Crises and Power
Civil Liberties
   Corporate Welfare
   Government Power
   Property Rights
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty Defense



Classical liberalism derives from individualism. Each individual owns his or her own life and energies and is therefore entitled to conduct that life according to his or her own judgment, consistent with the like liberty of others. From this foundation emerges the institutions of individual rights, private property, free trade, and the rule of law. Essential is the right of self-defense: if one owns one’s life, one has the right to defend it against aggression. This is the basic argument for the right to keep and bear arms, and against gun control.

Groups, including societies, also have the prerogative to defend themselves. Groups are collections of individuals. There are no group rights per se, but individuals, who do have rights, are free to pool their resources and cooperate for their defense. Groups can have no rights not possessed by individuals. If an individual does not have the right to expropriate others to provide for his or her own defense, no group can have that right either. Group defense must be consistent with individual rights.

Governments, which have a monopoly on the “legitimate” use of force in a particular area, have traditionally and ultimately been justified on the need for collective defense, which, it is said, cannot otherwise be provided. Since a provider of collective defense cannot discriminate between those who pay for it and those who don’t, it is argued, taxation and even conscription via government are justified to prevent free riders. In rebuttal it has been said that government itself presents a host of insidious free rider and other problems that may be worse than the one it set out to solve.

Another danger inherent in “national defense” is its tendency to exploit crises to enlarge and extend the coercive power of government—particularly executive power—to areas far removed from actual defense. If preparation for war has rationalized permanent new, intrusive powers, actual wars have magnified this process many times. The very logic of national defense weakens the checks on power that normally operate in domestic policy matters. For example, a skeptic about the fiscal viability of Social Security could not be plausibly silenced by the president’s claim that classified information shows the system to be sound.

Yet this routinely occurs in matters of national defense. The CIA’s budget is classified. The activities of the National Security Agency are covert. Military plans, unless leaked, are secret. The potential for dangerous politically motivated mischief and wrongdoing is rife, and such episodes are often not unearthed until years later—if at all. The United States went to war with Spain in 1898 after an explosion aboard the Maine—which may have been caused by a bad boiler. The War in Vietnam was precipitated by an attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin—which never occurred. U.S. participation in World War II followed the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor—which was the not-unexpected culmination of U.S. economic warfare against Japan. Even during the Cold War, Soviet activities were construed by U.S. officials so as to justify the expansion of their power to tax and regulate the American people. This was essentially the analysis offered by Midwest Republicans such as Senator Robert Taft and Congressman Howard Buffett.

The upshot is that even in a constitutionally limited republic, national defense can serve to anesthetize the people’s wariness of, and hence to relax the constraints on, power. As H.L. Mencken put it, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” In the name of national defense, the federal government financed schools, built highways, and did other things only tenuously linked to true security. This tendency to expand government authority is encouraged by the facile dismissal and even silencing of critics as alarmists whose activities give aid and comfort to the nation’s enemies.

Also, click here for Bibliography for Crisis and Leviathan.

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Privatization and Indigenous Defense:

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—. Soirées on the Rue Saint-Lazare: Conversations on Economic Laws and Defense of Property. 1849. Enlightening dialogues between a socialist, a conservative and a libertarian. [Online Book]

Osterfeld, David, “Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts, and the Police,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1.

Rothbard, Murray N. “Robert Nozick and the Immaculate Conception of the State,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. I, No. 1 (1977), 45-57.

—. “Society Without a State,” Nomos, 19 (1978), 191-207.

Sechrest, Larry J. “Privateering and National Defense,” Working Paper No. 41. Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute.

Stromberg, Joseph R. “The War for Southern Independence: A Radical Libertarian Perspective,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1979), 31-53.

Tabarrok, Alexander. “Bring on the Bounty Hunters.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute.

Terrorism and Homeland Defense:

Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

Barnett, Randy. Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. New York: Free Press, 2001.

Carr, Caleb. The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again. New York: Random House, 2003.

Ebeling, Richard M. and Jacob Hornberger, eds. Liberty, Security and the War on Terrorism. Fairfax, VA: Future of Freedom Foundation, 2003.

Eland, Ivan. “The American Taxpayer Is Paying Dearly to Be Attacked by Terrorists.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, May 13, 2003.

—. “Bush’s Department of Homeland Security: Enhanced Protection or Bureaucratic Bloat?” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute.

—. “Catastrophic Terrorism: Clinton is Missing the Point,” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, July 13, 1998.

—. “National Security Policy Turned on Its Head,” Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.), November 6, 2002.

—. “Ominous Harbinger of the Future,” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, October 8, 2001.

—. “Protecting the Homeland: The Best Defense Is to Give No Offense,” Policy Analysis No. 306. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, May 5, 1998.

—. “Recommendations from Terrorism Commission Belong in the Circular File,” Manchester Union-Leader, June 26, 2000.

—. “Review of the book Inside Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman,” Middle East Policy.

—. “Robust Response to 9/11 Is Needed but Poking the Hornets’ Nest Is Ill-Advised,” Foreign Policy Briefing No. 69. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, December 18, 2001.

—. “Smallpox: U.S. Government Is Endangering Americans to Run Risky Foreign Policy,” News-Herald (Hartford City, IN), November 12, 2002.

—. “Turn the War on Terrorism Into a War by Proxy.” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, January 23, 2002.

—. “Year 2000 Warning from Uncle Sam: ‘Duck and Cover.’” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, December 22, 1999.

Higgs, Robert. “Defending the Homeland,” The Free Market, May 2002.

—. “Don’t Federalize Airport Security,” San Francisco Business Times, October 22, 2001.

Johnson, Chalmers. “Responding to Terrorism Without Committing Terrorism,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2001.

Kepel, Gilles. Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2003.

McElroy, Wendy. “Defending Yourself Against Terror,” Fox News.com, October 10, 2001.

Rashid, Ahmed. “Osama bin Laden: How the U.S. Helped Midwife a Terrorist,” Institute for Public Integrity, September 13, 2001.

Roots, Roger, “Terrorized into Absurdity: The Creation of the Transportation Security Administration,” The Independent Review, Vol. VII, No. 4 (Spring 2003), pp. 503-517.

Sechrest, Larry J. “Let Privateers Troll for Bin Laden.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, September 30, 2001.

Stephens, Joe and David B. Ottaway. “From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad,” Washington Post, March 23, 2002.

Vlahos, Michael. Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam. Laurel, MD: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, 2002.

Watkins, Jr., William J. “Combating Terrorism and the Lessons of 1798.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, December 6, 2001.

War and Big Government:

Bacevich, Andrew J. American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002.

Bresler, Robert J. “The Ideology of the Executive State: The Legacy of Liberal Internationalism,” Politics and Society (Winter 1973).

Coffin, Tristram. The Armed Society: Militarism in Modern America. New York: Penguin, 1964.

Cook, Fred J. The Warfare State. New York: New York, Macmillan, 1962.

Denson, John V., ed. The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1997.

—. Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2001.

Fairgate, Alan. “Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism,” Reason (February 1976), pp. 45-52.

Flynn, John T.The Roosevelt Myth: A Critical Account of the New Deal and Its Creator. San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1998.

Gordon, David, ed. Secession, State & Liberty. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1998.

Hayek, F. A. Socialism and War: Essays, Documents, Reviews, ed. by Bruce Caldwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Higgs, Robert. “The Bloody Hinge of American History,” Liberty (May 1997).

—. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).

—. “Crisis and Quasi-Corporatist Policy-Making: The U.S. Case in Historical Perspective,” The World & I, November 1988.

—. “Crisis, Bigger Government, and Ideological Change: Two Hypotheses on the Ratchet Phenomenon,” Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 22 (1985).

—. “Eighteen Problematic Propositions in the Analysis of the Growth of Government,” The Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1991).

—. “Free Enterprise and War, a Dangerous Liaison.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, January 22, 2003.

—. “The Government Needs to Get Its Own Accounting House in Order.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, July 9, 2002.

—. “How War Amplified Federal Power in the Twentieth Century,” The Freeman, July 1999.

—. “If We’re Really in Danger, Why Doesn’t the Government Act as if We’re in Danger?” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, October 28, 2002.

—. “In the Name of Emergency,” Reason, July 1987.

—. “The Myth of U.S. Prosperity during World War II,” The Freeman, January 2003.

—. “War and Leviathan in Twentieth-Century America: Conscription as the Keystone,” from The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, edited by John V. Denson. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999.

—. “Wartime Socialization of Investment: A Reassessment of U.S. Capital Formation in the 1940s,” Working Paper No. 45. Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, February 2003.

Higgs, Robert and Charlotte Twight. “National Emergency and the Erosion of Private Property Rights,” Cato Journal, Winter 1987.

—. “National Emergency and Private Property Rights: Historical Relations and Present Conditions,” Journal of Private Enterprise, Fall 1996.

Lasswell, Harold. Essays on the Garrison State. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1967.

—. “The Saga of Hog Island, 1917-1921: The Story of the First Great War Boondoggle,” from The Saga of Hog Island: And Other Essays in Inconvenient History. Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles, 1977.

McElroy, Wendy. “World War I and the Suppression of Dissent,” Fairfax, Virginia: Future of Freedom Foundation, 2002.

Melman, Seymour. Our Depleted Society. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1965.

—. The Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974.

Nisbet, Robert A. The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Opitz, Edmund A., ed. Leviathan at War. Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education, 1995.

Porter, Bruce. War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Rothbard, Murray N. “War, Peace and the State,” in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays. Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000, pp. 115-132.

Schaffer, Ronald. America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Stromberg, Joseph R. “American Monopoly Statism and the Rise of Empire,” Center for Libertarian Studies, 1977.

—. “The Political Economy of Liberal Corporatism,” The Individiualist (May 1972), pp. 2-11.

—. “The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3.

Twight, Charlotte. Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control Over the Lives of Ordinary Americans. New York: Palgrave St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Vidal, Gore, Lewis Lapham, Barton Bernstein, Robert Higgs, and Thomas Gale Moore. “Understanding America’s Terrorist Crisis: What Should Be Done,” Independent Policy Forum, The Independent Institute, April 18, 2002 [Forum Announcement, Forum Audio, Forum Transcript, Order Tapes and Transcripts]

von Mises, Ludwig. Omipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944.

Winslow, Earle M. The Pattern of Imperialism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1948.

War, the Media and Public Opinion:

Eland, Ivan. “The Bush Administration’s Weapons of Mass Deception.” Oakland, Calif: The Independent Institute, June 5, 2003.

—. “Frying the French.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, March 12, 2003.

Fulbright, J. William. The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.

Gregory, Anthony. “Unbelievable Reasons for War.” Oakland, Calif.: The Independent Institute, February 28, 2003.

Hersh, Seymour M. “Selective Intelligence,” The New Yorker, May 12, 2003.

Hertsgaard, Mark. On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. New York: Schocken Books, 1989.

Higgs, Robert. “Suppose You Wanted to Have a Permanent War.” Oakland, Calif: The Independent Institute, June 12, 2003.

Higgs, Robert and Anthony Kilduff. “Public Opinion: A Powerful Predictor of U.S. Defense Spending,” Defence Economics, Vol. 4 (1993).

Kwitny, Jonathan. “Review of the book The Captive Press: Foreign Policy Crises and the First Amendment, by Ted Galen Carpenter,” The Independent Review, Vol. II, No. 2, Fall 1997, pp. 321-323.

MacArthur, John R. “Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War: How Government Can Mold Public Opinion,” Independent Policy Forum, The Independent Institute, October 7, 1993. [Forum Audio, Forum Transcript]

—. Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1993.

Solomon, Norman and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You. Context Books, 2003.

Weapons, Force Structure and Readiness:

Eland, Ivan. “Bush’s Grandiose Missile Defense Scheme,” News-Herald (OH), May 10, 2001.

—. “Crying Wolf: The Navy Does Not Need More Subs,” Defense News, July 31, 2000.

—. “Defending Forward: Going After Terrorists Threatens to Spread U.S. Military Forces Too Thin,” Orange County Register, February 3, 2002.

—. “F-22--A Needed Fighter . . . Or a Fantasy,” Washington Times, July 26, 1999.

—. “Go Slow on Missile Defense.” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, May 2, 2001.

—. “A Hollow Military Debate in the Presidential Election,” Stamford (CT) Advocate, September 5, 2000.

—. “A Hollow Debate on Military Readiness,” Foreign Policy Briefing No. 62. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, October 17, 2000.

—. “Missile Defense: Delay Is Not Abandonment,” Dallas Morning News, September 8, 2000.

—. “Missile Defense Test Obscures Tough Issues,” Washington Times, July 12, 2000.

—. Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2001.

—. “Rumsfeld vs. the Pentagon: Is the F-22 at Stake?”, News Herald (FL), April 18, 2001.

—. “Should U.S. Missile Defense Be Limited to a Ground-Based Systems? Yes, We Can Build a Limited Homeland Shield Without Breaking an ABM Treaty,” Insight, January 24, 2000.

—. “Subtract Unneeded Nuclear Attack Submarines from the Fleet,” Foreign Policy Briefing No. 47. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, April 2, 1998.

—. “Tilting at Windmills: Post-Cold War Military Threats to U.S. Security,” Policy Analysis No. 332. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, February 8, 2002.

—. “The U.S. Military: Overextended Overseas.” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, July 24, 1998.

—. “Which Weapons Should President Bush Skip?” Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, February 13, 2001.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan Star Wars and the End of the Cold War. New York: Touchstone Books, 2001.

Gholz, Eugene. National Security Space Policy in the U.S. and Europe: Trends and Choices. MIT Security Studies Conference Series, October 2002.

Korb, Lawrence J. “Review of the book Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World by Ivan Eland,” The Independent Review, Vol. VII, No. 3 (Winter 2003), pp. 469-470.

Krepon, Michael and Christopher Clary. Space Assurance or Space Dominance: The Case Against Weaponizing Space. Washington, D.C.: Henry L. Simson Center, 2003.

Russell, James. “Review of the book Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland,” Political Science Quarterly.

Wright, Patrick. Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine. New York: Faber, 2002.