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.