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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
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...
Published on July 9, 2012 by Tom

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but Flawed
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...
Published 11 months ago by Paul Dueweke


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, July 9, 2012
This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (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
4.0 out of 5 stars An Apology for Anarchy?, September 6, 2012
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Needed in every home, August 29, 2012
This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (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. Higgs' reviews of various books including New Deal or Raw Deal by Burt Folsom, The Pearl Harbor Myth: Thinking the Unthinkable by George Victor and Pat Buchanan's book on Churchill, Hitler and "unnecessary war."

The essays are well-written with plenty of footnotes; however, there was a little too much use of citing Wikipedia which is a pet peeve of mine. There is also an index, but no bibliography. Dr. Higgs is one of the foremost champions of freedom in a good way. I have found through my readings of history that the State has caused grave harm to people throughout the ages and that the expansion of the state over the past century has caused untold misery. A fine effort by Dr. Higgs and I highly recommend everyone get a copy for his of her reading; five stars
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but Flawed, September 10, 2013
This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (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."

ORGANIZATION AND HIGHLIGHTS

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.

Chapters Three through Eight packages crisis opportunism into an understandable and consistent model that is clearly illustrated with examples. Then Higgs spends the next seven chapters giving detailed analyses of those events. The next five chapters concentrates on the lack of justifications for and the economics of war-making. And for his last chapter, just when I was getting tired of Higgs' incessant (though justified) beating up of the military-industrial complex, he levels his guns squarely at the financial industry. He kicks off the chapter with the following comment:

"The financial and economic crisis that came to a head in the late summer of 2008 has brought forth a huge government response, many elements of which are without precedent. The crisis, however, did not come from nowhere. In important regards, its roots lie, first, in government policies to promote more widespread homeownership than would occur in a free market and, second, in the Federal Reserve System's mismanagement of interest rates and the money stock."

So our anger shouldn't be focused solely on those evil Big Bankers, though our contempt for them is well deserved. For the preceding two decades Congress, the Administrations, and the Fed had been pushing America toward this cliff. And during that period and longer, the financial industry has made a truly colossal pile of money and has bailed itself out at the taxpayer's expense to a degree that exceeds even the military-industrial complex in crisis profiteering.

Higgs has made a number of classic quotes, two of which I replicate below to summarize much his philosophy about the deceit of Government and the foolishness of We The People:

Page 78: "In sum, under modern ideological conditions the onset of a crisis is marked by heightened deference to government officials, trust in their judgment, and willingness to grant them discretion in selecting and implementing a course of action."

Page 309: "Whenever we try to understand why policymakers act as they do, we must answer the question: Are they fools or charlatans? Leebaert concludes, in effect, that in the defense and foreign-policy realm, they are often fools. I am inclined to conclude that they are both. Indeed they are even worse: all too often they are fools, bunglers, charlatans, liars, and murderers. Such persons' playing with dynamite poses a grave danger to the rest of us. By now, we ought to have seen through them and their schemes a great deal more clearly than most of us have."

COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BETTER

A) Higgs occasionally slips into a mode of radical writing that discredits him to anyone looking for any reason to doubt his intellectual integrity, which I assume many of the readers whom we really want to reach are searching for. Here are a couple examples of what I mean:

Page 104: "... and Harry S. Truman, who took pleasure in annihilating hundreds of thousands of defenseless Japanese noncombatants ..."

Page 188: "Can anyone seriously maintain that we Americans are freer or more secure than we were before the sainted Franklin D. Roosevelt and his spiritual descendants took command of the ship of state ..."

And yet on page 304 he specifically praises a writer who "... remains well within the bounds of respectable scholarship in establishment circles ... He is not a radical."

I think the editors of the book should have changed several places where Higgs stumbled into radical writing. It's difficult for an author to not sometimes share their zeal when they are passionate about a subject, but editors should be more circumspect.

B) Higgs failed to report probably the most extreme use of financial opportunism in history. In July 2011 the U.S. Government Accountability Office's "Report to Congressional Addressees -- Federal Reserve System" reported to Congress on its partial audit of the Federal Reserve System. The results were absolutely staggering, by any measure of any government spending--ever. They concluded that, between December 2007 and June 2010, the Fed had secretly "loaned" sixteen trillion dollars (more than the GNP of the USA) to a host of banks and corporations worldwide. At zero percent interest. And at zero expectation of repayment. Here are the top ten beneficiaries, but the list is long:

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion
Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion
Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion
Bank of America: $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC ( United Kingdom ): $868 billion
Bear Sterns: $853 billion
Goldman Sachs: $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland (UK):$541 billion
JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion
Deutsche Bank ( Germany ): $354 billion

C) Higgs spends nearly the entire book on military opportunism, with one chapter on the financial "crisis" of 2008. But in the last century of crisis opportunism, our National Government has induced its way to dominate at least five other industries besides the Military. They are: Banking, Labor, Agriculture, Medicine, and Education. The difference is that National Government's role in those five industries is mostly unconstitutional, whereas its role in the Military is generally constitutional. Note that Higgs uses "Military" rather than "Defense." But if you think that the Military reeks havoc around the world, wait till the stats are in on people who have and will die of starvation, suicide, and disease as a result of just one of our Department of Agriculture's programs--the destruction of natural crops with GMOs (Government Modified Organisms). But I could not deduct two stars just because Higgs happened to not cover my favorite topics, as important as they seem to me.

D) The biggest problem with "Delusions of Power" is Chapter One: "If Men Were Angels." This chapter is fourteen pages of total conjecture about how the state always rises to a high degree of viciousness and oppression, which certainly has much truth to it, and how anarchy, though not without its own viciousness and oppression, is invariably better at protecting citizens than government, which he states as true without any evidence whatsoever. On page 15 he says:

"Although some states in their own self interest may sometimes protect some residents ... 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 assault on the lives, liberty, and property of its resident population."

Higgs "proves" his point simply by using rhetoric to cast government more negatively than anarchy. The pseudo-mathematics and tables he uses to "prove" his hypothesis are frivolous. I understand his premise and am even sympathetic to it at some level, however if I had not really been motivated to read this book, I would have closed it halfway through Chapter One and classified Higgs as unreliable--at best. And I believe this is what will happen to any moderate progressive who might otherwise find great value in the rest of the book. It is possible to cast doubt on the value of government and even open the door to some value of anarchy without sounding fanatical. Chapter One is a failure of proper editorial control, one of whose functions is to save a passionate writer from unreserved zeal.

TRANSPARENCY

This is my own view of how a Constitutional Republic could be made more resilient. One of the major failings of our Constitution, which might have headed off much of the bad behavior of our Government, is that it lacks a strong advocacy for transparency of Government to We The People. The Constitution should have institutionalized transparency, maybe by the formation of some non-government organization to have access to, monitor, and regularly report on Government actions that in the present form of our Government are unreported. Transparency is difficult to achieve, but an organization of private citizens totally outside the control of Government might have been able to shed light on the power grabs that have characterized the evolution of the United States Government. We The People desperately need more visibility into Government, which we could actually have--even without constitutional authority. We The People, however, first need to care about that transparency. There's the real rub.

Note: This book was printed in the U.S.A.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for someone interested in a free society, February 18, 2013
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This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (Paperback)
Outstanding! Robert Higgs breaks down the irrationality that government is based upon. I would highly recommend people from all political persuasions to read this book, it does a great job of highlighting beliefs that we never think about questioning.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and Erratic, March 18, 2014
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This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (Paperback)
An attempt to perplex with brilliance. Which is almost always a failure. I did not enjoy the read which plays games with facts to make a point after an exhausting prelude. The topics don't necessarily interrelate; and, it does not combine to bring it all together. This book is another example of academics who won't state the obvious and place blame where the facts lead. If anything, I believe the whole treatise is benign and weak. I suppose to promote publication. It's just too damned politically correct in times when we need anything but. The author/writers have the credentials; just not the courage to expose. One should not have to divine the point by page after page of rubbish. As for me; I learned very little. Yes, it is chopped full of footnotes and references; and, you will pick up a few gems in the rough. If you can stand it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Victors write history. Higgs exposes their lies., December 5, 2013
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Robert Higgs always presents an unconventional and remarkable view. But this is one of his best. I will never look at history without wondering how would Higgs have seen this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Higgs is smart, September 1, 2013
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This review is from: Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (Paperback)
Good book, fast shipping. I haven't read this but Albert Higgs is a pretty smart guy. Saw him on cspan, protesting the leviathan
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Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy
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