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Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution Hardcover – February 16, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cato Institute; First Edition edition (February 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933995009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933995007
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,019,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this thorough political analysis, Tanner examines the transformation of conservative doctrine in America, decrying the movement towards big-government spending. Since being elected, George W. Bush has allowed the largest expansion of government spending since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society (when domestic spending increased by 27%). Today, polls report that 55% of the public consider the GOP to be the party of big government. According to Tanner, this shift is not circumstantial, a result of post-9/11 considerations, but rather a fundamental shift in the conservative paradigm. The new Republican Party is unconcerned with traditional conservative thinking-the kind propounded not just by long-standing luminaries as Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill, but by Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. Articulate and incisive, Tanner's critique provides a helpful overview of the issues facing conservatives today and an introduction to the myriad facets of contemporary conservative thinking-from national-greatness conservatives to technophiles to compassionate conservatism. Published by the Cato institute, a libertarian think tank, the ideological agenda is obvious-the book is dedicated to exposing the failures of big-government (i.e., anti-libertarian) policies-but Tanner's arguments are considerate and well-researched, and his optimistic belief in a return to small-government conservatism is largely appealing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher

For conservatives generally and the Republican Party in particular, now is a time of intense soul-searching. For the first time in a dozen years, Republicans have lost control of Congress. As a result, they are being forced to reexamine who they are and what they stand for.

It's about time. After all, more than a decade has passed since President Bill Clinton announced in his State of the Union address that "the era of big gov-ernment is over." Yet, since then, government has grown far bigger and far more intrusive. It spends more, regulates us more, and reaches far more into our daily lives than it did before the Republican Revolution. Behind this alarming trend stands the rise of a new brand of conservatism--one that believes big government can be used for conservative ends. It is a conservatism that ridicules F. A. Hayek and Barry Goldwater while embracing Teddy and even Franklin Roosevelt. It has more in common with Ted Kennedy than with Ronald Reagan.

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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Alberty on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Leviathan on The Right" is the opening salvo in the internecine battle within the Republican Party. For believers of limited government who have wondered where the GOP went wrong, Michael D. Tanner chronicles how the vision of the likes of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan have been usurped by segments of the GOP have insisted on expanding government. Why? Tanner outlines the various strains of conservative thought (In perhaps the best way I have ever seen the differences explained by any other author who has touched on this theme) that have influenced the GOP that a small government, budget-cutting agenda is not just politically unpalatable, but counterproductive to cementing political power. Neoconservatives, "national greatness" conservatives, the religious right and others have become the dominant voice during the Bush administration and by doing so have set us on the road to a fiscal nightmare that will leave our country poorer and limit our personal liberties.

Tanner's book does not touch on foreign policy but focuses on the rise in domestic spending on ever expanding entitlement programs (The disgraceful Medicare Prescription Benefit rightfully gets lambasted), educational mandates (No Child Left Behind effectively created a national school board), corporate welfare, farm subsidies and slabs of unnecessary pork. By highlighting the abandonment of federalism and the enumerated powers set in our Constitution, can anyone doubt that the policies best left to state and local governments are sapping our ability to effectively fund the protection of our country from those that mean to do us harm?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Spector on March 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Tanner's book makes so much sense. A lot has changed in our country and it is really refreshing to have writing of this clarity about what has been going on. He was able to identify trends within Republican Party policy that have resulted in some pretty strange legislation. I recommend this book. It helped me understand initiatives that have been put in place that came from the Right while espousing views traditionally held by the Left!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By William Whipple III VINE VOICE on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Republicans have traditionally favored seeking state, local, or private sector solutions to problems, while Democrats tended to favor a larger role for the federal government. Despite considerable growth in federal programs over time, voters were at least offered a lower taxes/ less government alternative.

In recent years, elements of the Republican Party (neoconservatives, religious right, supply siders, etc.) have adopted a more expansive view of what the federal government should be doing. This goes a long way towards explaining why federal spending has grown faster (real annual growth of 4.9% per year) on George W. Bush's watch than under any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. Tanner decries the emergence of big-government (or compassionate) conservatism from several standpoints.

* However well meaning some of the new initiatives may be, such as a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and the "no child left behind" program, they are also wasteful if not counterproductive. Worse, the government's "entitlement" programs (principally Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) are unsustainable, and no efforts are being made to put these programs on a sounder footing. Some people may find Tanner's proposals for cutting back on the goodies unpalatable, but they are specific, well supported, and deserving of careful consideration.

*The Republican Party lost Congress in 2006 at least partly due to fiscal laxity, and it will not regain traction without returning to its small government principles. "If [the American people] come to believe that the choice is between liberal Democrats who will give them lots of things and big-government conservatives who will give them a little bit less," says Tanner, "they will choose the liberal Democrats.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Odysseus on August 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mike Tanner's book provides a valuable service for those believers in limited government who have been left wondering what happened to their values during a period of Republican control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Tanner explores and explains the roots of "big-government conservatism," influential thinkers within the Republican tent that were never really believers in limited government to begin with. Instead, these groups, which included religious conservatives, so-called "neoconservatives," "national greatness conservatives," and followers of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others, did not seek to arrest the growth of government so much as to direct it towards ends of which they approved. "Conservatism" thus came to mean many things unrelated to limiting the reach of government, encompassing the likes of Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer, who spoke of conservative social values, but who often opposed addressing the factors (such as the increasing cost of federal entitlement programs) that cause government to grow. The goal of many of these thinkers (Gingrich being a prime example) was not to restrict the size of government, but to bolt new programs whose design they favored, on top of the old ones.

Tanner convincingly details how the transition of Republicans from a congressional minority to a governing party sealed the fate of limited government, with Republicans freely spending taxpayers' money in the service of their own re-elections.

Tanner is critical of President Bush as a big-government conservative, sometimes less fairly than at other times. It is true that the Medicare prescription drug benefit was an enormous expansion of federal benefit commitments.
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