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Sunday, August 16, 2009


If you’re American, the Constitution is your guarantee of personal liberty. To further understand this uniquely American document, read Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny. Levin explains our Constitution, the firm foundation of our great country, in both its historical and modern contexts. He traces interpretations, attitudes, and our history through this document.

As the Federalist Papers explained to the early Americans why the colonies’ best interests would be served by joining together, Liberty and Tyranny explains why the Constitution limits rather than extends government powers. It is essential reading, interesting, thoroughly footnoted, and a fascinating look at the Constitution through scholarly eyes. Yet it is never dry or didactic. It becomes a compelling read—even on vacation.

Levin divides the Constitution thematically so we can follow not only the reasons for its inception but also how it has impacted our history and sometimes the world. We’re also made thoroughly aware of the reasons it was constructed as it was, including why amending it is an arduous, thought-provoking process.

America is still working to live up to the Constitution’s grand expectations of us as a country, a people, and an ideal. As in everyday life, even when we know something is the right thing to do, it is not always a path we follow. Levin deals with some of the obvious issues that fall into this category, and his ideas are quite interesting. The Constitution set us up as an example of freedom, yet as human beings the actualization of that ideal has followed a tortuous path not yet fully resolved. We, as Americans, have a goal as part of our national fabric, and we continue trying to make that goal a reality. What other country in the world operates on that possibility? What past civilization offered its citizens that possibility?

Levin also traces the different influences on the Constitution’s interpretation through the actions of politicians and Supreme Court justices. Once the seed of change is planted, it can grow and change in both good and bad ways. But if one follows the prescribed course of change, errors can be corrected without toppling the country and good can be produced. For good or bad, both parties have followed both positive and negative paths, and Levin points this out.

Levin is a conservative, preferring to follow the Constitution closely rather than loosely interpreting it. To him, it is not living and breathing; rather it is the solid bedrock upon which the United States rests, upon which the United States finds its strength to stand. Measured steps outrank rash and hurried changes, and knowledge of history and the brilliant men who composed this document are essential to understanding it. That is exactly what Levin shares with us.

If I sound awed, I am. There is a reason why Liberty and Tyranny is #2 on the New York Times bestseller list even though the Times’ description of it as a “manifesto” is way off the mark. To be #2 means there is a far larger audience than the Times’ description would indicate. I guarantee, whether Levin’s philosophy is yours or not, you will come away enriched.

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