Mark Levin’s second chapter is titled “Prudence and Progress.” Recalling my previous deconstruction, equating Conservative with Liberty is a contradiction, abnormal if you will. Conservatives are primarily for stability and order. Liberty has little meaning unless change results. Think of it this way. The governments of the world could unite to decree that bees everywhere are granted full liberty and rights. This liberty would amount to nothing. Bees do what they evolved to do and are not going to change because they have full liberties. Humans evolved precisely to exercise liberty, to change their minds and behaviors as they adapted to migrating over the globe.
The chapter title communicates Levin’s intention to address his inherent contradiction. There are many ways we could change, could exercise our liberty. The Conservative in Levin’s view is for prudent change or, a term he uses occasionally in this chapter, ordered liberty. Ordered liberty is literally an oxymoron, though we can all imagine what this might mean as a just compromise between order and liberty. In any case, Levin spends very little time illuminating us as to what ordered liberty and Conservative really means in this chapter. Rather, he concentrates his words at inflaming us against those nasty, despicable Statists.
In this regards Levin picks up where he left off in his first chapter, using misinformation principle #10 to create urgency in his readers against a common foe. If I were a dogmatic scholar I could have a field day cherry-picking all the individual tidbits where his portrayal of Statists is unrealistic. Such a task would be unpleasant and exhausting for me, I’m not inclined towards such scholastic activities, and would not be the best way to serve my conservative nephew’s request of deconstructing Liberty and Tyranny. My job is to reveal the purpose behind this ongoing caricature of a group that does not exist as described.
By focusing on Statists, rather than on what he means by ordered liberty or civil society, Levin is making use of the counterexample. This is very much a legitimate technique for explaining a position. However, the counterexample is used most effectively when people have greater experiences with the counterexample than with the “example.” If people do not know what “black” means, but they know “white,” then describe “white” and point out that black is the opposite. In this case people have greater experience with “ordered liberty,” even though it is an oxymoron, than they do with bogeymen Statists that do not exist in reality. Using a counterexample in this way is not to inform us but, once again, to inflame us.
Gleaning tidbits of information here and there Levin’s view of ordered liberty can be constructed. Ordered liberty is the union of government authority and individual liberty. OK. What does such a union look like? In Levin’s view government uses its authority to protect the liberties based in unalienable rights, customs and traditions. Whoa! Customs and traditions? That’s starting to sound more like order than liberty. Protecting customs and traditions, as a strict human practice, would have confined us all to living off the land in Africa.
Levin alludes to the protection of customs and traditions as protection of the Constitution and, most specifically, the protection of private property. With this equation protection of customs and traditions is ordered liberty to the extent that the Constitution and private property are liberating. Private property is not a liberty, indeed, is wholly dependent on government for its long term accumulation or hoarding (as one of Levin’s heroes, John Locke, acknowledges without a sense of irony). Levin is not to be blamed for this, as he is “standing on the shoulders” of misinformed giants in this case, particularly John Locke. I would agree with Levin that the Constitution, as originally written and intended, is a liberating document. However, Levin has a one-sided view of the Constitution, the Federalist view to be precise, and to this extent he can be faulted.
Here is previous background material.