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Dependent on D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans Stated First Edition Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312294151
ISBN-10: 0312294158
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Americans have been seduced into surrendering their autonomy by an ever-growing federal government, contends Twight, economics professor at Boise State University. That refrain is hardly new, of course. Ronald Reagan used it to great effect in his early presidential campaigns. Twight offers a plausible explanation about why politicians like Reagan, who promise to "shrink" big government, find it so hard to do once in power. In her view, entrenched bureaucrats and politicians willfully manipulate "political transaction costs" (or the costs of collective action) in an effort to influence "people's perceptions of the costs and benefits of governmental activities." Stripped of its academic window dressing, Twight's thesis is straightforward: government insiders actively promote their own public policy initiatives. In her view, this promotion often takes the form of outright misrepresentation of costs and benefits to the individual citizen. Reviewing the history of the social security program, she explains how the Roosevelt administration won over an initially hostile public by inaccurately portraying the program as akin to "insurance," which it decidedly is not. The more citizens come to rely upon government programs, the less likely they are to agitate for reform, even when such reform is needed. In addition to social security, Twight discusses the federal government's growing involvement in health care, education, taxation and data collection. Her take on virtually all these programs is predictably dour: they fail to deliver the social benefits that their proponents promise while robbing Americans of autonomy. She also implies that those who promote big government do so largely out of self-interest. In short, Twight is so deeply distrustful of federal power that she invests no merit in the contrary position. Still, she offers a spirited argument that will engage readers who follow Washington politics.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Libertarians have a basic problem with government they don't believe it should exist except to provide a police force and a military. Nor do they appreciate the necessary role politicians perform in a democratic society. Instead, they retreat into the worst romanticisms of Thomas Jefferson. This first book by Twight reflects her specialty training outside political science and history, which includes a Ph.D. in economics, a law degree, and experience in programming computers. Like most libertarians, she espouses unrealistic ideals and ideas unrelated to pragmatic solutions to social and political issues. She fills this work with criticism of the expansion of federal authority during the past 70 years, never mind which political party governed. She also ignores lessons gathered over 2500 years of Western political philosophy, except to acknowledge that politicians may lie to cover up their misdeeds, which the author terms "transaction-cost-augmentation" i.e., they spend public money. September 11 makes most of this seem like abstract economic argument. Not recommended for general libraries; an optional purchase for large academic libraries. William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ. in Shreveport

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Stated First Edition edition (January 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312294158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312294151
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael Foudy on June 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It has been said that if you were to put a frog into a pot of boiling water the frog would do it's best to escape, but that if you put the frog into tepid water and gradually heat the water to the boiling point the frog would just sit there until it dies. Never having boiled frogs I don't know whether or not that's true. But, it's a central premise of Charlotte Twight's book that if we were frogs, the government has us in the pot and has gradually brought the water to a point close to boiling.
Ms. Twight details how that happened with several examples including Social Security, federal income tax witholding, health care and education. The most frightening is her description of the rise of federal data collection. The bottom line is Big Brother is watching, he knows where you are and he can come get you anytime he wants because it's basically impossible for you to know all the laws much less abide by them.
Ms. Twight details how politicians and bureaucrats lie, cheat and steal to accomplish the ultimate goal of getting and holding power. She is more polite though and calls it political transaction cost manipulation.
I have only two complaints about the book. The first is that Ms. Twight fails to take into account the full force of government's fellow travelors in the media and special interest groups (ranging from labor unions to recipients of corporate welfare) and their impact on the growth of government. The second is that she doesn't do enough to put the evolution of America's government into a complete historical and philosophical context.
Nevertheless, this is a book well worth reading. If you were to read it in conjunction with "The Myth of the Robber Barons," "Bias" and "America's Thirty Years War" you would have a more complete picture of what is really going on.
But, whatever you do, read this book. It's worth the effort.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By W. E. Schetlick on January 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Wow! Charlotte Twight's book, "Dependent on DC" is clearly one of the best "scientific" political polemics I have ever read. Twight employs the economic analysis of the "law and economics" movement to explain why and how government has been successful in creating and maintaining the New Leviathan that contolls virtually every single aspect of our daily lives.
Twight explains that policy wonks, bureaucrats and legislators have been successful in altering the incidence of transaction costs related to government activity from government itself to the naysayers and adversaries of increased government at all levels, thereby making it difficult (if not impossible) for constitutionally-limited government to survive.
This book is both a serious academic work which should appeal to scholars and academics, as well as a political polemic designed for generally-sophisticated readers interested in the dynamics of public policy formation.
Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down . . . a real page turner!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin G. Pratt on March 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I agree with many of the comments regarding the "tough read" -- however, this was more true of the 2nd chapter that outlines the agenda and all of the ways transaction-costs are raised. You could almost skim or skip it and head to the rest of the chapters that bring her theory more alive through the examples of Social Security, Income Taxes, etc. These chapters read like a detective novel and provide tremendous education.
Part of the "transaction costs" inherent to understanding why government controls so much of our lives now is due to the somewhat dry nature of the material -- but perhaps slugging through a few dry parts of this book and trying to connect to them is part of the price that Jefferson referred to as the "eternal vigilance" required for freedom.
My experience to date is that most people simply don't want to be free. Although the wouldn't say it explicitly, their behavior shows that they'd rather be treated like children and taken care of by the state.
If liberty matters to you; if you would prefer to be treated like an adult... read this book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joseph H Pierre on June 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just the first chapter is worth the cost of the book, and then some. If only it reaches "best seller" status! But, even then, I think that the population is so mired in ennui and self-interest, and feels so helpless to change things that it would make little difference.

Charlotte Twight holds a doctorate in economics and a J.D. from the University of Washington and is a professor of economics at Boise State University. This is her subject, and she is extremely knowledgeable.

Her message? The United States, in one lifetime has deteriorated from a land of liberty into a socialist, controlled society where the individual citizen's every action is controlled by government; where the federal government has grown in power exponentially until it rules every aspect of our lives with bureaucratic rules and regulations, where the Supreme Court, Congress and the Executive Branch (both political parties) have usurped powers that the founders of the country would be horrified to witness.

The Supreme Court has become the final arbiter of our Constitution, changing its meaning without going through the amendment process, and thus denying the population their rightful place in the process. We no longer hold the power the Constitution guaranteed us when, through it, we created the federal government and spelled out its limitations and granted it certain carefully delineated powers, and made our representatives swear to uphold the Constitution, which they still must although most have probably not even read it.
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