Levin’s man­i­festo de­clares war on the ‘statists’

The con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo at the end of the book calls for a rad­i­cal shrink­ing of the state, from the abo­li­tion of the pro­gres­sive in­come tax to the sun­set of all in­de­pen­dent fed­eral agen­cies at the end of ev­ery bud­get year. Mr. Levin wants to re­voke tax

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ark Levin’s new book, “Lib­erty and Tyranny,” hits book­shops as the Amer­i­can con­ser­va­tive move­ment is in civil war. On one side are the elites — writ­ers in­clud­ing David Brooks, Ross Douthat and David Frum — who ar­gue that con­ser­va­tives must ac­cept a large fed­eral gov­ern­ment and steer it to the right.

On the other side of this de­bate are Mark Levin and his fel­low AM talk-ra­dio hosts, in­clud­ing Rush Lim­baugh. Their view is that the con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples of lim­ited gov­ern­ment, per­sonal lib­erty, free mar­kets and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism can­not abide an ever-ex­pand­ing state.

In re­cent weeks, this dis­pute has boiled over. Mr. Frum, a per­sonal friend, made the case on a re­cent cover of Newsweek that Mr. Lim­baugh is pre­cisely the kind of self-in­dul­gent, pill-pop­ping, fat man the Obama White House would like to af­fix to the Repub­li­can brand. Be­fore this, Mr. Levin, in de­fense of his friend Mr. Lim­baugh, lashed into Mr. Frum, telling lis­ten­ers that the for­mer Bush speech­writer is a “putz” and an even more pro­fane word in con­ser­va­tive cir­cles, “Cana­dian.”

While Mr. Frum thinks Repub­li­cans will be con­signed to a per­ma­nent mi­nor­ity sta­tus un­less fresh think­ing is ac­cepted and not de­rided, Mr. Levin wants to roll back the mod­ern state to what it was about 100 years ago. Put sim­ply, he thinks gov­ern­ment should ex­ist only for the preser­va­tion of or­dered lib­erty, or civil so­ci­ety. This leaves no room for a fed­eral bu­reau­cracy that en­dures and ex- pands no mat­ter what party con­trols the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive state Mr. Levin would like to de­stroy is de­scribed as fol­lows:

“It ad­min­is­ters a bud­get of over $3 mil­lion. It churns out a mind-numb­ing num­ber of rules that reg­u­late en­ergy, the en­vi­ron­ment, busi­ness, la­bor, em­ploy­ment, trans­porta­tion, hous­ing, agri­cul­ture, food, drugs, ed­u­ca­tion, etc. Even the slight­est hu­man ac­tiv­ity ap­par­ently re­quires its in­ter­ven­tion: cloth­ing la­bels on women’s dresses, cos­metic in­gre­di­ents, and la­bel­ing. It even reaches into the bath­room, man­dat­ing show­er­head flow rates and al­low­able gal­lons per flush for toi­lets. It sets flamma­bil­ity stan­dards for beds.”

Mr. Levin con­trasts his vi­sion of lim­ited gov­ern­ment aimed at pre­serv­ing or­dered lib­erty with the aims of mod­ern lib­er­als, whom he has re­named “statists.” The statist builds a “cul­ture of con­form­ity and de­pen­dency, where the ideal ci­ti­zen takes on drone-like qual­i­ties in ser­vice to the state, the in­di­vid­ual must be drained of unique­ness and self worth, and de­terred from in­de­pen­dent though or be­hav­ior.” Con­trast the man of the mod­ern state to the in­di­vid­ual of Mr. Levin’s civil so­ci­ety who “is rec­og­nized and ac­cepted as more than an ab­stract statis­tic or face­less mem­ber of some group; rather, he is a unique, spir­i­tual be­ing with a soul and a con­science.”

Mr. Levin charts the ex­pan­sion of the Amer­i­can state over the past cen­tury or so. He points out how the 17th Amend­ment, rat­i­fied in 1917, stripped the state leg­is­la­tures of the au­thor­ity to ap­point se­na­tors and thus de­prived them of a mean­ing­ful role in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. He de­rides Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s view that there should be a sec­ond bill of rights and blames his pres­i­dency with cre­at­ing not only mod­ern en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams but also a school of thought that reads for­eign mean­ing into the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Some of Mr. Levin’s tough­est lan­guage is aimed at the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, whom he calls the en­viro-statist. This chap­ter be­gins with a de­bunk­ing of Rachel Car­son, the au­thor of “Si­lent Spring” and ad­vo­cate against DDT pes­ti­cides. Mr. Levin force­fully ar­gues that Miss Car­son, in the name of stop­ping can­cer, in­di­rectly caused the deaths of mil­lions in the Third World who per­ished from the malaria car­ried by mos­qui­toes DDT helped erad­i­cate.

“The En­viro-Statist poses as a de­fender of clean air, clear wa­ter, pen­guins, seals, po­lar bears, glaciers, the poor, the Third World, and hu­man­ity it­self,” he writes. “But he is al­ready re­spon­si­ble for the death and im­pov­er­ish­ment of tens of mil­lions of hu­man be­ings in the un­de­vel­oped world.”

In his 2008 book “Come­back,” Mr. Frum com­pared the con­ser­va­tives to­day who seek to run against the New Deal of the 1930s to the Repub­li­cans at the end of the 19th cen­tury who in­sisted on call­ing out Democrats as slave­hold­ers and se­ces­sion­ists in their cam­paigns. His point is that even if this view is cor­rect, it will not win elec­tions.

Mr. Levin dis­sents. The con­ser­va­tive man­i­festo at the end of the book calls for a rad­i­cal shrink­ing of the state, from the abo­li­tion of the pro­gres­sive in­come tax to the sun­set of all in­de­pen­dent fed­eral agen­cies at the end of ev­ery bud­get year. Mr. Levin wants to re­voke tax-ex­empt sta­tus for en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and neuter the na­tional teach­ers unions.

As it stands, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans ev­ery day tune in to hear a full-throated as­sault on the mod­ern state and the Demo­cratic Party from Mr. Levin, Mr. Lim­baugh and oth­ers. It is also true that th­ese mil­lions, as re­cent elec­tions have shown, do not make a gov­ern­ing ma­jor­ity.

“Lib­erty and Tyranny” is a pow­er­ful book that will con­vert many Amer­i­cans to con­ser­va­tive thought the way Milton Fried­man’s Newsweek es­says con­verted an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion. But un­til most Amer­i­cans agree with Mr. Levin, the Repub­li­can Party will also need David Frum, Ross Douthat and David Brooks to build na­tional coali­tions to gov­ern in the years, and maybe decades, be­fore the bloated fed­eral state im­plodes.

Eli Lake is na­tional se­cu­rity cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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