The Naked Truth about Your Government
By Carl Close • Wednesday April 25, 2012 10:29 AM PDT • 4 Comments
Robert Higgs Exposes Delusions of Power
Why have so many Americans abandoned the Jeffersonian principle that the best government is that which governs least? In his new book, Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs suggests that part of the reason is that we have fooled ourselves into believing that if we cede more power to democratic institutions, they will somehow solve problems that they’re not really capable of fixing. Rather than cling to demonstrably delusional beliefs—another one is James Madison’s view that the U.S. Constitution is an effective bulwark against government abuses—Higgs urges us to search for better institutional arrangements to safeguard liberty.
In addition to fascinating insights about democracy and the state, Higgs offers new analyses of the Great Depression, the two world wars, the Cold War, the Nixon years, and the post-9/11 era. Regarding the recent recession, Higgs exposes the six worst mistakes of the current orthodoxy and shows how they contributed to a surge in the government’s size, scope, and power. Wars abroad have been particularly detrimental to liberty at home, he explains. Tax withholding, for example, became a permanent feature during World War II and was adopted in order to make it easier to raise taxes in the future. Wars also illustrate the profound gulf between the interests of U.S. presidents and those of ordinary people.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Readers unfamiliar with Robert Higgs will discover that Delusions of Power reveals important truths about the nature of the state and its entrenched habits of crisis mongering, war making, and economic destruction. And the growing number of readers already acquainted with Higgs’s works will find that his latest book offers more of the refreshing intellectual rigor, elegant erudition, and morally grounded wit that they’ve come to expect from the most astute critic of government power on the scene today.
Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy, by Robert Higgs
[A slightly different version of this post appeared in the April 24, 2012, issue of The Lighthouse, the Independent Institute's weekly newsletter. To receive The Lighthouse and other email notices from the Independent Institute, enter your email address here.]