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M.R. Levin “Men In Black: How The Supreme Court Is Destroying America”, Book Review Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1046

Book Review

According to an argument that is grounded in the limitations of government power as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, M.R. Levin’s Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America criticizes what the author views as the unlimited authority that Supreme Court judges are granted. Levin’s contention with the Supreme Court is essentially twofold. Firstly, he suggests that the Supreme Court has moved away from its original function as strict interpreters of the Constitution towards an active role as government policymakers. Secondly, the lifetime appointments of Supreme Court judges positions these judges outside of the democratic process, giving them a status with unprecedented power in the American governmental system. Levin’s aim is to deconstruct the “godlike” status of these judges, through a consideration of how their powers violate the initial premises of the U.S. Constitution, while also demonstrating the human fallibility of these same judges, particularly in terms of their lack of objectivity and the prioritization of personal interests over a fealty to the Constitution. The Supreme Court as it currently stands is, for Levin, in direct antagonism with what he construes as core American values.

Levin’s book can be understood as taking an essentially neo-conservative approach to the issue of the Supreme Court, where here neo-conservative takes on the sense it has acquired in late twentieth and early twentieth century discourse: Levin is a defender of the adherence to the constitution, the promotion of a free market ideology in the economic sphere, and an emphasis on so-called individual liberty and the limitation of government powers. Accordingly, the audience for Levin’s book is likeminded conservatives, to the extent that the book can be considered as preaching to the converted (as evidenced by a foreword written by known conservative figure Rush Limbaugh). However, at the same time, the jingoistic tone of the text suggests that Levin is relying on patriotism to garner possible converts to the neo-con ideology.

The main argument of Levin’s work centers around the hypothesis that the life-time appointments of Supreme Court judges contradicts with the original ideological viewpoint that informed the American political system: limits to governmental power. As Levin (2005) writes, “it’s difficult to find any aspect of society where the federal government doesn’t have some role or influence. And the Supreme Court, more than any other branch or entity of government, is the most radical and aggressive practitioner of unrestrained power.” (p. 207) What problematizes the role of the Supreme Court is that Levin (2005) conceives that the initial point of the Court was “to interpret the Constitution”, (p. 207) whereas the Court now takes on “the functions of the legislative or executive branches.” (Levin, 2005, p. 207) Accordingly, judges become “centralized decision makers” (Levin, 2005, p. 207) that determine the course of American life. The Supreme Court members are not subject to elections or term limits, and moreover, their decisions are invested by personal ideological convictions, such that they serve as a permanent shaper of American policy.

Levin is thus primarily concerned with the place of power in American society: who occupies this place of power? For Levin, the key to American success is that this power is to be separated from government as much as possible. What Levin fails to address in this book is how power can also be damaging in non-governmental forms. Levin only conceives of the negativity of power when it is in the hands of the government: he thinks that only government can be corrupted by power. And even in the cases where government power may be limited, Levin does not pursue the possibility that government can become merely a puppet for non-governmental organizations, such as private corporations, that occupy the place of power in place of the government. Levin immediately discounts the possibility that such corporations may be corrupted by power, when even a cursory glance at American history shows the corrupt practice of private corporations in America and the government. The primary ideological illusion in Levin’s book is that when power is not in the hands of the government, it somehow becomes benevolent. There is no theory of power in Levin’s book, which is the crucial issue he discusses: he only talks about power in the hands of government. This is a naïve view, as the presence of lobbyists clearly shows the power and influence non-governmental organizations have on government, to the extent that government may be conceived as merely a mask for the real holders of power in American society.

Levin’s reliance on jingoistic language to discuss the genius of the founding fathers is a typical neo-con rhetorical technique, assigning them the status of “gods”, and free of human fallibility. Yet this is the same inevitable human fallibility that Levin uses to criticize the lifetime appointments of Supreme Court judges. Levin omits that these were the same founding fathers who did not abolish slavery; he omits that this was the same Constitution that allowed for segregation to exist as late as the 1960s. In this regard, Levin’s text is thoroughly ideological to the extent that the book lacks any critical self-reflection. For example, Levin offers no sustained engagement with Article III of the U.S. Constitution, in which the founding fathers allow for the lifetime appointment of the Supreme Court according to their continued “good behavior.” If Levin maintains a zealot-like devotion to the U.S. constitution, why does he not accept Article III?

Accordingly, Levin’s book is not based on some love for the U.S. constitution, but rather employs a typical strategy of neo-conservative thought: they hide their true commitments to the unrestrained actions of private corporations and their influence on the governmental system through a mask of patriotism and an appeal for blind adherence to the constitution. In the book there is no serious theoretical engagement with the Constitution.  Levin offers no theory of power, nor does he provide an analysis of non-governmental influences on government. Under the pretense of patriotic allegiance, Levin conceals his true allegiance to private interests, the same private interests that are also outside of the democratic process of elections. From its populist title to a lack of theoretical analysis glossed over by a faux patriotism, Levin’s book is one for the trash bin.

Works Cited

Levin, Mark C. (2005). Men in Black: Why the Supreme Court is Destroying America. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing.

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