Nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin’s newest book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, became a best-seller before it was released for sale August 13. It is currently ranked #1 in sales on Amazon and is also at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. When I first heard about it I thought maybe – maybe – I might read it. I often find the books of media celebrities little more than pulp screeds aimed at the conservative choir.
However, when I saw a video of hundreds of people lined up two weeks ago at a book store on Long Island to get their copies of The Liberty Amendments autographed by Levin, I thought maybe I needed to give this book a read. I am glad I did.
Over the past four years as I have been working on a PhD in rhetoric I have been teaching an introductory political science course in American National Government to college freshman and sophomores. To my amazement, the majority of my students have very little knowledge about the founding of their country, how their government is organized, or the principles and documents on which the government is based. If asked to tell the story of America it would go something like this: the Pilgrims came to America to start a new country, the King of England didn’t like this and started to tax them, the Pilgrims got into a war with the English, a bunch of tea was dumped into harbor, the Pilgrims won, some guys wrote the Declaration of Independence one hot July Fourth and they all signed before running home to watch fireworks. George Washington got elected president and wrote the Constitution. End of story. Oh yeah, and America is a democracy.
Seriously, these are all examples of answers college students have given to me during class. They are not alone in their lack of understanding. Just this past week in a speech at Boise State University, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor lamented the state of civics ignorance among Americans today.
I have relished teaching American government and I hope by semester’s end my students come to an informed understanding of the nation’s founding, beginning with the initial settlement in Jamestown in 1607 in the Virginia Colony; the arrival of the religious separatists in 1620 and the significance of the Mayflower Compact; the populating of the colonial territories and the struggles for survival faced by the colonists; the numerous skirmishes and wars that occurred between the colonists and the Native Americans, French, Spanish and English; the conditions of occupation and taxation that led the colonists to declare their independence from English rule and thereby invite reprisal from King George III; the ensuing revolution; the federation of the colonies under the Articles of Confederation; the reasons and work of the First and Second Continental Congresses; the writing and ratification of the Constitution and its first ten amendments; and the forging of a new nation.
Mark Levin’s book is not a book for first-year political science students. It is a book for those who already have a basic understanding of the founding principles on which our national government was established and who know the difference between the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is a book for those who do not get their news from Jon Stewart or the Colbert Report. It is for those who read and listen to news from many sources and who want to engage in an informed discussion about what we could do, if we had the fortitude to do it, to stop feeding the federal Leviathan that has become our government.
Levin asserts that with the growth of government, we are now living under a “soft tyranny” where government controls everything. He writes,
What was to be a relatively innocuous federal government, operating from a defined enumeration of specific grants of power, has become an ever-present and unaccountable force. It is the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider and pension guarantor. Moreover, with aggrandized police powers, what it does not control directly it bans or mandates by regulation. For example, the federal government regulates most things in your bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen, as well as the mortgage you hold on your house. It designs your automobile and dictates the kind of fuel it uses. It regulates your baby’s toys, crib, and stroller; plans your children’s school curriculum and lunch menu; and administers their student loans in college. At your place of employment, the federal government oversees everything from the racial, gender and age diversity of the workforce to the hours, wages and benefits paid. Indeed, the question is not what the federal government regulates, but what it does not.
Levin lays out his argument against the growth of the federal government and proposes eleven “liberty amendments” to the U.S. Constitution as antidotes for the problem. He also explains the two processes for amending the Constitution. In all the Constitution has been amended 17 times, adding a total of 27 Amendments. In all of these cases, the process began in Congress where two-thirds of Congress passed a proposed amendments on to the state legislatures for possible ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Article V of the Constitution lays out a second method that involves the direct application of two-thirds of the state legislatures for a Convention proposing Amendments – not a Constitutional Convention but a convention to propose Amendments to the existing Constitution. This process also require a three-fourths ratification vote by the states.
For those anxious about the process of a states’ convention, Levin offers,
I was originally skeptical of amending the Constitution by the state convention process. I fretted it could turn into a runaway caucus. As an ardent defender of the Constitution who reveres the brilliance of the Framers, I assumed this would play disastrously into the hands of the Statists. However, today I am a confident and enthusiastic advocate for the process. The text of Article V makes clear that there is a serious check in place. Whether the product of Congress or a convention, a proposed amendment has no effect at all unless ‘ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…’ This should extinguish anxiety that the state convention process should hijack the Constitution.
Some of Levin’s proposed amendments include term limits for members of Congress, limiting the powers of the federal bureaucracy, tax and spending limits, and one of my favorites, an amendment to protect the vote with mandatory photo identification for federal elections and limits on early voting. And while Levin acknowledges that his proposed amendments will not move forward in today’s political climate, he offers these as a springboard for thought and debate in an effort to help the nation restore constitutional republicanism.
On September 17, we mark Constitution Day, a federal observance in remembrance of when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. To celebrate, buy a copy of The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic and as Levin is wont to rant on his radio show, “Don’t just sit there you dope, engage in the dialogue!”
[Simon and Schuster, August 13, 2013, 257 pages, $16.19 Amazon/$10.99 Kindle]
blog comments powered by Disqus