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Resurgence of the Warfare State
The Crisis Since 9/11
Robert Higgs (Author)
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Robert Higgs (Author)
Paperback • 272 pages • 1 figure • 6 x 9 inches • Index
ISBN-13: 978-0-945999-56-0
Publication Date: Aug. 31, 2005
Publisher: Independent Institute
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Resurgence of the Warfare State
The Crisis Since 9/11
Robert Higgs (Author)
List Price: $12.95
Price: $11.00
Discount: $1.95 (Save 15%)
Free Shipping On Orders Over $60! (Within U.S.A.)
Paperback • 272 pages • 1 figure • 6 x 9 inches • Index
ISBN-13: 978-0-945999-56-0
Publication Date: Aug. 31, 2005
Publisher: Independent Institute
Educators: Request exam copy
Bulk discounts available: Learn more
Paperback (ISBN 978-0-945999-56-0)
Click to expandeBooks


Immediately after 9/11, government officials and commentators claimed that the terrorist attacks had “changed everything.” In contrast, economist and historian Robert Higgs warned that history would likely repeat itself in one key respect: the government’s hasty reactions would resemble its responses to previous crises, providing little more than opportunities for special interests to feather their nests and for the government itself to expand its powers at the expense of the public’s wealth and civil liberties.

Resurgence of the Warfare State is Robert Higgs’s real-time analysis of the U.S. government’s tragic but predictable response: the quick enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, the federal takeover of airport security, the massive increase in defense and other government spending, and the carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq wrought by leaders unaccountable for their costly and deadly mistakes.

Governmental responses to crises have been—and will likely continue to be—a bonanza for political, corporate, and even religious opportunists who seek power and financial gain by exploiting the fears of the American public.


Table of Contents
Part I: Crisis and Leviathan, Again
  1. Glory Days for Government: An Economic Historian Talks about National-Security Crises and the Growth of Government
  2. Crisis Policymaking: Immediate Action, Prolonged Regret
  3. Wake Up to the Law of the Ratchet: National Emergencies Attract Opportunists Who Seek to Profit from the Growth of Government, Say Steve Hanke and Robert Higgs
  4. Every Step We Take
  5. Crisis-Induced Losses of Liberties
  6. Wartime Curbs on Liberty Are Costless? (It Just Ain’t So!)
  7. Benefits and Costs of the U.S. Government’s War Making
Part II: Airport (In)Security
  1. Federal Oversight Won’t Improve Airport Security
  2. The Pretense of Airport Security
Part III: The Draft
  1. Will the Draft Rise from the Dead?
  2. Censored Mail: Robert Higgs’s Unpublished Letter to the Wall Street Journal
Part IV: The Political Economy of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex
  1. The Cold War: Too Good a Deal to Give Up
  2. U.S. National Security: Illusions versus Realities
  3. The Government Needs to Get Its Own Accounting House in Order
  4. Nation Trembles as Congress Reassembles
  5. If We’re Really in Danger, Why Doesn’t the Government Act as if We’re in Danger?
  6. Free Enterprise and War, a Dangerous Liaison
  7. War Prosperity: The Fallacy that Won’t Die
  8. Suppose You Wanted to Have a Permanent War
  9. How Does the War Party Get Away with It?
  10. The Defense Budget Is Bigger Than You Think
Part V: Bush and the Bushies
  1. The President Is Reading a Book, I’m Afraid
  2. George Bush’s Faith-Based Foreign Policy
  3. On Crackpot Realism: An Homage to C. Wright Mills
  4. Camelot and the Bushies: Some Disturbing Parallels
  5. Is Bush Unhinged?
Part VI: The Road to War
  1. Iraq and the United States: Who’s Menacing Whom?
  2. Helplessly, We Await the Catastrophe Our Rulers Are Creating
  3. To Make War, Presidents Lie
  4. Saddam Hussein Can’t Blackmail Us with a Fissionable Softball
  5. Why the Rush to War?
  6. Paul Craig Roberts Interviews Robert Higgs on War and Liberty
  7. Nuke France
Part VII: Slaughtering the Innocent
  1. Collateral Damage: Two Venues, One Logic
  2. Military Precision versus Moral Precision
  3. Some Are Weeping, Some Are Not
  4. Are Pro-war Libertarians Right?
  5. Not Exactly an Eye for an Eye
  6. Defense of Your Home Is Not Terrorism, Not Even in Iraq
  7. What’s So Special About Those Killed by Hijackers on September 11, 2001?
  8. The Crimes at Abu Ghraib Are Not the Worst
  9. Has the U.S. Government Committed War Crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Part VIII: Cake Walk
  1. WMD Blues
  2. Taking Stock One Year after the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
  3. Can Bullets and Bombs Establish Justice in Iraq?
  4. Bush’s Iraq War: An Offer You Would Have Refused
  5. The Iraq War—A Catastrophic Success
Further Reading
About the Author

Detailed Summary

  • “President Bush and his subordinates proclaim that the United States has entered into ‘a new kind of war.’ Unfortunately, this undertaking has the potential for the same kind of domestic abuses and excesses associated with previous U.S. wars.... To act rashly, as if our present reactions to the attacks of September 11 posed no long-term dangers to the very liberties we seek to protect, would be to repeat history in the worst way.” (ch. 2)
  • “Congress has become so pusillanimous that it provides no check whatever on the president’s war making. In ‘authorizing’ the president to attack Iraq or not, entirely as he pleased, Congress not only abrogated its clear constitutional duty, but it did so with grotesquely cavalier disregard for the gravity of the matter at stake. It did not even bother to debate the issue, but simply handed over its power to the executive and returned to the workaday plundering that is its only remaining raison d’etre.” (ch. 7)
  • “During the more than forty years of Cold War, annual military spending averaged 7.5 percent of GNP. Just in the past five years, military spending has cumulated to more than $1.5 trillion. You’d think that so much money would purchase a lot of national security. Yet, apart from the catastrophic attack on New York City, the Defense Department failed even to anticipate or to defend against the devastating attack on its own headquarters!” (ch. 12)
  • “Since 1994, federal law has required government departments to make financial audits.... The Defense Department, however, has never been able to comply with the auditing requirement because its records are such a mess that they cannot even be audited.” (ch. 15)
  • “Estimates for the occupation of Iraq in 2005 alone run as high as $75 billion, and the actual expenditures may well turn out to be even greater—government cost overruns are not unheard of, especially in the military-industrial complex. If the true costs of the war to date amount to, say, $200 billion, then the cost is equivalent to approximately $1,850 per household, say, $2,000 in round numbers (if it’s not there yet, it will be soon).” (ch. 47)


Soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the news media contacted Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, whose 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government explained how national emergencies have increased the size of government at the expense of individual liberty. The steady demand for press inter-views prompted Higgs to author scores of newspaper op-eds, think-tank policy briefings, and Internet postings in which he argued that the U.S. government’s response to 9/11, like its responses to past crises, was taking us down the road to more government and less liberty.

Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis since 9/11 brings together Robert Higgs’s “real time” analyses of the U.S. response in the three-and-a-half years that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Higgs paints a bleak picture, showing how America’s political leaders in the name of “crisis management” have discarded many of the checks and balances created to thwart potential abuses of government power, spent additional billions of dollars on programs unrelated to national security, trampled civil liberties and due process at home, and pursued reckless military adventures that have needlessly killed thousands of innocents abroad.

Part I: Crisis and Leviathan, Again

Major crises such as the Great Depression and the world wars prompt the public to demand that the government “do something.” When the crises end, many emergency actions cease— but not all. Each emergency thus ratchets up the size of government and diminishes our economic and personal freedoms. The U.S. response to 9/11 has repeated this pernicious pattern, Higgs explains.

Nine days after 9/11, Higgs told Reason magazine (in an interview reprinted in chapter 1) that the “war on terrorism” would again enlarge the government—even in ways unrelated to national security—doling out pork to well-connected interest groups and bringing us ever closer to the realization of the Big Brother State. James Madison, the architect of the U.S. Constitution, had warned that war is the worst enemy of liberty, Higgs observes.

Part II & III: Airport (In)Security and the Draft

Two examples of how 9/11 has panicked people into advocating bad policies are the federalization of airport security and calls for reinstating the draft. The Transportation Security Administration was created to try to assure air passengers that the federal government was making them safer. But like other large bureaucracies, the agency soon suffered scandals that suggest it lacks real accountability and is prone to politicization.

Proponents of military conscription claim that improving pay and benefits wouldn’t entice enough people to join the military, but the “national glory” rhetoric of draft advocates suggests that they’re not very interested in trying to find out. Favorable talk about reinstating the draft indicates that in post-9/11 America, freedom has many fair-weather “friends” who would sacrifice liberty for security (and likely make us less secure).

Part IV: The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (MICC)

Forty years of Cold War military spending did not protect the Pentagon and the Twin Towers from a devastating attack. The Pentagon was—and still is—spending billions on Cold War–era arms and equipment and devoting relatively few resources to counter the new threat of terrorism.

“Bizarrely, even the granddaddy of all military boondoggles, the ballistic-missile-defense system, has regained its momentum in the aftermath of the terrorists’ use of nonballistic missiles conveniently made available by United Airlines and American Airlines,” writes Higgs. “Just as the Korean War had served as the pretext for vastly increasing military spending on weapons and forces positioned worldwide, the so-called war on terrorism now serves as the pretext for throwing money at every constituent in the MICC.”

Never satisfied until a maximum amount of the defense budget has been diverted toward buying votes for their reelection, members of Congress strongly resist reallocations away from the established Cold War programs that currently channel taxpayer money to their political backers, Higgs explains. He also takes on three popular myths about the Defense Department—as well as a few sacred cows about the White House leadership itself.

Part V: Bush and the Bushies

President George W. Bush has spoken of his so-called "faith-based" domestic initiatives, but his foreign policy also warrants that label, given its clash with the empirical realities that have plagued nation-building throughout history, Higgs argues. Bush’s ambitions of wartime “greatness” parallel the flaws promoted in a book he reportedly has read, The Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, by neo-conservative war hawk Eliot A. Cohen.

Higgs also notes the parallels between the Bush White House and that of John F. Kennedy. Not only did Bush and Kennedy share similar backgrounds and ambitions, the coterie of each fit the profile of the “power elite” described insightfully in the (otherwise often flawed) writings of the late sociologist

C. Wright Mills half a century ago. In his 1958 book The Causes of World War Three, Wright coined another term that Higgs argues fits Bush’s foreign policy: “crackpot realism.”

Part VI: The Road to War

Higgs’s analysis of the pre-war rationale for the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was prescient. The evidence for Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs proved highly flawed. Also, Bush’s breach of John Quincy Adams’s dictum (America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy”) was soon seen by many as naked aggression. Members of Congress failed to challenge the President’s unconstitutional assertion of war-making power.

“A deeper patriotism—an allegiance to the principles of the American republic—lies beyond their comprehension,” writes Higgs. “Congress may posture and pretend, but it will do nothing substantial to exercise its constitutional authority to decide whether to commit the nation to war.”

The White House’s pre-war prevarications followed a presidential tradition, Higgs argues, citing William McKinley’s insincere rationale for the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, as well as Woodrow Wilson’s and Lyndon Johnson’s similar duplicity during World War I and the Vietnam War, respectively. Had the highest priority been to thwart an emergent WMD threat, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would not have topped the U.S. hit list, according to Higgs.

Part VII & VIII: Monetary and Human Costs

Among the worst consequences of the Iraq War were the deaths of innocent civilians due to the (misnamed) “precision bombing” of densely populated areas, Higgs argues. A 2,000 pound JDAM “smart bomb” is supposed to strike within 13 meters of its target, as compared to an error range of 60–70 meters for its less-sophisticated counterpart. But in Baghdad, a city of 6.4 million people comparable in area to Boston or Detroit, and in other densely populated Iraqi cities even this degree of precision could not guarantee zero civilian deaths.

The inevitability of civilian casualties—along with the status of the Iraq War as an optional “war of choice”—made the decision to engage in aerial bombing highly immoral, Higgs argues. Yet for the U.S. policymakers who made the decision to attack, the future looks bright.

Rather than face its failures squarely, the White House shifted its war rationale to emphasize that the world now has one less dictator. Was this outcome a net gain for justice? Had Americans known the consequences of invading Iraq, would enough of them have voluntarily paid a pro rata contribution of, say, $2,000, to cover all of the costs to the country? No, Higgs argues, that would have been an offer they likely would have refused.



“In his very powerful and incisive book, Resurgence of the Warfare State, Robert Higgs is a prophet who deserves honor—and more importantly, urgent attention. The earliest pieces in this book, written a year and more before the onset of the Iraq War, prove uncannily accurate in their predictions of the terrible course of events. They demonstrate that his passionate warnings in the book’s more recent essays demand to be taken with the utmost seriousness. This book is well worth reading for anyone seeking a more peaceful, safer and freer world.”
DANIEL ELLSBERG, author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“Robert Higgs’s Resurgence of the Warfare State strikes a telling blow for liberty and merits a thunderous welcome by Americans. Laying bare the post-9/11 vacuity of the bipartisan cant and moral cowardice of the Executive Branch and Congress, Higgs deftly shows that while these paragons of demagoguery and self-interest shout patriotic bromides about protecting freedom, they are quietly curtailing civil liberties, making the U.S. economy ever more dependent on arms makers, and waging offensive wars which are constitutionally unconscionable. Nowhere is the probably fatal distance between the Founders’ design for America and the Federal Government’s lethal bastardization of it more ably and clearly presented than in this book.”
MICHAEL F. SCHEUER, former CIA Senior Counter-terrorism Analyst; author, Imperial Hubris

“I have devoured Resurgence of the Warfare State. It is brilliant and courageous; and I loved it.”
JUDGE ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO, Senior Judicial Analyst, Fox News

“Anyone concerned with the disaster produced by the ‘war on terror’ should first read Robert Higgs’s cogent new book, Resurgence of the Warfare State. He completely covers all aspects of the catastrophe.”
THOMAS GALE MOORE, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; former Member of the Council of Economic Advisors for President Ronald Reagan

"Resurgence of the Warfare State is intellectually stimulating, and—whether you agree with its tenets or not—you will be challenged by Higgs’s meticulous research and compelling logic. When you finish the book you will be reminded, as I was, of Marc Antony’s call: ‘Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war.’”

Resurgence of the Warfare State is a provocative and ultimately chilling perspective on the way the Bush administration has employed the 9/11 crisis to endanger America’s security at home and abroad.”
MELVIN SMALL, Distinguished Professor of History, Wayne State University

“This thoughtful book documents in valuable detail the myriad ways in which the tragedy of September 11 has been manipulated to justify militarism, wasteful government spending and a frightful increase in the power of the State. Resurgence of the Warfare State is a serious book with a serious argument.”
ALBERTO R. COLL, Professor of Law, De Paul University and former Dean, U.S. Naval War College

“During times of war and crisis, our government has repeatedly helped self-serving political, corporate and religious leaders increase their power and make more money by exploiting public fears. Wars inevitably make government bigger and more intrusive into personal lives, Robert Higgs believes. Resurgence of the Warfare State, his new book, is one of the most powerful and readable critiques of decisions by George W. Bush, decisions backed by a majority of Congress, to launch pre-emptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Robert Higgs’s zesty, well-written book on the crisis after 9/11, Resurgence of the Warfare State, righteously and rigorously flogs Bush and the feds time after time. His batterings of national security debacles remind readers of the folly of trusting Washington, now more than ever.”
JAMES BOVARD, author of Terrorism and Tyranny

“Even those who do not share his views on government’s proper role cannot fail to appreciate the many insightful elements of good sense in Resurgence of the Warfare State, Robert Higgs’s provocative and hard-hitting attack on the domestic implications of resurgent American interventionism.”
RICHARD K. BETTS, Director, Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University

“Robert Higgs is at his best in Resurgence of the Warfare State, combining his broad knowledge of history and economics with a passion for liberty. Higgs provides a top-notch analysis of how the crusade for global democracy abroad and the related growth in the surveillance state at home threaten freedom and constitutional government. A highlight is how Higgs employs his mastery of history to hammer the point that freedoms ‘temporarily’ relinquished are rarely restored.”
RON PAUL, U.S. Congressman

“Robert Higgs in his Resurgence of the Warfare State lays it all on the line. With ruthless logic Higgs shreds every claim of the Bush administration and its apologists. Reading Higgs leaves no doubt that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was an illegal act based in deception. Under the Nuremberg standard established by the U.S. itself, Bush's invasion is a war crime. Widespread slaughter of the civilian Iraqi population and torture of detainees are also war crimes. In one of his best chapters Higgs destroys the claim that US ‘smart weapons’ are expressions of our morality in warfare because they target only enemy combatants. Higgs explains that the accuracy within a few yards of smart weapons is meaningless. The blast, heat, and pressures from the weapons destroys everything within 120 yards of the hit. No one within 365 yards can expect to remain unharmed. Injuries can extend to persons 1000 yards away from the blast. The odds are zero, Higgs writes, that the use of such weapons on towns and cities will not kill and maim large numbers of civilians.”

“Robert Higgs challenges ‘the warfare state’ with analytical clarity and moral depth. His critique of American-style militarism is a solid rejection of the warcrazed obsessions that are propelling the vast majority of Washington’s politicians and journalists. At its core, Resurgence of the Warfare State is an intellectually cogent and ethically principled statement of opposition to the unhinged ‘war on terrorism.’ ”
NORMAN SOLOMON, author, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

“Dr. Higgs has compiled an extraordinary, and extraordinarily timely, book for Americans and others who wish to understand post 9/11 America. Two hours spent in the pleasant company of this easy-to-read yet deeply concerned and insightful Resurgence of the Warfare State is a powerful education that will fortify patriots as it enrages statists. Required reading for all! ”
LT. COL. KAREN KWIATKOWSK, former Planning Staff Officer, Under Secretariat for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense

“No one is as clear-headed and as wise on issues of war, peace, and government as Robert Higgs. I will give copies of his Resurgence of the Warfare State to all friends who are blinded by red, white, and blue hues.”
DONALD J. BOUDREAUX, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Resurgence of the Warfare State is a delight. Higgs is not only a distinguished economist and historian but a perceptive social critic. It is eerie to read Higgs’s stunningly accurate predictions from 2002 and 2003 about the likely outcome of a war with Iraq and the ‘war on terror.’ You must read this incisive, biting, and quotable book.”
DAVID T. BEITO, Professor of History, University of Alabama

“In Resurgence of the Warfare State, Higgs speaks truth to the power of the warfare state with the kind of spirited aggressiveness that is needed if truth is to prevail.”
D. GARETH PORTER, author of Perils of Dominance and The Road to War in Vietnam

“Robert Higgs is our foremost authority on the growth of government power through war and preparation for war. In his masterly analysis of the many dimensions of the currently metastasizing American warfare state, Higgs pulls no punches. His always spirited prose is a gust of fresh air to anyone exposed to the constant stream of clichés of the media. If you are able to read only one book on our deepening crisis, Resurgence of the Warfare State is the one you need.”
RALPH RAICO, Professor of History, Buffalo State College

“Robert Higgs’s book on the events since 9/11, Resurgence of the Warfare State, demonstrates not just that war is the health of the state, but that it is also a disease to liberty. Those who believe that the wars on Iraq and ‘terror’ are compatible with a belief in limited government need to read this marvelous book.”
STEPHEN G. HORWITZ, Professor of Economics, St. Lawrence University

Resurgence of the Warfare State is not a dispassionate book. Cumulatively, the book validates and illustrates in real time Higgs’s thesis that crises become the pretext for ever-increasing exercises of government power, with each increase in power becoming a precedent for yet another use or abuse in a ‘ratchet effect.’ . . . Higgs and quite a few others saw it coming. One may hope that having his observations collected between two covers will serve as a reminder next time our leaders try to sell us an unnecessary war.”


Robert Higgs is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal, The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University and has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College and Seattle University. He is the author of The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914, Competition and Coercion, and Crisis and Leviathan, recognized as one of the classic works on the growth and abuse of government power.

His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and San Francisco Chronicle. He has been a guest on NPR, NBC, ABC, C-SPAN, CBN, CNBC, and Radio Free Europe. He lectures at universities and conferences around the world.


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Sr. Fellow Robert Higgs, author of Resurgence of the Warfare State quoted on Cafe Hayek Thu., Apr. 23, 2015

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