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Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy Paperback – May 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Independent Institute (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598130455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598130454
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An important book for our time on the nature of political power. Robert Higgs describes the government’s use of wars and real and fabricated crises to expand its power. It is history well-told and should be thought-provoking to all, whatever their political preferences.” —Stanley L. Engerman, John H. Munro Professor of Economics and professor of history, University of Rochester

“There is no economist today who has thought more seriously than Robert Higgs about the relationship between the state and the economy. His examinations of the state are grounded in historical scholarship, rigorous analytics, and in a lively and blunt style. In the process, the reader will see many historical myths exploded and sacred cows skewered. Delusions of Power is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the permanent-war economies that have been created in the 20th and 21st centuries.”  —Peter J. Boettke, professor of economics, George Mason University

“Even James Madison asked throughout his lifetime ‘In a free society, what is the proper relationship between individuals and the state?’ Few scholars in American history have contributed more to the freedom side of that inquiry than Robert Higgs . . . .  In Delusions of Power, Professor Higgs has assembled a lifetime of wisdom and analysis about this continually-asked question; and future generations will look here for the courageous intellectual fire-power with which to challenge the federal beast that consumes our freedoms every day.”  —Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, senior judicial analyst, Fox News Channel

“Lively throughout and based on deep historical knowledge, Delusions of Power can be read profitably by anyone interested in the fundamental controversies of economics and politics.”   —Timur Kuran, professor of economics and political science, and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies, Duke University

About the Author

Robert Higgs is senior fellow in political economy for the Independent Institute and the editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal, the Independent Review. He is also the author of several books, including Against Leviathan, Competition and Coercion, Neither Liberty Nor Safety, Resurgence of the Warfare State, and The Transformation of the American Economy 1865–1914, and the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Gary Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty and the Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty. He lives in Covington, Louisiana.

More About the Author

Dr. Robert Higgs (born 1 February 1944) is an American economic historian and an economist of the Austrian school. His writings in economics and economic history have most often focused on the causes, means, and effects of government growth. Dr. Higgs has written extensively about the ratchet effect, the economic causes of the Great Depression, regime uncertainty, and the myth that World War II caused economic recovery in the late 1940s.

Currently Dr. Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute's quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Higgs is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gary Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty, Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty, Friedrich von Wieser Memorial Prize for Excellence in Economic Education, and Templeton Honor Rolls Award on Education in a Free Society.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tom on July 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Higgs traverses the history of American crises, both military and economic, and explains the resulting growth of governmental influence. This book is an excellent addition to his already impressive collection on the subject, as Delusions of Power goes further to explain the men and decisions behind the leap in government. Higgs gives a clear and pointed criticism of the hubris of men in power, both those who think that they can solve the world's problems with the stroke of a pen, or worse, those who care nothing for the world's problems and seek only to use them to grab more power. For any who want to better understand the nature of the growth of government, this book is a must read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bill Prescott on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I started the early chapters I wondered if I was reading a screed against any kind of government and favoring total anarchy. That is probably too strong an impression. Higgs makes bold and unequivocal statements about the overreach of governments throughout history and his points are for the most part well taken. Having worked in aerospace during the early part of my career I empathize with his observations about the military-industrial-congressional complex and the absolute theft engendered by cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts. I also certainly agree with his points about unnecessary wars and the total waste that they inflict on societies. He even makes a good case (as have many others) that the US participation in WW II was unnecessary and led to many bad unintended consequences.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul Dueweke on September 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
Higgs has written an excellent treatise on how power concentrates in the hands of authoritarian politicians by the clever and ruthless application of crisis opportunism, which he defines as the use of spontaneous or engineered crises to ratchet the size and authority of government upward. So if "Delusions of Power" is excellent, why only three stars? Because the publisher failed to exert editorial control over certain critical issues that affected the credibility of the author. More about that later. Let's first look at what is excellent about "Delusions of Power."


Higgs uses several chapters up front to lay out the general principles with copious examples including: 1) Wilson's ability to turn the WWI European crisis into an American crisis, 2) FDR's use of the Great Depression crisis to socialize America and his engineering America's entrance into WWII, 3) LBJ's exquisite use of civil rights crisis for the Great Society explosion of Government, 4) Nixon's use of the oil crisis to grow national economic authority, 5) Bush II's use of the 9/11 Jihad to grow the military and create a whole new cabinet-level department, 6) and the Bush and Obama theatrical performances to exaggerate a financial crisis to a world-cataclysm level. A couple notable events Higgs doesn't cover: 1) Obama's invention from almost nothing of a health care crisis of such vast proportions that its "solution" required a whole new level of unconstitutional government intrusion and 2) Reagan's "evil empire" rhetoric to ratchet up peacetime military spending to historic highs. But I can't fault Higgs for such omissions since the list of crisis-opportunistic assaults is so monumental.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Efrem Sepulveda on August 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Robert Higgs book, Delusions of Power, is a collection of essays written by the author over the past several years. Over its 309 pages, the book covers various topics cocerning the nature of government and the harm that it has caused in recent history. The first part of the book covers the nature of the state and its policymaking. The most controversial chapter in this part was the essay on the how slavery and government rest on the same rationalizations. Some these rationalizations include that without a master a slave dies and without government the citzen dies and that both slaves and the people are incapable of taking care of themselves thus they need slavery and government respectively. A very sobering essay to say the least. Higgs also writes a chapter about how people should be blamed for allowing crooked politicians to rule over them. Higgs remarked "...people have been so massively miseducated, propagandized, cowed, and treated with cynical disregard of their rights for so long that for the most part not only have they lost the capacity to stand on their own feet, but worse, they have in most cases come to love the Big Brother whose boot is grinding their faces."

The next part of the book focuses on key actors and critical events. Some of the chapters include remarks on how we were led by FDR into World War II and how the Great Society has caused great harm to our country. The third part covers economic analysis, war and politicoeconomic interactions. Included in this part is how the military indutrial complex (MICC) has corrupted government. The final part of the book is filled with Dr.
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