The Audacity of Facts: that is what Mark Levin believes can save America. Facts can animate the rising generation that has the most to lose by the impending collapse of our constitutional republic.
Levin concedes that the odds are against him. But Plunder and Deceit, his arresting new book, takes its shot. It is a clarion call to young people: “an appeal to reason and audacity”; an appeal that they “find the personal strength and will to break through the cycle of statist propaganda and manipulation, unrelenting emotional overtures, and the pressure of groupthink” that has atrophied their generation’s capacity to oppose a rapacious government that leaves too many of them broke, unsafe, and ignorant of who and what most threatens them.
In the interest of full disclosure, Mark is a longtime friend of mine. We are both conservative lawyers with fond remembrances of time served in the government, in particular, the Justice Department. Does that make me biased in his favor? Sure it does. But it also gives me an unusual familiarity with his work, which is copious: Though a renowned talk-radio host, Mark is the author of several bestselling books that are as serious and scholarly as they are accessible and popular.
With familiarity comes, I hope, some insight into why he and his books resonate with the public. Mark writes well. His often fiery radio persona can cause some to underestimate how well-informed he is on public-policy esoterica. He not only reads political-philosophy books; he conveys their ideas — faithfully and without condescension — to the uninitiated. And he is a scholar of the Constitution. Foremost, though, he is possessed of the experienced litigator’s reverence for fact, for the way that solid arguments are built from the ground up by hard evidence.
If nothing else, Plunder and Deceit is a book about facts. It presents the hard evidence that the federal government and its ever-expanding administrative state, under the control of both major political parties through the better part of the last century, have increasingly stolen future prosperity to provide current comfort.
The federal government and its ever-expanding administrative state have increasingly stolen future prosperity to provide current comfort.
The Ponzi scheme has never been sustainable: The beguiling original promises of minor, nearly unnoticeable “contributions” mandated to secure “insurance” for the sake of the common good have steadily metastasized into massive inter-generational theft. But while the trendy abstractions that guide environmental stewardship may careen from “global cooling” to “global warming” to (I know, let’s call it) “climate change,” the basic principles of arithmetic endure — meaning socialists do eventually run out of other people’s money, even if those people haven’t been born yet. With an unstinting compilation of facts, Levin demonstrates that the day of reckoning is not on the horizon; it is here.
Will it be recognized as such? And in enough time to avert calamity? On that question, the jury is very much out.
Levin rolls out the numbers on our ocean of debt — the staggering deficit spending by which Barack Obama has doubled down on the profligacy of the Bush years; the politically crafted and economically ludicrous structure of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest of the “entitlement” edifice that will, in the foreseeable future, crowd out all other federal spending except interest on what government must borrow to keep the gravy train rolling. He then presents the obvious consequences: We will not have the resources to provide for the national security that is a must if there is to be commerce, and our straits will become more dire when, inevitably, interest rates creep toward historic norms.
As Levin stresses, this is a betrayal of the intergenerational compact, the duty the present owes to future generations to preserve and expand on the legacy of those who’ve preceded us. It is virtue fortified by civil society that instills this duty, and virtue has been eroded by what Levin, borrowing from Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff aptly describes as the “Take As You Go” policies — seizing ever larger amounts of resources from the young and struggling, transferring them to the older and better off — that both major parties have executed in recent decades.
Still, the current ruling generation is only half of the equation. Plunder and Deceit mainly concerns itself with the rising generation of young people. Although they are the victims being fleeced, they are, the author observes, a “generation . . . wedged in its own contradictions.” That is, they vigorously support the very policies that are bringing them to ruin, surrendering their fate to the increasingly autocratic government they claim to distrust.
For this reason, Levin’s chapter on the education system’s role in destroying the rising generation’s prospects is worth the price of admission. Why do American schools produce such poorly educated adults while spending vastly more per student than virtually every modern industrialized nation? Because the money is not being spent per student.
The universities now employ over 400 percent more people than the 850,000 who worked on campuses a half-century ago, but well over half of them (2.3 million) are administrators and support personnel, not teachers. Schools spend a king’s ransom on capital improvements that are unrelated to academic improvement. The government has essentially taken over the student-loan business, resulting not only in tuition and fee increases to soak up the available dollars but in a burgeoning crisis of debt and non-repayment — a crisis exacerbated by Obama’s policies. And dominated by instructors from a small circle of elite schools, the campus becomes a bastion of “progressive” groupthink, inexorably rendering the classroom a center of indoctrination.
Levin’s chapter on the education system’s role in destroying the rising generation’s prospects is worth the price of admission.
The system has thoroughly undermined the traditional education mission of cultivating critical thinking and the search for truth. It has substituted Marxist economic determinism and oppression narratives for the ideals of freedom, inalienable rights, individual dignity, courage, and the overcoming of hardships that formerly featured prominently in the teaching of American history — the themes that rightly fostered patriotism.
This is a major problem, not just for the country but for a book that primarily appeals to the young on the basis of their self-interest. What if they don’t know what their self-interest is? The very concept of self-interest has been stigmatized, and the young have been conditioned — on campus, in the media, in the popular culture — to prioritize abstractions and purportedly good intentions of government officials over the real-world consequences of government action.
For example, Levin points out that experience teaches that the best guarantor of peace is a strong defense, and that if we have war because our enemies are emboldened by our weakness, it will be the young who will be called on to fight and die. Yet the young have been inculcated to believe that military strength causes, rather than prevents, trouble. They support deep slashes in defense spending in order to prop up entitlement programs that are robbing them blind. They support sharp increases in the minimum wage notwithstanding that these unavoidably result in increased youth unemployment and a future dimmed by the failure to acquire basic job skills. They are sympathetic to arguments for open borders and amnesty for illegal immigrants who compete with them for jobs in a stagnant economy. And so on.
This is why the task of appealing to the young is such an uphill battle. Levin nevertheless takes heart. The burden is not to persuade every young person that the path to saving the country lies in our civil-society tradition and the Constitution’s limits on government. It is to persuade a critical mass — not just to the point of conviction but to activism. That is how an effective movement starts. The author, in fact, demonstrates this point in a chapter on the machinations of the environmental movement and its “degrowther” shock troops who wage war against prosperity itself. A great deal can be accomplished, and a great many minds moved, by a small, determined minority.
Mark Levin has hope because the liberty activists he seeks to inspire will be on the side of the angels. And he has made certain that they will be armed with the facts.