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Crisis and Leviathan
High Resolution Cover
Crisis and Leviathan
Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government
Robert Higgs (Author)
Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr. (Foreword)

Paperback • 384 pages • 5 figures • 4 tables • 9.2 x 6.2 inches

ISBN-13: 978-1-59813-111-7

Launch Date: 1/1/1987

Publisher: The Independent Institute




List Price: $28.95
Price: $23.15
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Everyone knows that government has continually grown in size and scope during this past century, but how and why has it done so? Is this growth inherent in the nature of government or because of some greater social needs, or are there other causes?

In Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs shows that the main reason lies in government’s responses to national “crises” (real or imagined), including economic upheavals (e.g., the Great Depression) and especially war (e.g., World Wars I and II, Cold War, etc.). The result is ever increasing government power which endures long after each crisis has passed, impinging on both civil and economic liberties and fostering extensive corporate welfare and pork. As government power grows, writes Higgs, it achieves a form of autonomy, making it ever more difficult to decrease its size and scope, and to resist its further efforts to increase its reach, so long as the citizenry remain uninformed of its true effects.

One of the most important books ever written on the nature of government power, Crisis and Leviathan is a potent book whose message becomes more trenchant with every passing day.


Table of Contents

Part I. Framework

Chapter 1. The Sources of Big Government: A Critical Survey of Hypotheses

    Explanations of the Growth of Government
    Modernization/Public Goods/The Welfare State/Political

Chapter 2. How Much Has Government Grown? Conventional Measures and an Alternative View

    Conventional Measures of the Growth of Government
    The Essence of Big Government: An Alternative View
    Ratchets: Conventional Measures versus Fundamentals

Chapter 3. On Ideology as an Analytical Concept in the Study of Political Economy

    What Is Ideology?
    Ideology and Political Action
    Ideology in Analysis
    Ideology and Rhetoric
    Ideology: Exogenous or Endogenous?

Chapter 4. Crisis, Bigger Government, and Ideological Change: Toward an Understanding of the Ratchet

    A Schematic View of the Problem
    Why Stage II? A Cost-Concealment Hypothesis
    Why State IV? A (Partial) Hypothesis on Ideological Change
    Recapitulation: Why the Ratchet?
    The Task Ahead

Part II. History

Chapter 5. Crisis Under the Old Regime, 1893-1896

    Creative Destruction Ideologically Sustained, 1865-1893
    Depression and Social Unrest, 1893-1896
    Serving the Gold Standard
    Maintaining Law and Order in the Labor Market
    Striking Down the Income Tax

Chapter 6. The Progressive Era: A Bridge to Modern Times

    Economic Development and Political Change, 1898-1916
    The Ideological Winds Shift
    End and Beginning: The Railroad Labor Troubles, 1916-1917

Chapter 7. The Political Economy of War, 1916-1918

    Neutral Prosperity and the Shipping Crisis
    The Preparedness Controversy and New Governmental Powers
    War and Conscription
    Manipulating the Market Economy: The Major Agencies
    Labor Problems and the Railroad Takeover
    Supreme Court Rulings on War Measures
    Legacies, Institutional and Ideological

Chapter 8. The Great Depression: “An Emergency More Serious Than War”

    Economic Rise and Fall, 1922-1933
    What Did Hoover Do?
    Interregnum of Despair
    Emergency, Emergency!
    Planting the First New Deal: The Hundred Days
    Cultivating and Pruning the First New Deal: The Supreme Court
    Legacies, Institutional and Ideological

Chapter 9. The Political Economy of War, 1940-1945

    De Jure Neutrality, De Factor Belligerency, 1939-1941
    More Powers and Price Controls
    The Armed Forces and the Economy
    Work or Fight
    The Supreme Court Also Goes to War
    Legacies, Institutional and Ideological

Chapter 10. Crisis and Leviathan: From World War II to the 1980s

    The Mixed Economy: March into Socialism or Fascism?
    Crisis and Leviathan: The Recent Episodes

Chapter 11. Retrospect and Prospect


Select Bibliography


Crisis and Leviathan is a book of major importance, thoroughly researched, closely argued, and meticulously documented. It should be high on the reading list of every serious student of the American political system.”
Political Science Quarterly

Crisis and Leviathan is an important, powerful, and profoundly disturbing book.”
James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, Journal of Economic History

“By focusing on certain critical episodes in American history, Robert Higgs has documented the remarkable and alarming growth of Big Government. His ambitious work covers the subject in great detail and in a way that will appeal to both scholars and a more general audience. . . . The conclusion of Higgs’s analysis is a thoughtful but disturbing view of American prospects. Whether traditional constitutional restraints or the unique operation of a mixed economy can avert what he and others fear as a march into socialism or fascism no one knows. As we consider the future, Higgs offers enlightenment if not optimism.”
Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., Professor of History, State University of New York, Albany

“Insightful, compelling, and clear, Higgs breaks new ground in explicating the most important socio-political trend of our time—the growth of American government.”
The Freeman

“What is most exciting and intriguing about Crisis and Leviathan is that Higgs is now working within the tradition of economic history exemplified by Schumpeter and Polanyi. Like them, and unlike the new economic historians, Higgs refuses to treat political, cultural, or ideological aspects of historical reality as irrelevant to the study of economic development.”
Reviews in American History

Crisis and Leviathan is a thoughtful and challenging work.”
Harper’s Magazine

“How big government gets that way: It takes over new turf in time of crisis, then hangs on to much of it after the crisis is over.”

“That big government grew from crises is not a new idea, but just how that happened is an astounding story, and the superb account that Higgs gives of that process may come as something of a shock to his readers.”
Jonathan R. T. Hughes, Professor of Economics, Northwestern University

Crisis and Leviathan is a blockbuster of a book, one of the most important of the last decade. It is that wondrous and rare combination: scholarly and hard-hitting, lucid and libertarian as well.”

“Robert Higgs is a first-rate economist and economic historian who sets out a provocative thesisâ€"namely, that governments exploit crises (real and fabricated) as excuses to grow and to strip people of their wealth and liberties. In Crisis and Leviathan, Higgs skillfully and carefully tests this thesis against history. The thesis stands. Governments do indeed exploit crises as opportunities to confiscate ever-greater powers. After each crisis, the amount of power recently added to government’s stock might shrink somewhat, but very seldom back to what it was prior to the crisis. This is one of the most important and compelling books published during the 1980s.”
Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

“A superb history. . . . I can think of no more important reading than Crisis and Leviathan, aside from the Constitution itself.”
The American Spectator

“I just read Crisis and Leviathan. Wonderful work! I will try to stem the tide of emergency on Capitol Hill with your inspiration!”
Michael Pence, Governor of Indiana; former U. S. Congressman

“The most masterful and persuasive treatment of the role of war in making big government bigger and liberty less secure is Robert Higgs’s book, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. Times of crisis, including economic depressions but mainly wars, give governments license to invoke numerous emergency powers. After the crisis or war is over government power recedes somewhat, but never to its previous, more limited size or scope.”
Orange County Register

Crisis and Leviathan is a blockbuster of a book, one of the most important of the last decade. It is that rare and wondrous combination: scholarly and hard-hitting, lucidly written and libertarian as well. To Professor Higgs, being thorough and erudite does not mean timorously qualifying every statement, or torpidly and "judiciously" picking one's way through the minefields of ideology. Higgs's depth and breadth of learning has only intensified his commitment to truth, liberty, and the identification its enemies. Robert Higgs, a noted economic historian, set about to answer a longstanding and vital question: why has the State grown so ominously in power in the United States during the 20th century? Why did we begin as a quasi-laissez-faire country in the 19th century and end up in our current mess? What were the processes of change? . . . One great accomplishment of Professor Higgs is to vindicate the role of ideas in history; more specifically, the role of ideology in bringing about statism in the 20th century. He has rescued the discipline of economic history from the Chicago variant of economic determinism. But this is scarcely all. For in virtually every free-market economist of our time, there is one great big hole, one big gap in his critique of statism: war. War is sacrosanct, considered necessary, inevitable, and good; and so while free-market economists will devote a great deal of energy to the evils of government intervention in oil, or forestry, or the retail trade, there is little or nothing said about the horrors and distortions imposed by the Pentagon and the war-making Leviathan State. In Crisis and Leviathan, Higgs identifies war as the critical key to the growth of statism, making his achievement all the more remarkable. . . . Not the least of the joys of Crisis and Leviathan is the love of liberty and the hatred of its enemies that shines through the scholarly apparatus of the book. . . . What a treasure, then, when an erudite scholar and distinguished economic historian such as Robert Higgs, conveys a passionate intensity in favor of liberty and against the depredations of the State! . . . We live in an age of outrageous hype, when publishers and book dealers tout every other book in print as "the greatest of all time." So what are we to do when a book of genuine greatness comes along? I say this about very few books: make this your top priority this year; rush out and read the book. And then proclaim it throughout the land.”
Murray N. Rothbard, late S.J. Hall Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


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News Date
“Quote of the Day” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited on Cafe Hayek Wed., Apr. 8, 2015
Sr. Fellow and Author of Crisis and Leviathan Robert Higgs Interviewed on the Tom Woods Radio Show Thu., Jul. 31, 2014
“Higgs, Hoppe, and the Cycle of the State” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited in Mon., Jun. 9, 2014
“Cowen and Crisis Reconsidered” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited in Library of Economics and Liberty’ Econblog Mon., Apr. 28, 2014
“The Growing Government and the Ratchet Effect” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited on the Mike Church Radio Show Tue., Apr. 15, 2014
“Shedding some light on the libertarian surge” Crisis and Leviathan by Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs is cited in Renew America Thu., Apr. 10, 2014
“Why Michigan Needs a Tax Cut” Crisis and Leviathan by Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs cited in The Mackinac Center blog Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
“Regime Uncertainty Past and Present” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs interviewed on CATO Institute’s Daily Podcast Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
“How the World Was Made Safe for Crony Capitalism” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs mentioned in Tue., Nov. 5, 2013
“Stopping the growth of government” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan mentioned in National Business Review Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
“Not Even Achieving An Impossible Libertarian Dream Will Suffice” Op-Ed by Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in Eurasia Review Tue., Aug. 13, 2013
“Excuse me? GOP to blame for ObamaCare?” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs and his “Ratchet Effect” mentioned in Jonah Goldberg”s column in USA Today Mon., Aug. 5, 2013
“Wake Up, Gulliver: The Lilliputians Are Almost Done” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan is quoted in the Post-Journal Mon., Jul. 22, 2013
“With Gulliver Asleep, The Lilliputians Are Almost Done Smothering The U.S. Economy” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited in Forbes Thu., Jun. 20, 2013
“Old crisis creates new leviathan” Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan mentioned in The Richmond Times-Dispatch Wed., Jun. 12, 2013
“Australia’s big government, by the numbers” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan quoted Tue., May. 7, 2013
“Crisis, Policing And Militarism After Boston: Why We Need To Establish Fire Lines” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan quoted in The Huffington Post Tue., May. 7, 2013
“Income tax gets progressively complicated” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan mentioned in The Star Press (IN) Fri., Apr. 26, 2013
“The movement for medical price transparency is happening” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan is quoted on Tue., Apr. 2, 2013
“Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?” Robert Higgs author of Crisis and Leviathan is quoted in Human Events Tue., Mar. 19, 2013
“The 100th Anniversary of the Income Tax and the Lesson We Should Learn from that Mistake” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited on Wed., Feb. 6, 2013
“Carbon Tax Would Raise Unemployment, Not Swap Revenue” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan quoted in Coal Power Magazine Tue., Jan. 29, 2013
Robert Higgs and his landmark book, Crisis and Leviathan cited in Washington Times: “Stemming the tide of government growth” Mon., Dec. 24, 2012
“Feds Wasting Money on Confusion Centers” Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan cited in The Daily Progress Mon., Oct. 22, 2012
Senior Fellow Robert Higgs cited in Reason: “Feds Wasting Money on Confusion Centers” Thu., Oct. 11, 2012
Thomas DiLorenzo cites Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in The Freeman article, “Regulatory Extortion: No Company or Industry Is Safe” Wed., Aug. 8, 2012
Senior Research Fellow Robert Higgs cited in The Examiner (CA): “Abolish the TSA!” Tue., Aug. 7, 2012

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