Skip to comments.Mark Levin’s ‘Liberty and Tyranny,’ Dominates Bestseller List in Year of Obama
Posted on 08/06/2009 12:50:18 PM PDT by MaestroLC
While President Barack Obama and Congress have been pushing ahead with an agenda that would dramatically increase the size and scope of the federal government, a book advocating strictly limited government has been riding at the top of the nonfiction bestseller lists.
Over the past 19 weeks, Mark Levins Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto has never ranked lower than No. 3 on The New York Times best seller listand it ranked No. 3 for only one of those weeks. The book has been No. 1 on the list for 12 weeks, and No. 2 for six.
It has already sold 900,000 copies, according to publisher Simon & Schuster, and there are 1,185,000 in print. If the New York Times bestseller list is the standard, Liberty and Tyranny is indisputably the hottest non-fiction book published in 2009.
The book is also currently the top nonfiction best seller as measured by the Nielson Book Scan list for the month.
Liberty and Tyrannys tremendous sales have come despite the fact that the establishment media has ignored it.
Mark never went on NBC. Hes never been asked. He never went on ABC. Hes never been asked. Hes never been asked to be on CBS, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity told CNSNews.com.
As far as I know, said Hannity, hes never been asked to be on the other two liberal cable networks. To have these kinds of sales numbers and to be totally and utterly and completely ignored by the mainstream media--I mean it was, what, 13 weeks on the New York Times best seller list before the Philly Inquirer did a piece on it.
A Nexis search shows that the book has never been reviewed by the nations largest newspapers, including The Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, published in the metropolitan area where Levin grew up and attended college and law school, did publish a July 16 news story on the books success.
Levins radio listeners, accustomed to his snarling putdowns, might be disappointed, the liberal-leaning Inquirer reported. For Liberty and Tyranny is exactly as advertised, a conservative manifesto, a collection of serious, scholarly essays that seek to define the essence of conservatism.
Levin admits he is surprised and very blessed to be on track to sell 1 million books, something that rarely happens with political books, particularly those focusing on political philosophy.
This book has picked up steam by word of mouth. People have read it. They like it. They are moved in some cases to act on it, Levin told CNSNews.com.
We have many anecdotal stories of people buying books for neighbors and family members and handing it out, Levin said. People have called into my program said they handed it out as a wedding gift. It has appeared at Tea Parties across the country. So at this point, it is not about promoting it on radio. I dont have a TV show like others do. Its got a life of its own without a whole lot of prodding from me. In other words its the substance thats selling and not the glitter.
The book was released March 24 and debuted at number one on the New York Times best seller list on Sunday, April 11. It stayed in the No. 1 position until May 31, when Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards supplanted it for one week. On June 7, it was No. 1 again.
After July 12, the book fell to No. 2, and then it slipped to No. 3 two Sundays ago before bouncing back to No. 2 last Sunday.
Other political books have hit the New York Times bestseller list this year, but have not enjoyed as long a run on the list as Liberty and Tyranny. A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media) by Bernard Goldberg and Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America by Ann Coulter both made No. 2 on the Times list. Coulters book spent a total of six week in Top Ten of the New York Times list, Goldbergs book was on the list for seven weeks, four of which were in the Top Ten.
A popular non-political book that has generally trailed Levins Liberty and Tyranny on the non-fiction list this year has been Malcolm Gladwells Outliers, which was released last year. In December 2008, Outliers debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list and has ranked in that position for 10 weeks of this year.
USA Todays list of overall bestselling bookswhich includes both fiction and non-fiction titles--ranked Liberty and Tyranny at 34th overall as of July 31. The books peak position in USA Todays overall ranking was fifth. Fiction bestsellers usually sell in greater numbers than nonfiction.
Conservatives and Statists
Levin, a constitutional lawyer who served as chief of staff to Attorney General Ed Meese in the Reagan Justice Department, wrote a book that exhibits an expertise in history, economics, and philosophy while explaining contemporary public policy issues.
In Liberty and Tyranny, he rejects both liberalism and the big government conservatism that was the hallmark of the Bush administration. Levin advocates, instead, faithful adherence to the limited government vision of the Founding Fathers and founding documents of the United Statesa conservatism in line with the vision espoused by President Ronald Reagan and with the Conservative Movement activists and intellectuals who promoted the 1964 presidential campaign of Sen. Barry Goldwater.
The book includes a scathing critique of President Franklin Roosevelts New Deal and of the welfare state in general.
The New Deal, Levin argues, established taxation not merely to fund constitutionally legitimate governmental activities, but also to redistribute wealth, finance welfare programs, set prices and production limits, create huge public works programs, and establish pension and unemployment programs.
Liberty and Tyranny draws on thinking, and points to the influence, of the 17th century English philosopher John Locke, the 18th century Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith, and the 18th century Irish-English statesman and writer Edmund Burke.
Levin argues that contemporary liberals, who do not respect the natural law principles of the Declaration of Independence or the limited government chartered by the Constitutution, are in fact statists seeking to increase government power at the expense of individual liberty.
Levin writes that conservatives believe that the individual 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.
A statist, by contrast, believes in a culture of conformity and dependency, where the ideal citizen takes on drone-like qualities in service to the state.
Levin not only defends individual liberty but also a proper respect for tradition. Citing Burke, Levin explains that appropriate reform differs from the radical overhaul of society sought by the Left. Change unconstrained by prudence produces unpredictable consequences, threatening ordered liberty with chaos and ultimately despotism, and placing at risk the very principles the Conservative holds dear.
To explain the goals of contemporary statists, Levin provides detailed critiques of liberal policies including in the areas of environmentalism, immigration, and the welfare state. He defends the free market as the system that has historically provided the most prosperity for the most people, and he criticizes last years $700 billion financial industry bailout that was supported by Republican President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress.
Levin also defends the role of faith and the importance of God in American life and law. An individual may benefit from the moral order and unalienable rights around which society functions while rejecting their Divine Origin, he says. But the civil society cannot organize itself that way.
Although the book is far more about philosophy and first principles than specific policies, it ends with a conservative manifesto of policy proposals to reduce the federal bureaucracy and limit judicial power.
Nor does Levin spare from criticism Republican commentators who have made peace with big government, including Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Michael Gerson, the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
I think there is a vast silent majority out there. I also think that vast silent majority was becoming dispirited, Levin told CNSNews.com. They were turned off by big government in the hands of the Republicans and especially in the hands of the statists. I think what this book does is give them confidence and knowledge and a way forward.
Hannity also noted the importance of the books timing.
Republicans have lost some of their conservative roots, said Hannity. There are certainly big-government Republicans not getting the job done, and I think many conservatives felt disenfranchised including myself. And I think now the people understand Americans dont want big government, as Colin Powell said, they dont think government is the answer, theyre skeptical of government.
A serious grown up book
The books striking success comes after eight years of big government Republicanism under President Bush and in the midst of attempt to massively expand government under President Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress. That is why Levins honesty about the Republican Party is so important, said conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie, who was part of the 1964 Goldwater campaign.
The number one mistake conservatives have made in the past 15 years has not just been George W. Bushs and Tom DeLays betrayal of conservatism, but that too many conservative leaders allowed the movement to become an appendage of the Republican Party, Viguerie told CNSNews.com. Mark provides leadership. Most radio talk show hosts just say how bad things are. Mark gives marching orders, tells his listeners the people to call and the numbers.
Viguerie believes that Liberty and Tyranny is all substance even while he believes far too many political books are more entertainment than substance.
This is a publishing phenomenon because this book has the basic principles and nuances of freedom, Viguerie said. It could be a dry subject. That this book has such a popular following says a lot about it.
On air, Levin shows frequent humor and anger, entertaining listeners by telling some liberal callers, Get off the phone, you big dope,
But Levin, who is also the president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, has impressed readers with the books erudition and eloquence.
There is a difference between the [on-air] personality of Mr. Levin whose voice can rise and rise and rise, you think its going through the ceiling, said Lee Edwards, an expert on the history of the conservative movement at the Heritage Foundation. But that is not what you get from reading this book, which I was looking at the footnotes. Its very well footnoted, its logically constructed. Its very well presented. It has all the more power because of that.
Though the timing of the release early in the Obama administration probably helped sales, Levin spent a year and a half writing the book, starting well before Obama became the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
This is intended to really get at the root of Americanism, to get at the root of who we are as human beings, said Levin. Hopefully, it will have a life beyond one or two election cycles.
Statism is not something that comes or goes in an election cycle. It is a persistent force, he said. The only way to contain it is to understand who we are and to be resolute.
That is a message more Republicans should remember, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and long time conservative activist.
It reminds us that were not just talking about wasting money and being inefficient, which is the way sometimes Republicans talk about stupid government programs. Whats at stake is losing our liberty, Norquist said. Its a serious grown up book. This is not one of those calling Democrats poopy-head books. It is a serious book for serious people.
Hannity added that the book could have a legacy similar to that of Sen. Barry Goldwaters Conscience of a Conservative published in 1960, a book that helped launch Goldwaters 1964 campaign and influenced Ronald Reagans political career.
It is a modern day equivalent of Conscience of a Conservative, Hannity said of Liberty and Tyranny. He defines conservatism, and more importantly than that, he goes through the history of conservatism. Not just about the founders and framers of the Constitution. He lays out the defining case for modern conservatism today.
Hannity added that he thinks the books impact is already being felt on Capitol Hill and in state houses.
However, the Heritage Foundations Edwards said the Goldwater book was unique in that it married a philosophical underpinning with a politician who at least potentially could have carried that philosophy into the White House.
People then said if we want to get behind a political figure who also has some kind of philosophical understanding, Goldwater is the man, Edwards said. He combined both political philosophy and political action in a very unusual way. Marks book is certainly a powerful philosophical statement. He obviously is not a candidate. He is not out there implementing or trying to take these ideas personally into policies or programs.
Yet, that doesnt mean the book cannot have a similar influence, Edwards added.
A presidential candidate, over the next couple of years, could say a book that really influenced me was Liberty and Tyranny, just as Ronald Reagan advanced his ideas standing on the shoulders of Barry Goldwater, Edwards said.
No political conclusions
Then there are those in the Republican Party who hope the book does not have any influence.
In a tough review of the book in The Weekly Standard, Hoover Institution fellow Peter Berkowitz wrote, Like it or not, the New Deal is here to stay. It has been incorporated into constitutional law and woven into the fabric of the American sensibility and American society. The utopian dream of cutting government down to 18th-century size can only derail conservatisms core and continuing mission of slowing and containing governments growth, keeping it within reasonable boundaries, and where possible reducing its reach.
In a response to the review, Levin wrote on The American Thinker web site: And from what century is the statist--who rejects the Declaration and the Constitutions limits--operating? Berkowitz embraces the notion that growing statism is a modern vintage and of modern necessity. Actually, it has been around since the beginning of man. Thats why we know so much about it and must resolutely challenge it.
Another critic of the book, of Levin and of talk radio in general is David Frum, a former speech writer for George W. Bush. Earlier this year, Frum called into Levins show and accused him of sounding like someone who is walking up Broadway and shouting at passing cars.
In his radio exchange with Levin, Frum described his own views as follows: We need to have a more relevant approach to economic issues that understand that it is health care that is crushing the incomes of middle income Americans. We need a new approach to the environment that accepts the legitimacy of--Levin interrupted to say, 10 seconds-- before Frum continued: We need a softer line on social issues and an emphasis on competent, intelligent and fairer issues.
Frum told CNSNews.com that Republicans need to be very careful about drawing large political conclusions from the books popularity.
If people take away from this experience to double down ideologically, they need to ask themselves, well how did that work for Barry Goldwater? Frum said.
Frum is the author of Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again, which was published last year. The book did not appear on the New York Times Best Seller list, and Frum said on Levins radio show that it sold 25,000 copies.
Frum added that he thought Levins book fell far short of Conscience of a Conservative. But Frum rejected the idea that Goldwaters essential platform was carried into successful presidential campaigns by Ronald Reagan.
Its never a good argument if I warn you, you buy that stock and youre going to go bankrupt, and you say, well my uncle went bankrupt and then he came back to become a millionaire, Frum said. Sometimes people go bankrupt and come back to become millionaires, but sometimes they just go bankrupt. You have to focus in politics on what is knowable and not what is speculative.
Levin does not take Frums criticism seriously, citing a column Frums wrote earlier this year that was an ad hominem attack on radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who, like Levin, is also a highly popular and influential advocate of limited government.
Levin says one reason he wrote the book was to help people understand what the conservative philosophy is fundamentally about.
This is not a talking points book. This is not a memoir. This is not a rehashing of events. It is not a statement of the obvious, Levin said. This book took a year a half to write because I did a lot of soul searching on my own of conservatism and non-conservatism. Why am I conservative? Why do we believe these things? And why do the people we have to confront think what they think?
"Liberty and Tyranny" is a modern political/philosophical classic.
Just as Goldwater defined conservatism in the 1960's with "The Conscience of a Conservative", Levin defines conservatism for the 21st century with his book.
It will stand the test of time.
Too bad we don’t have a political Party that advocates strictly limited government. But a book is nice too, I guess.
We have a two party system. The two parties like it and keep it that way.
IIRC, the Socialist party got around 300,000 votes in 1928, with zero electoral votes.
Party leaders figured out that the only way to implement their agenda was through one of the two major parties. As the rat party has become increasingly radical, their counter-revolution has recently accelerated.
We can do the same. The answer is to consider Levin’s Conservative Manifesto, reform the GOP and not waste time on third parties.
5 Must Reads for summer:
Levin, Malkin, Beck, Morris, DeMint
Yep, the same ol’ battle cry.
Liberty and Tyranny:
A Conservative Manifesto
by Mark R. Levin
Yep, the same ol’ defeatism.