Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan


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Power: n. 1.: a position of ascendancy; ability to compel obedience; control, dominion; a military force or its equipment; ability to wage war. . . . [Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1986]

Crisis and LeviathanGovernment has continually grown in size and scope during this past century, but how and why has it done so? Is such growth inherent in the nature of government, because of some greater societal need, or are there other causes?

In his book, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs shows that the main reason for such growth lies in government’s responses to national “crises” (real or imagined), including economic upheavals (e.g., the Great Depression) and especially wars (e.g., Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Cold War, etc.). The result is ever increasing state power, which endures long after each crisis has passed--fostering extensive corporate welfare and pork, raising taxes, and undermining civil and economic liberties and economic growth. Moreover, crises are usually the creation of earlier government interventions and the flouting of constitutional law. Thus, government action begets further government action in an endless “death spiral.”

Center for Peace & LibertySpecial interest groups use each crisis to further expand government to their benefit. As government power grows, writes Dr. Higgs, such dependent constituencies become stronger and government achieves a special form of autonomy. Both of those factors make more difficult reducing the size and scope of government or even limiting further efforts to increase its reach. Limiting government encroachment is especially difficult as long as the citizenry remain uninformed of its true effects. In short, the expanding of government’s economic and social power is deeply intertwined with the pursuit of war and empire. As the World War I journalist Randolph Bourne correctly stated, “War is the health of the State.”

A project of The Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, OnPower.org provides researchers and the general public with a one-stop, selective, bibliographic compendium of both scholarly and popular works and commentary on the domestic and international ill-effects of national “crises,” including preventative, interventionist wars around the world to create a U.S. empire.

Because of the substantial nature of the subject matter, OnPower.org can in no way be considered definitive. However, the site will be regularly updated, featuring references ranging from orthodox to revisionist and from left to right politically, illustrating the broad significance of the issues involved and the rich array of analyses and perspectives that contribute to understanding the nature and impact of government power. As a result, discerning readers may benefit from such work while also disagreeing with various views. Individual scholars and writers speak for themselves, and because of the differing views involved, nothing here should necessarily be considered the conclusions, opinions, or views of The Independent Institute.

The material on this site is generally organized by headings and subheadings covering the nature and ill-effects of crises and government power or arranged by historical eras or events. Where possible, online texts have been included as well as other sources to obtain copies of both in-print and out-of-print books. The objective is to provide varying cross sections of the literature and research on the serious problems created by U.S. interventions domestically and around the globe and the alternative of non-interventionism.

No issue is more central to the debate over public policy and more crucial to making peace, open markets, individual liberty, and the rule of law the cutting edge for future change.

Crises and Power:


U. S. Foreign Policy:

Quotes on Power (quotes from more than 450 authors, scholars, political leaders, and others)


About the book, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs:

Visit The Independent Institute