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Research Article

War and Leviathan in Twentieth-Century America
Conscription as the Keystone


    “Times of danger, when Power takes action for the general safety, are worth much to it in accretions to its armoury; and these, when the crisis has passed, it keeps. . . . It is impossible to exaggerate the part played by war in the distension of Power.”
    —Bertrand de Jouvenel1

The association of war and the growth of government in the modern era is a commonplace. Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state” has become a cliché. Having extensively surveyed the fatal linkage, Bruce Porter concludes that “a government at war is a juggernaut of centralization determined to crush any internal opposition that impedes the mobilization of militarily vital resources. This centralizing tendency of war has made the rise of the state throughout much of history a disaster for human liberty and rights.”2 Porter maintains that much of the history of the West during the past six centuries can be reduced to a simple formula: war made the state, and the state made war. In the process, countless individuals suffered the destruction of their liberties, property, and lives.

Still, as a cause of the development of big government in the United States, war seldom receives its due. Scholars and laymen alike usually trace the origins of our own Leviathan to the New Deal. In doing so, they attribute too much influence to the New Dealers as such. Franklin D. Roosevelt and friends never would—or could—have done what they did in the 1930s without the state-building precedents of World War I, which in many important cases they reinstituted with little more than a change of name. But if World War I gets insufficient notice from students of the growth of government, World War II gets even less. Too often, it is viewed as a discrete event, an episode when government took on awesome dimensions but then relinquished the new powers after victory had been won, more or less returning the relations between government and civil society to the prewar status quo. Nothing of the sort happened, or could have happened. A politico-economic undertaking of such enormous magnitude does not just come and go, leaving no trace. In fact, the Big One left a multitude of important enduring legacies.

The government’s organization of the economy for war, more than anything else, determined how the central government would grow in the United States in the twentieth century. And conscription, more than anything else, determined how the government would organize the economy for war. Thus, in a multitude of ways the military draft shaped not only the contours of the nation at war but the course of its politico-economic development throughout the past 80 years.

Notwithstanding the important developments during Woodrow Wilson’s first term as President, the federal government on the eve of World War I was quite limited. In 1914 federal outlays totaled less than 2 percent of GNP. The top rate of the recently enacted federal individual income tax was 7 percent on income over $500,000 (equivalent to about 10 times that amount in present-day dollars), and 99 percent of the population owed no income tax. The 402,000 federal civilian employees, most of whom worked for the Post Office, made up about 1 percent of the labor force. Nor did the armed forces amount to much, numbering fewer than 166,000 active duty personnel. The federal government did not regulate securities markets, labor-management relations, or agricultural production. It set no minimum wage rate, collected no social security tax, provided no make-work jobs or make-believe job training for the unemployed. Although the feds did meddle in a few areas of economic life, prescribing railroad rates and prosecuting a handful of unlucky firms under the antitrust laws, the central government was for the most part only a small nuisance. It was not very expensive and did not exert an important direct effect on the daily lives of many citizens. On the positive side, the government maintained the gold standard and suppressed labor disturbances that threatened to obstruct interstate commerce. The U.S. Supreme Court gave fairly strong protection to private property rights and freedom of contract while generally insisting that state governments not deprive citizens of property rights without substantive due process. After World War I the American people would never again enjoy a government so closely approximating the Jeffersonian ideal.

With U.S. entry into the Great War, the federal government expanded enormously in size, scope, and power. It virtually nationalized the ocean shipping industry. It did nationalize the railroad, telephone, domestic telegraph, and international telegraphic cable industries. It became deeply engaged in manipulating labor-management relations, securities sales, agricultural production and marketing, the distribution of coal and oil, international commerce, and the markets for raw materials and manufactured products. Its Liberty Bond drives dominated the financial capital markets. It turned the newly created Federal Reserve System into a powerful engine of monetary inflation to help satisfy the government’s voracious appetite for money and credit. In view of the more than 5,000 mobilization agencies of various sorts—boards, committees, corporations, and administrations—contemporaries who described the government’s creation as “war socialism” were well justified.3

During 1917 and 1918 the government built up the armed forces to a strength of 4 million officers and men, drawn from a prewar labor force of 40 million persons. Of those added to the armed forces after the U.S. declaration of war, more than 2.8 million, or 72 percent, were drafted.4 By employing the draft, the government got more men into the army and got them quicker than it could have by recruiting volunteers. Moreover, it got the men’s services at far less expense to the Treasury. As the army leadership had recommended and President Wilson had accepted even before the declaration of war, the U.S. government obtained its servicemen by following the Prussian model.5

Men alone, however, did not make an army. They required barracks and training facilities, transportation, food, clothing, and health care. They had to be equipped with modern arms and great stocks of ammunition. In short, to be an effective fighting force, a large soldiery required immense amounts of complementary resources. As the buildup began, the requisite resources remained in the possession of private citizens. Although manpower could be obtained by conscription, public opinion would not tolerate the outright confiscation of all the property required to turn the men into a well-equipped fighting force. Still, ordinary market mechanisms threatened to operate too slowly and at too great an expense to facilitate the government’s plans. The Wilson administration therefore resorted to the vast array of interventions mentioned above. All may be seen as devices to hasten the delivery of the requisite resources and diminish the fiscal burden of equipping the huge conscript army for effective service in France. Notwithstanding these contrivances to keep the Treasury’s expenses down, enormously increased taxes still had to be levied—federal revenues increased by nearly 400 percent between fiscal 1917 and fiscal 1919—and even greater amounts had to be borrowed. The national debt swelled from $1.2 billion in 1916 to $25.5 billion in 1919.

To insure that the conscription-based mobilization could proceed without obstruction, critics had to be silenced. The Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, penalized those convicted of willfully obstructing the enlistment services with fines as much as $10,000 and imprisonment as long as 20 years. An amendment, the notorious Sedition Act of May 16, 1918, went much further, imposing the same harsh criminal penalties on all forms of expression in any way critical of the government, its symbols, or its mobilization of resources for the war. These suppressions of free speech, subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, established dangerous precedents that derogated from the rights previously enjoyed by citizens under the First Amendment. The government further subverted the Bill of Rights by censoring all printed materials, peremptorily deporting hundreds of aliens without due process of law, and conducting—and encouraging state and local governments and vigilante groups to conduct—warrantless searches and seizures, blanket arrests of suspected draft evaders, and other outrages too numerous to catalog here. In California, the police arrested Upton Sinclair for reading the Bill of Rights at a rally. In New Jersey the police arrested Roger Baldwin for publicly reading the Constitution.6 The government also employed a massive propaganda machine to whip up what can only be described as public hysteria. The result was countless incidents of intimidation, physical abuse, and even lynching of persons suspected of disloyalty or insufficient enthusiasm for the war. People of German ancestry suffered disproportionately.7

The connection of the draft with these official subversions of the Constitution was hardly coincidental; it was direct, intentional, and publicly acknowledged. Consider the statement of a contemporary legal authority, Professor John Henry Wigmore:

Where a nation has definitely committed itself to a foreign war, all principles of normal internal order may be suspended. As property may be taken and corporal service may be conscripted, so liberty of speech may be limited or suppressed, so far as deemed needful for the successful conduct of the war . . . all rights of the individual, and all internal civic interests, become subordinated to the national right in the struggle for national life.8

The formula, applied again and again, was quite simple: If it is acceptable to draft men, then it is acceptable to do X, where X is any government violation of individual rights whatsoever. Once the draft had been been adopted, then, as Justice Louis Brandeis put it, “all bets are off.”9

When the war ended, the government abandoned most—but not all—of its wartime control measures. The draft itself ended when the armistice took effect on November 11, 1918. By the end of 1920 the bulk of the economic regulatory apparatus had been scrapped, including the Food Administration, the Fuel Administration, the Railroad Administration, the War Industries Board, and the War Labor Board. Some emergency powers migrated into regular government departments such as State, Labor, and Treasury and continued in force. The Espionage Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act remained on the statute books. Congressional enactments in 1920 preserved much of the federal government’s wartime involvement in the railroad and ocean shipping industries. The War Finance Corporation shifted missions, subsidizing exporters and farmers until the mid-1920s. Wartime prohibition of alcoholic beverages, a purported conservation measure, transmogrified into the ill-fated Eighteenth Amendment.

Most importantly, the dominant contemporary interpretation of the war mobilization, including the belief that federal economic controls had been instrumental in achieving the victory, persisted, especially among the elites who had played leading roles in the wartime economic management. Economic czar Bernard Baruch did much to foster the postwar dissemination of this interpretation by historians, journalists, and other shapers of public opinion. But many interest groups, like the farmers, needed no prompting to arrive at a Baruchian conclusion. “By the time the Food Administration dropped its wartime controls, it had weakened farmer resistance to governmental direction of their affairs.10 Having observed how the government could shape wartime food prices, farmers would expect it also to act in peacetime to maintain the prosperity of America’s farms.”11 Big businessmen in many industries took a similar lesson away from the war.12

In the depths of the Great Depression, the federal government employed the wartime measures as models for dealing with what Franklin Roosevelt called “a crisis in our national life comparable to war.”13 Hence the War Finance Corporation came back to life as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the War Industries Board as the National Recovery Administration, the Food Administration as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Capital Issues Committee as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Fuel Administration as the Connolly Act apparatus for cartelizing the oil industry and the Guffey Act apparatus for cartelizing the bituminous coal industry. The military mobilization of young men came back as the quasi-military Civilian Conservation Corps. The Muscle Shoals hydroelectric munitions facility became the germ of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The wartime U.S. Housing Corporation reappeared first as part of the Public Works Administration in 1933 and then as the U.S. Housing Authority in 1937. The federal social security program of the New Deal harked back to the wartime servicemen’s life insurance and the payments made to the soldiers’ dependents. The temporary wartime abandonment of the gold standard became a permanent abandonment in 1933-1934, when the government nationalized the monetary gold stock and abrogated all contractual obligations, both public and private, to pay gold. Along with the revived agencies came many of the wartime planners, including Baruch, Felix Frankfurter, George Peek, Hugh Johnson, John Hancock, Leon Henderson, and John Dickinson, not to mention FDR himself, as advisers or administrators. Obviously the wartime precedents were crucial in guiding the New Dealers and helping them to justify and gain acceptance of their policies.14

When World War II began in Europe in 1939, the size and scope of the central government of the United States were much greater than they had been 25 years earlier, owing mainly to World War I and its peacetime offspring, the New Deal. Federal outlays now equaled 10 percent of GNP. Of a labor force of 56 million, the federal government employed about 1.3 million persons (2.2 percent) in regular civilian and military jobs plus another 3.3 million (5.9 percent) in emergency work relief programs. The national debt held outside the government had grown to nearly $40 billion. Most importantly, the scope of federal regulation had increased immensely to embrace agricultural production and marketing, labor-management relations, wages, hours, and working conditions, securities markets and investment institutions, petroleum and coal marketing, trucking, radio broadcasting, airline operation, provision for income during retirement or unemployment, and much, much more.15 Notwithstanding these prodigious developments, during the next six years the federal government would achieve vastly greater dimensions, in many respects its greatest size, scope, and power ever.16

Again conscription served as a springboard for the growth of the state. This time the political pressure to adopt the draft mounted long before the United States entered the war. In mid-1940 the armed forces had only 458,000 officers and men on active duty. After the great German advances and the defeat of France in the spring of 1940, proponents of a new draft—including Grenville Clark, Henry Stimson, and others who had led the charge for conscription before and during World War I—gained greater public support. But opponents fought hard, and a national debate raged furiously throughout the summer. Finally, on September 16 Congress enacted the Selective Training and Service Act, which authorized the conscription of 900,000 men. The law was extended and amended in the fall of 1941 and again several times after the U.S. declaration of war. Eventually the draftees numbered more than 10 million men, or about 63 percent of all those who served in the armed forces at some time during the war.17 Obviously, many of those who volunteered for military service did so to escape the draft and the consequent likelihood of assignment to the infantry.

As before, a huge conscript-based armed force required enormous amounts of complementary resources to make possible its housing, subsistence, clothing, medical care, training, and transportation, not to mention the special equipment, arms, ammunition, and expensive weapons platforms that now included tanks, fighter and bomber aircraft, and naval aircraft carriers. For the Treasury, World War II was ten times more expensive than World War I. Many new taxes were levied. Income taxes were raised repeatedly, until the individual income tax rates extended from a low of 23 percent to a high of 94 percent. The income tax, previously a “class tax,” became a “mass tax,” as the number of returns grew from 15 million in 1940 to 50 million in 1945.18 Even though annual federal revenues soared from $7 billion to $50 billion between 1940 and 1945, most war expenses still had to be financed by borrowing. The national debt held by the public went up by $200 billion, or more than five-fold. The Federal Reserve System itself bought some $20 billion of government debt, thereby acting as a de facto printing press for the Treasury. Between 1940 and 1948 the money stock (M1) increased by 183 percent, and the dollar lost nearly half its purchasing power.

Had the government relied exclusively on fiscal and market mechanisms to marshal the desired resources, the expense of the war would have been far greater, probably much greater than the government could possibly finance. Accordingly, the authorities resorted to a vast system of controls and market interventions to gain possession of resources without having to bid them away from others in free markets. Although relatively few resources were simply confiscated or requisitioned, the effect was similar. By fixing prices, directly allocating physical and human resources, establishing official priorities, prohibitions, and set-asides, then rationing the civilian consumer goods in short supply, the war planners steered raw materials, intermediate goods, and finished products into the uses to which they attached greatest importance. Markets no longer functioned freely; in many areas they did not function at all. The economic system was transformed from one in which the market allocated resources, with some peripheral government distortions, to one in which the central government allocated resources, with market (including black market) influences operating only at the fringes of the command economy.19

As before, the draft played a key role in justifying the government’s imposition of a command economy. The same formula applied: If the draft is acceptable, then X is acceptable, X being any form of government coercion whatsoever. As the eminent economist Wesley Mitchell put it in 1943, “After common consent has been given to that act [conscription], civilians are morally bound to accept the lesser sacrifices war imposes on them.”20 Even the Supreme Court adopted the argument, as Justice Hugo Black evinced in a 1942 decision: “Congress can draft men for battle service. Its power to draft business organizations to support the fighting men who risk their lives can be no less.”21

World War II witnessed massive violations of human rights in the United States, apart from the involuntary servitude of the military draft. Most egregiously, about 112,000 blameless persons of Japanese ancestry, most of them U.S. citizens, were uprooted from their homes and confined in concentration camps without due process of law. Those who were subsequently released as civilians during the war remained under parole-like surveillance. The government also imprisoned nearly 6,000 conscientious objectors—three-fourths of them Jehovah’s Witnesses—who would not comply with the service requirements of the draft laws.22 Scores of newspapers were denied the privilege of the mails under the authority of the Espionage Act still in effect from World War I. Some newspapers were banned altogether.23 The Office of Censorship restricted the content of press reports and radio broadcasts and censored personal mail entering or leaving the country. The Office of War Information put the government’s spin on whatever it deigned to tell the public, and the military authorities censored news from the battlefields, sometimes for merely political reasons. The government seized more than 60 industrial facilities—sometimes entire industries (e.g., railroads, bituminous coal mines, meatpacking)—most of them in order to impose employment conditions favorable to labor unions engaged in disputes with the management.24 One indication of the enlarged federal capacity for repression was the increase in the number of FBI special agents from 785 in 1939 to 4,370 in 1945.25

At the end of the war most of the economic control agencies shut down—most but not all. Some powers persisted, either lodged at the local level, like New York City’s rent controls, or shifted from emergency agencies to regular departments, like the international trade controls moved from the Foreign Economic Administration to the State Department. The military-industrial complex, which had grown to gargantuan size during the war, shrank but survived, as top military officers and big contractors, especially the aircraft companies, lobbied hard for new procurements to shore up their bureaucratic clout and financial condition.26 Federal tax revenues remained very high by prewar standards. In the late 1940s the IRS’s annual take averaged four times greater in constant dollars than in the late 1930s. In 1949 federal outlays amounted to 15 percent of GNP, up from 10 percent in 1939. The national debt stood at what would have been an unthinkable figure before the war, $214 billion—in constant dollars this was roughly a hundred times the national debt in 1916.

The prevailing interpretation of the wartime experience gave unprecedented ideological support to those who desired a big federal government actively engaged in a wide range of domestic and international tasks. After all, the wartime central planners had just carried out successfully a complex undertaking of enormous dimensions. They had waged a global war, marshalling, organizing, and allocating the requisite resources to defeat two mighty adversaries while leaving American civilian consumers relatively well off, at least by comparison with the suffering populations of the Soviet Union, Japan, Germany, or Great Britain. Surely this great accomplishment testified to the planners’ knowledge, abilities, and devotion to the public interest. Surely a central government capable of winning the greatest war in human history could carry out such relatively mundane tasks as stabilizing the business cycle, guaranteeing all citizens a good job and a high standard of living, and regulating the industrial life of the nation to achieve greater fairness than the unfettered market. Surely. In this spirit Congress enacted in 1946 the Employment Act, pledging the federal government to play a permanent role as macroeconomic savior of the U.S. economy.27 Thanks to the GI Bill, the Veterans Administration became the overseer of what amounted to a substantial welfare state within a welfare state.

Soon after the Big One ended, the Cold One began. In 1948 the government reimposed the military draft. Then, over the next 25 years, conscription was repeatedly extended until the Nixon administration, in the face of massive protests, finally allowed it to expire in 1973. Draftees supplied the principal cannon fodder for the U.S. adventures in Korea and Vietnam as well as a large part of the standing forces positioned throughout the world to challenge the Soviets and their surrogates. After 1950 the military-industrial-congressional complex achieved renewed vigor, sapping 7.7 percent of GNP on average during the next four decades—cumulatively more than $10 trillion dollars of 1994 purchasing power.28 During the Cold War the government’s operatives committed crimes against the American people too numerous to catalog here, ranging from surveillance of millions of innocuous citizens and mass arrests of political protesters to harassment and even murder of persons considered especially threatening.29 These actions warrant close examination by students of the relation between war (or the threat of war) and the growth of the state, but for present purposes we need not dwell upon them. So far as the relation between war and the development America’s Leviathan is concerned, the deed had largely been done even before the outbreak of the Korean War.

Within three decades, from the outbreak of World War I in Europe to the end of World War II, the American people endured three great national emergencies, during each of which the federal government imposed unprecedented taxation and economic controls on the population and accumulated enormous debts. By the late 1940s these government actions no longer startled the citizenry; indeed many Americans, including highly regarded intellectuals and top policy makers, had come to regard them as desirable. Even businessmen, many of whom had continued to resist the encroachments of the New Deal bureaucrats throughout the 1930s, now looked upon the American Leviathan with an approving eye. The wartime experience, said Calvin Hoover, had “conditioned them to accept a degree of governmental intervention and control after the war which they had deeply resented prior to it.”30 As Herbert Stein recognized, American businessmen tended to “regard the regulations they are used to as being freedom.”31 Rather than resisting the government’s impositions or working to overthrow them, they looked for ways to adapt to them, positioning themselves so that the government policies would provide a tax advantage, channel a subsidy their way, or hobble their competitors.32 If the business class, with its immense financial resources and its considerable political clout, would not strive seriously to overthrow the Leviathan that had come into being by the late 1940s, there was scant chance that anyone else would mount a formidable attack.

Reactionaries could hardly expect to succeed in any event, because the post-World War II ideological climate showered an active federal government with public trust and approbation. As Ben Page and Robert Shapiro have documented in their massive survey of public opinion, World War II stands as “the most pervasive single influence on public opinion” since the mid-1930s. Among other things, it “transformed American public opinion concerning virtually all aspects of foreign affairs,” opening the way for the imperial presidency and the use of U.S. forces as world policemen.33 Opponents of global interventionism were smeared as “isolationists” and “appeasers” and thereby completely discredited. In 1953 Senator Robert Taft died, and his followers, already a dwindling corps, soon abandoned their old beliefs and political commitments.34 Domestically, the people’s devotion to the welfare state solidified. No amount of contradictory evidence seemed to dent the prevailing faith in the government’s ability to create personal and social security and to remedy the full range of human problems and pathologies.35

Nor did the Constitution serve any longer as a bulwark of individual rights. After World War II, as Edward Corwin observed, for the first time in American history after a war the country did not revert to a “peacetime Constitution.” Instead, the Supreme Court’s wartime surrender to the President combined with the carte blanche it had granted to federal economic regulation in the late 1930s to enhance all of the following:

(1) the attribution to Congress of a legislative power of indefinite scope; (2) the attribution to the President of the power and duty to stimulate constantly the positive exercise of this indefinite power for enlarged social objectives; (3) the right of Congress to delegate its powers ad libitum to the President for the achievement of such enlarged social objectives...; (4) the attribution to the President of a broad prerogative in the meeting of "emergencies" defined by himself and in the creation of executive agencies to assist him; (5) a progressively expanding replacement of the judicial process by the administrative process in the enforcement of the law—sometimes even of constitutional law.36

Under these conditions the only impediment to the relentless growth of the central government consisted of partisan and interest-group opposition to particular proposals. Time would reveal that such obstructionism, ever shifting with the winds of partisan politics and immediate interest-group objectives, could do no more than slow the onrushing Leviathan.

“It is not possible,” said William Graham Sumner, “to experiment with a society and just drop the experiment whenever we choose. The experiment enters into the life of the society and never can be got out again.”37 World War I, the New Deal, and World War II gave rise to the greatest experiments in collectivization America had ever experienced. These experiments radically transformed the political economy institutionally and ideologically. The political economy of 1948 bore scarcely any resemblance to that of 1912, and the changes gave every indication of being irreversible.

In the process by which this radical transformation occurred, the military draft played a central part. Conscription made possible the creation of a huge armed force in 1917-1918, which in turn required massive amounts of complementary resources. To get these resources the government had to raise taxes enormously, to go deeply into debt, and to impose a great variety of controls on the market economy; that is, it had to override traditional limitations on government action and to disallow longstanding economic liberties. In light of the apparent success of the policies employed during World War I, the temptation to impose similar policies during the Great Depression proved irresistible. In large part the New Deal consisted of quasi-war policies to deal with a pseudo-war emergency. Participation in World War II, with its global reach and voracious demand for resources, increased every aspect of the process by an order of magnitude: the draft permitted the creation of a huge army, which gave rise to vast military resource requirements that could be met expeditiously only by imposition of a command-and-control system throughout the economy.

By the late 1940s the three great experiments had entered, institutionally and ideologically, into the life of the society. With all the fundamental barriers to the growth of government having been battered down during war and pseudo-war emergencies, nothing substantial remained to impede the relentless growth of government.38


1. Bertrand de Jouvenel, On Power: The Natural History of Its Growth (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1993; original French edition 1945), p. 142.

2. Bruce D. Porter, War and the Rise of the State: The Military Foundations of Modern Politics (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. xv.

3. For details, see Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 123-158 and sources cited there; James L. Abrahamson, The American Home Front: Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1983), pp. 101-112.

4. John Whiteclay Chambers, III, To Raise An Army: The Draft Comes to Modern America (New York: Free Press, 1987), p. 338, n. 68.

5. Chambers, To Raise An Army, pp. 125-151. One is reminded of Bertrand de Jouvenel’s observation (On Power, p. 157) that “war is like a sheep-dog harrying the laggard Powers to catch up their smarter fellows in the totalitarian race.”

6. Michael Linfield, Freedom Under Fire: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War (Boston: South End Press, 1990), p. 65.

7. Ronald Schaffer, America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 3-30.

8. Quoted in ibid., pp. 49-50.

9. Quoted in ibid., p. 52.

10. On the various legacies, see Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 150-156, and sources cited there. On Baruch’s public relations activities, see Jordan A. Schwarz, The Speculator: Bernard M. Baruch in Washington, 1917-1965 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), pp. 193-206, 212.

11. Abrahamson, The American Home Front, p. 103.

12. Murray N. Rothbard, “War Collectivism in World War I,” in A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, ed. Ronald Radosh and Murray N. Rothbard (New York: Dutton, 1972), pp. 66-110.

13. Quoted by Porter, War and the Rise of the State, p. 277.

14. William E. Leuchtenburg, “The New Deal and the Analogue of War,” in Change and Continuity in Twentieth-Century America, ed. John Braeman, Robert H. Bremner, and Everett Walters (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964), pp. 81-143.

15. Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 159-195 and sources cited there.

16. Abrahamson, The American Home Front, pp. 131, 142.

17. Chambers, To Raise An Army, pp. 254-255; Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 200-202.

18. Carolyn C. Jones, “Class Tax to Mass Tax: The Role of Propaganda in the Expansion of the Income Tax during World War II,” Buffalo Law Review 37 (Fall 1988/89): 685-737.

19. Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 196-236 and sources cited there.

20. Quoted in ibid., p. 202.

21. United States of America v. Bethlehem Steel Corporation, 315 U.S. 289 (1942) at 305, quoted in Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, p. 221. For similar argument by the Court in other cases, see ibid., pp. 222-225.

22. Abrahamson, The American Home Front, p. 159.

23. Linfield, Freedom Under Fire, p. 73.

24. Ibid., pp. 102-103.

25. Porter, War and the Rise of the State, p. 284.

26. Gregory Hooks, Forging the Military-Industrial Complex: World War II’s Battle of the Potomac (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), pp. 225-266.

27. In the words of Abrahamson, The American Home Front, p. 155, “World War II ... validated the Keynesian economic theories that liberal governments would subsequently use to maintain full employment and justify welfare programs.” For an argument that this “validation” was invalid, see Robert Higgs, “‘Wartime Prosperity’: A Reassessment of the U.S. Economy in the 1940s,” Journal of Economic History 52 (March 1992): 41-60.

28. Arms, Politics, and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Robert Higgs (New York: Holmes & Meier for The Independent Institute, 1990), and Robert Higgs, “The Cold War Economy: Opportunity Costs, Ideology, and the Politics of Crisis,” Explorations in Economic History 31 (July 1994): 9-10.

29. Linfield, Freedom Under Fire, pp. 113-167.

30. Calvin B. Hoover, The Economy, Liberty, and the State (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1959), p. 212.

31. Herbert Stein, Presidential Economics: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), p. 84.

32. Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 243-244, and the Wall Street Journal, any day of any week of any year since World War II.

33. Benjamin I. Page and Robert Y. Shapiro, The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 332.

34. Justin Raimondo, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (Burlingame, CA: Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993), pp. 149-156.

35. For extensively documented surveys of modern public opinion on a wide range of policy issues, see Herbert McClosky and John Zaller, The American Ethos: Public Attitudes toward Capitalism and Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984) and Linda L. M. Bennett and Stephen Earl Bennett, Living with Leviathan: Americans Coming to Terms with Big Government (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1990).

36. Edward Corwin, Total War and the Constitution (New York: Knopf, 1947), p. 179.

37. Essays of William Graham Sumner, ed. Albert G. Keller and Maurice R. Davie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), II, p. 473.

38. Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 20-34, 237-257 and sources cited there.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and Editor at Large 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. He is the author of many books, including Depression, War, and Cold War.

Full Biography and Recent Publications

This article is reprinted by permission from the book, The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, edited by John V. Denson, and also appeared in an adapted version

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The size and scope of government power has grown in response to crises of war and economic upheavals. Such increased power remains long after each crisis passes, threatening both civil and economic liberties, all at the behest of special interest groups. Learn More »»

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