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Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy

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Taking a close look at the dense fabric that our government weaves between war, state power, and economics, this collection of essays reveals the growing authority—and corruption—of the American state. Covering topics from the Lyndon Johnson presidency to the provocatively titled article “Military-Economic Fascism” on the military-industrial-congressional complex, it argue Taking a close look at the dense fabric that our government weaves between war, state power, and economics, this collection of essays reveals the growing authority—and corruption—of the American state. Covering topics from the Lyndon Johnson presidency to the provocatively titled article “Military-Economic Fascism” on the military-industrial-congressional complex, it argues that the U.S. government consistently exploits national crises and then invents timely rhetoric that limits the rights and liberties of all citizens for the benefit of the few, be they political leaders or various industrialists in the areas of defense and security. As its title suggests, this book presents a clear narrative of trends and events—from the United States’ entry into World War II to the origins of income tax—causing individuals to question whether those in power are truly blind to the effects and causes of their policies.


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Taking a close look at the dense fabric that our government weaves between war, state power, and economics, this collection of essays reveals the growing authority—and corruption—of the American state. Covering topics from the Lyndon Johnson presidency to the provocatively titled article “Military-Economic Fascism” on the military-industrial-congressional complex, it argue Taking a close look at the dense fabric that our government weaves between war, state power, and economics, this collection of essays reveals the growing authority—and corruption—of the American state. Covering topics from the Lyndon Johnson presidency to the provocatively titled article “Military-Economic Fascism” on the military-industrial-congressional complex, it argues that the U.S. government consistently exploits national crises and then invents timely rhetoric that limits the rights and liberties of all citizens for the benefit of the few, be they political leaders or various industrialists in the areas of defense and security. As its title suggests, this book presents a clear narrative of trends and events—from the United States’ entry into World War II to the origins of income tax—causing individuals to question whether those in power are truly blind to the effects and causes of their policies.

30 review for Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ion Sterpan

    Ch 1 A long term view of the social contract: As the story goes, when individuals contract out from the state of nature, they give up liberties to a public entity in exchange for security. Higgs points out that over time, after the contract is concluded, the public entity takes more and more of the remaining liberties and provides less and less of the promised security. Symmetrically, he suggests, in a no-state world (an anarchy animated by the principles of the market), the amount of liberties not Ch 1 A long term view of the social contract: As the story goes, when individuals contract out from the state of nature, they give up liberties to a public entity in exchange for security. Higgs points out that over time, after the contract is concluded, the public entity takes more and more of the remaining liberties and provides less and less of the promised security. Symmetrically, he suggests, in a no-state world (an anarchy animated by the principles of the market), the amount of liberties not given away might increase in the longer term both the amount of freedom and the level of security. The degree of social disorder tends to decrease in no state world. A rent seeking society: The state functionaries and their cronies in the private sector with whom they contract, run schemes to take property without consent. Before such schemes are run, they have to be designed. Individuals commit real resources to design them and win the competition of having these schemes run through Congress and have them sanctioned. Individuals join the stampede for control and engages in legal plunder as a way to get some value back, to amortize the costs of being controlled taxed and regulated. Ch 4: Are politicians responsible for their actions? Some claim that the people have elected politician X, therefore the people are responsible for that politician's actions. The error here is to trace responsibility back only one step. Yes, people have elected X, but they only elected X over Y. Who did what to push the electorate into either one of the two channels? How is each of the channels being formed? The attention space is a scarce resource. Whoever becomes the most salient candidate advancing a particular policy in some platform, must have won the competition for that attention space. That candidate could not have won the competition for attention space without the support of those who are already powerful. And those powerful groups who supported the candidate and her plank must have invested those resources to gain more revenue than invested in the political process. Why do people tolerate the process of selection of the two candidates? Because they have been "massively propagandized, miseducated, cowed". Ch 6: During a crisis the government passes a rapid-fire set of programs. Here are some of the assumptions which give crisis policy-making its vigor. Belief that the circumstance is exceptional. That it requires exceptional action. That acting is urgent. That existing organizations, corporations, firms must not be allowed to fail, but need to be preserved. That crisis-solving actions are a matter of expertise. That expertise must be exercised by a concrete team of experts who must be given central authority to act. That we must put aside partisanship and act together, in a collective unitary act. Ch. 7: Policy proposals can be likened to floating logs on the main progressive ideological current. During normal times government grows at a constant slow rate. Policy proposals can be likened to floating logs thrown to float downstream with the natural flow of the main progressive ideological current. Responsibilities are transferred slowly and constantly from the commercial and nonprofit sector towards the government. The floating logs are so numerous that logjams form. During normal times, logs impede each other's passage. Almost all proposal meet sufficient organized opposition. During a crisis, individuals authorize government with more discretion in selecting activities and defer more responsibilities to it. Fear accelerates the motion of logs downstream. * Government grows faster during crises because the dubious presumptions accelerate "logrolling" and strengthen & multiplies the "iron triangles". Logrolling is the process whereby congressmen, or more generally organized interests, barter reciprocal support for their respective programs. Logrolling accelerates because third party opposition (and public opposition) to political deals loses its potency. Iron triangles are deals between three actors, a governmental public service or purchasing agency, a private beneficiary or private supplier, and a committee with appropriation authority which uses its power to sponsor the deal. When the committee with appropriative authority enjoys more discretion, it will preside over deals more effectively. * Why are programs passed indiscriminately? Because the situation is perceived as exceptional few have a clear idea what should be done. There are no recipes for exceptional situations. The public cry during a crisis is not a for a particular government action. * Why is the after-crisis retrenchment incomplete? Because organized groups can shift mission. The organized groups stand to lose substantial value and because they are already organized for one purpose they can use their organizational advantage for further purposes. A new purpose is the legitimacy of old kind of purpose in new kinds of circumstances. For example, military spending in 1940 was 1 percent of the GDP. Four years later is was 40 percent. After the war military organizations now regrouped to grapple with the Soviet threat. * How can one prevent government growth? One can prevent government growth only if one reverses the direction of the natural flow. During normal times that individuals lay the ground for the future accelerated changes which occur during crises. Crises occur anyway, sooner or later. During crises the government accelerates the passing of proposals which are already about to be implemented. The main reservoirs of crisis governmental actions are not so much the fresh proposals formulated as the crisis develops. They are the set of plans and programs which the government was already seeking to implement and the proposals already put forth by organized groups. So government could rapidly shrink during crises if only the policies which already stood on the shelves were de-regulatory. It's the direction of the normal flow that matters. Crises only accelerate the passage of existing logs in the direction of the flow in normal times, whatever that is.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This in not Higgs at his most scholarly. Many of these previously published essays first appeared in The Freeman, The Independent Review and various publications of the Mises Institute. And in some ways that’s a positive: this is Higgs at his most trenchant, telling it like it is: “Lest anyone protest that the state’s true “function” or “duty” or “end” is, as Locke, Madison, and countless others have argued, to protect individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property, the evidence of history cl This in not Higgs at his most scholarly. Many of these previously published essays first appeared in The Freeman, The Independent Review and various publications of the Mises Institute. And in some ways that’s a positive: this is Higgs at his most trenchant, telling it like it is: “Lest anyone protest that the state’s true “function” or “duty” or “end” is, as Locke, Madison, and countless others have argued, to protect individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property, the evidence of history clearly shows that, as a rule, real states do not behave accordingly. The idea that states actually function along such lines or that they strive to carry out such a duty or to achieve such an end resides in the realm of wishful thinking. Although some states in their own self-interest may sometimes protect some residents of their territories (other than the state’s functionaries), such protection is at best highly unreliable and all too often nothing but a solemn farce. Moreover, it is invariably mixed with crimes against the very people the state purports to protect because the state cannot exist at all without committing the crimes of extortion and robbery, which states call taxation, and, as a rule, this existential state crime is but the merest beginning of its assaults on the lives, liberties, and property of its resident population.” [p. 15] Bracing stuff. As he himself admits in the Introduction, Higgs has come to the conclusion after his years of study of the state and its depredations that a completely stateless society must be preferable to life under any state, including the current American “state as we know it”. It’s hard to disagree with him, though I don’t think most of these essays will do much to convince those who aren’t already on board. For those of us who are, it’s a jolly entertaining read: “We need not dwell long on the logic of garden-variety military-economic corruption. As pots of honey attract flies, so pots of money attract thieves and con men. No organization has more money at its disposal than the U.S. government, which attracts thieves and con men at least in full proportion to its control of wealth. Unscrupulous private parties who desire to gain a slice of the government’s booty converge on the morally dismal swamp known as Washington, D.C., and take whatever actions they expect will divert a portion of the loot into their own hands. Anyone who expects honor among thieves will be sorely disappointed by the details of these sordid activities.” [p. 207] If only Higgs had a more prominent pulpit, he would be our generation’s Mencken. The best chapters are 19-21 in which he extends the analysis from his classic Depression, War and Cold War to the tyrannical binge the U.S. government has been on lately, first as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and more recently from the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the following recession. The warfare state got a huge boost from the former, as the “War on Terror” has served as a well-nigh perfect pretext for foreign invasions, domestic rights abasement and virtually unchecked surveillance of the populous, all to the benefit of that fiendish cancer known as the Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC), now metastasized into the “Department of Homeland Security”. And the crony-capitalist regulatory state has benefited from the latter, both via the newfangled institutionalization of the too big to fail doctrine and the more traditional pork spreading of unprecedented levels of “stimulus” spending (and other “vulgar Keynesian” policies). All with nary a peep from a blissfully unaware (or, more likely, deluded) nation of sheep. I’m not sure, by the way, if this is the “delusion” referred to by the title of the book, but it’s hard to think of a better description given how readily the “support the troops” and “defending our freedom” propaganda has been swallowed, hook, line and sinker. I think the rent-seekers of the MICC can sleep easy at night knowing that their trough will be abundantly overflowing for the indefinite future. It’s not a happy story that Higgs has to tell, and so this book may not be everyone’s cup of tea for pleasure reading. But the truth-telling he provides here and elsewhere really needs to be more widely digested.

  3. 5 out of 5

    José Antonio Lopez

    In this book Robert Higgs summarizes his ideas on why we have to challenge the existence of government. One by one he knocks down, as dominoes, the rationalization to preserve government. Many people can't imagine a world without government because we were raise, by government, to believe it is a necessary institution. If humans had the creativity to create governments, we have so to create its alternatives. Innovation has being restrained by the straw man discourse from governments. Like Dicken In this book Robert Higgs summarizes his ideas on why we have to challenge the existence of government. One by one he knocks down, as dominoes, the rationalization to preserve government. Many people can't imagine a world without government because we were raise, by government, to believe it is a necessary institution. If humans had the creativity to create governments, we have so to create its alternatives. Innovation has being restrained by the straw man discourse from governments. Like Dickens' Emperor Clothes we are reluctant to see, and Higgs does a great job in opening our eyes to understand that a world without government (as we know it) is not the same as a world of chaos.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Logan Albright

    A little disappointed in this one, after all the great things I've heard about Higgs. The first two essays were great, but I generally think it's a mistake for an author to collect miscellaneous articles, cram them together, and represent it as a unified book. The result lacks coherence, even if all the individual writings are fine. A little disappointed in this one, after all the great things I've heard about Higgs. The first two essays were great, but I generally think it's a mistake for an author to collect miscellaneous articles, cram them together, and represent it as a unified book. The result lacks coherence, even if all the individual writings are fine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jared Lovell

    A collection of essays by Robert Higgs setting forth from various aspects the utter folly of government planning. Definitely worth adding in the canon of good anarcho-libertarian literature.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Swisher

  7. 5 out of 5

    CJay Engel

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan Doherty

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jose Luis

  10. 4 out of 5

    Neil Rempel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matthew B

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Esselbach

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike Adams

  14. 4 out of 5

    Larry Mc Ilvoy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Spielbauer

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hubbard

  18. 4 out of 5

    Antig Puspitaningtyas

  19. 5 out of 5

    DR

  20. 5 out of 5

    Donald Steiny

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eric Nies

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Ruddock

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carl

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Tanous

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fred Dilger

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

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