worried about the person who only opposes infringing on my freedom because he believes a god says so; would he be willing to violate my freedom if he suddenly disbelieved in any gods and in his religion?

alien1, I do not agree that "there is a time and place for tyranny." In any society, I support making it more free and finding ways to protect the underclass from having their freedom violated.

Juice, how do you suggest we prevent the elderly from poverty without social security? With what do you suggest we replace social security and why do you think we would find it preferable?

Thanks,
Scott
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Post by Dewey » June 7th, 2009, 3:08 am

On Page 16 Mr. Levin manages to state a key fact unaccompanied by a slur. He says: “The primary principle around which the Statist organizes can be summed up in a single word—equality.”

Thus, early in this book, Levin lays the foundation for a meaningful discussion of two divergent
theories in political philosophy that are a key concept in this controversy. But he doesn’t build on that foundation. He is negligent. We can do better.

n the past 100 years or so, liberals have increasingly favored the idea of political measures to reduce economic and social inequality. They consider such inequality to be unjust. Conservatives firmly oppose this idea as impracical and self-defeating. I can see both sides of this particular debate but, so far, have not been able to take a position. My main point here, however, with just one of the issues, is to show how complicated and hard to solve they can be.

Folks, we are dealing with some thorny ethical and philosophical problems. This requires clear communications between the two sides, a willingness to mediate, and a desire to end our paralyzing polarity.

(Confession: I started out firmly intending to stick to the basic issues in the book -- and not carp or preach! Please Scott,don't kick me out of the book club.)

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Post by Juice » June 7th, 2009, 6:46 pm

Scott- I appreciate your question and will address that shortly first let me address some fundamental principles concerning this train of dialogue. Mark Levin is identifying the current occupation of the White House as a statist regime. He is also putting forth how this occupation has developed over time particularly how the influences of illegal immigration, attacks on capitalism, attacks on religious expression, environmental activism, and attacks on federalism and the US Constitution are eroding individual freedoms and self determination, and depleting the prosperity and wealth of this nation. The statist believes that economic development should be controlled by a centralized government. This means that the means of prosperity or the “pursuit of happiness” is decided and distributed by the government. The Constitution was designed to prevent this kind of Marxist/socialist intrusion into individual liberty.

The statist has created the impression that we live in a society of victims. That the elderly, minorities, women, the sick and injured are all victims of an uncaring society formed and controlled by rich white capitalist, and that the wealth of this nation was earned and is controlled by a few privileged individuals who earned that wealth on the backs of the underclass. The statist does not see the individual as capable but as unable. Karl Marx said “From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs”. I know each of us to be generous capable people who wish the best for all, but do you really want the government deciding that you’ve earned enough and should freely/forcibly give what you’ve earned to those who did not take advantage of the gifts that each of us are naturally endowed with? Do you really want to see the profits of your labor distributed to those who may in all likelihood be undeserving? Shouldn’t a free independent American decide how he/she should spend their money? What exactly is the government capable of doing that any well meaning entrepreneur can do better?

It should be the responsibility of each individual to see to his/her needs as he/she sees fit. Preparing for retirement should be as much an obligation as putting food and water in your mouth. Retirement programs should be based on the free market system with contributions decided upon using the same factors as insurers. Retirement based income should be nontaxable if under a certain amount. Furthermore, taxation should also be based on a flat tax system were taxes are based on an equal percentage based on individual salary. To offset this states can impose higher taxes on goods that are considered luxuries: i.e. yachts, luxury cars, high end entertainment systems etc, etc. Make states responsible for contributions to the federal government according to the population and mean income of its residence. This will encourage states to offer incentives for businesses to operate in that state, thereby increasing the incomes of its residents.

The federal government should be limited to sustaining a military and providing regulatory and oversight support to state operations. “Government by the people, for the people, of the people”. Term limits should be established for all elected officials, eliminate the primary system and allow for candidates to be selected from state legislative branches from those already seated in state legislatures. Those wishing to seek higher office will then have to start at the bottom and there-by prove ability. This is in the Constitution. Limited government, fair taxation based on income, individual responsibility is the antithesis of the statist mode of operation.

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Post by Dewey » June 7th, 2009, 7:45 pm

Hi whitetrshsoldier,

You said: "So I would say social-security is a bunch of crap, as it's the government taking my money to invest for me, basically telling me I'm not capable of investing myself for my own future [and then handing my money out to others without replacing it in the meantime]."

You are a relatively young person and, from what you say, not like I was at your age -- just another of the millions of young spendthrift consumers incapable of saving a dime. We existed before Social Security, so we would not likely change our ways even if that program was discontinued.

Which would you prefer: to see us suffer the consequences of our irresponsiility or to add us to the welfare roles?

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Post by Juice » June 7th, 2009, 8:13 pm

The government cannot invest your money "By Law". The government is only the guarantor of benefits accrued by you and distributed by them. What the government can do is "borrow" that money for congressional "projects/earmarks" as it sees fit. SS is based upon projections of the number of future contributors not on current recipients. The taxation of SS income means that the government gets you coming and going. Therefor the government can decide how much of SS is to be taxed and how much is to be alloted. If individual retirement plans are privitized then you will be guaranteed a set amount you decided upon based on your contribution. And futhermore if you should die prematurely and unmarried then the government keeps that money. In a private fund you can bequeath that money to your BFF.

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Post by whitetrshsoldier » June 9th, 2009, 1:05 am

Dewey wrote:Hi whitetrshsoldier,

You said: "So I would say social-security is a bunch of crap, as it's the government taking my money to invest for me, basically telling me I'm not capable of investing myself for my own future [and then handing my money out to others without replacing it in the meantime]."

You are a relatively young person and, from what you say, not like I was at your age -- just another of the millions of young spendthrift consumers incapable of saving a dime. We existed before Social Security, so we would not likely change our ways even if that program was discontinued.

Which would you prefer: to see us suffer the consequences of our irresponsiility or to add us to the welfare roles?
Dewey,

I do not wish to sound immature or uncaring, but which would you prefer? To place me in debt for the rest of my life or to live off of what you have already taken from me and allow me to recoup what you might take from me in the future?

I do not believe that there is any way to recover the social security system. It is going to go bankrupt, because as Juice said, the government uses the money invested based on forecasts and projections of what's to come. And they have guess wrong. Because of the impending failure of the system, the only fair option is to pay back as much as possible of what's been paid in.

To those who have paid in the longest, give back the fairest representative share. The shortest, the worst. I'd rather forfeit what I'll never see anyways and not continue having to lose my potential future savings. As it stands, I'm $12,000 real, and countless possible $$$ less secure than I could be.
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