Radio host Mark Levin’s new book, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, is one of the most focused, accessible, and aggressive political books you’ll ever find. Levin’s thesis is that the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government, the states, and the American people has been distorted beyond the ability of conventional politics to repair. After all, if the power of the legislature has been diminished relative to the executive, the executive has dispersed its disproportionate power into unelected bureaucracies, and the states are increasingly powerless vassals of Washington, then there is no way for the peoples’ representatives in Congress or state houses to draft laws that would correct the situation. The entire point of this century-long quest to centralize power was to remove it from the clumsy hands of foolish American citizens. We are spectators to a game show in Washington. We might be able to vote a few of the contestants off the show, but we have no control over the rules of the game.
Levin aims to change the rules of the game… or, more properly, reset them, to restore the brilliant system put in place by America’s Founders. With the situation explained and his goals set forth in a few introductory pages, he executes the rest of his book with the planning and precision of a SEAL team taking an objective. Each of his proposed “Liberty Amendments” is laid out in a brief chapter that explains its importance, sources it to the writings of the Founding Fathers, and anticipates the more reasonable objections that would likely be raised. Little time is wasted on the unreasonable objections, for Levin does not intend to address an audience of the stupid, greedy, or hysterical. He also knows his statist adversaries are not interested in rationally discussing the death of the Leviathan they nourished for generations.
A Constitutional reset is necessary because the progressive project is a cascade of lost freedoms, designed so that each step is irreversible, and every inch of ground taken by the State is claimed forever. The distribution of power to unelected bureaucrats is a key element of this process. One of the Liberty Amendments “sunsets” all federal departments and agencies, unless Congress reauthorizes them every three years by majority vote. Every big-ticket Executive Branch regulation would be subjected to review by a joint congressional committee. This amendment would pull the plug on the unstoppable federal bureaucracy, forcing every department to perpetually justify its existence, and terminating President Obama’s beloved practice of circumventing Congress to legislate by decree.
Another Liberty Amendment likewise reins in the judicial branch, setting term limits for Supreme Court justices, and giving Congress the power to override Supreme Court opinions with a three-fifths vote, without risk of presidential veto. Three-fifths of the state legislatures can also join forces to knock down a Court decision. That’s a recurring theme of the Liberty Amendments: the restoration of both congressional and state power. As Levin repeatedly reminds us, nothing worried the Founders more than the rise of a despotic national executive, such as the one we have now. The original states never would have signed on to a federal government that turned them into puppets. There were strong logical arguments against these outcomes, which power-hungry progressives understood quite well, back when they first set about overturning the Constitutional order. Modern progressives don’t think they need to understand those arguments any more, because the foundation of the total State has been laid, and the clock can never be “turned back,” as one of their favorite slogans has it. This should leave them at a severe intellectual disadvantage, if the Liberty Amendments become a topic of national debate.
Some of Levin’s proposed amendments are intended to clarify language that already exists in the Constitution, such as the much-abused Commerce Clause – lately interpreted as a warrant for unlimited federal control of all human activity, although the Founders most certainly did not intend it to be taken that way. Our language has changed over the centuries, always in a way that expands the Left’s desire for centralized control. The authors of the Constitution would find our current understanding of the word “commerce” to be utterly deranged – indeed, they might even ask what the point of their Revolution was, if “interstate commerce” was to become a writ for powers beyond the wildest dreams of daft old King George.
Two of the proposed Liberty Amendments are devastating blows against imperial federal power, making it easier for states to amend the Constitution, and giving them a brief window of opportunity to strike down both congressional legislation and Executive Branch legislation. Levin also makes a compelling argument against the Seventeenth Amendment, which provided for the direct election of United States senators. Senators were supposed to be instruments of the state legislatures, while the House of Representatives would be filled by popular vote. I have never read a better explanation for why this was important, and how it gave state governments a vitally needed hand in the crafting of federal legislation.
I’ve also seen no better case made for term limits on Congress, as Levin astutely points out that not only do Jurassic representatives-for-life distort the distribution of power in Congress, but they invest a great deal of our national energy (and funding!) in maintaining their 85-percent-plus re-election rate. Surely some of those “safe” districts would merely replace Retiring Party Drone A with New Party Drone B, but as it stands, far too many representatives discover they can most easily secure lifetime tenure by representing the Leviathan State instead of their constituents, tapping the federal treasury to purchase reliable voters.
The reason all of these goals must be accomplished through Constitutional amendment is that any other instrument of legislation or representation can be twisted to the purposes of the central State. Levin makes an irrefutable case that we long ago passed the point of no return for reforming our bloated, degenerate, dying federal government by winning a few elections. The people who rigged this system made certain to armor it against future dissent from unhappy voters – one man, one vote, one time, every step of the way, with each new progressive “achievement” promptly declared more immutable than the tattered old scrap of parchment kept under glass at the National Archives. Having studied the provisions for a Constitutional convention, Levin is convinced that the high bar for state ratification of any proposed amendments will keep it from becoming a carnival of kooks. The kooks are winning anyway. What could they get by amending the Constitution that our eternal bureaucracy and despotic executive branch aren’t giving them, one lost liberty at a time?
If you want to bring the ship of state into drydock, instead of slightly adjusting its course, The Liberty Amendments provides an excellent set of schematics. Levin’s strategy is the only way for the American people to have a say on all the things we’ve been told we don’t get to vote on any more. Reading this book will help you appreciate the terrible magnitude of what we have lost, and the intractable nature of an arrogant system that dictates to us instead of representing us, appropriating the language of “democracy” to dignify what really amounts to quelling dissent against whatever the ruling class wants to do next. And if you’re not already a Constitutional scholar of Mark Levin’s caliber, you might be surprised to learn just how accurately the supposedly out-of-touch and obsolete Founders predicted everything happening today. Why, reading Chapter Eight of The Liberty Amendments, you’d think John Adams was taking daily delivery of the New York Times through a time warp. I suspect he and his peers would have little argument with Levin’s recommendations.
Update: Mr. Levin read this review in its entirety on his show Thursday night. You can listen to the audio clip below, or click here for his full list of podcasts.