Blogs > Liberty and Power > Against Leviathan

Jun 15, 2005 6:47 pm


Against Leviathan



Robert Higgs's masterpiece, Crisis and Leviathan, has a wonderful supplement in the recently published Against Leviathan. Both of these books, along with Higgs's numerous articles and scholarly studies over the years, constitute a tremendous body of anti-state scholarship. When I read Crisis in college, often between classes or sitting at a bar, I couldn't believe my eyes to see how in depth and comprehensive was his treatment of all the varying intricacies of political economy during times of crisis-induced nationalization and militarization of American resources, business and labor.

Against Leviathan is a little more polemic and impassioned—not to say less rigorous in its research—and has a slightly greater chance, in my experience, of inciting the reader to share the author’s anger and frustration. After reading it, I was frankly rather upset, especially by the sections on the war on drugs, both in its overt and well-recognized form (the war on illicit recreational substance users) and the less appreciated campaign (the war to deprive the ill from their needed and preferred but non-FDA-approved medicines). Both wars have assaulted individual liberty and have led to thousands of American deaths. And when Higgs writes about it, he discusses statistics and policy options, but the living resentful emotion of living under the tyranny of the therapeutic state resides in each of his virtuosically chosen words. I get the impression that Higgs has had it and he’s not going to take it any more.

But the book is filled with facts, data and information—more than one might believe without thinking about it while reading it, since the author’s prose goes does so easily and is not cluttered with extraneous and arrogant jargon. Here’s my review of the book from a while back on LewRockwell.com, in which I touch on other issues he examines, such as the oppression of conscription, economic egalitarianism as a supposed a priori good (he debunks this one well), and the nasty characters who have ruled this country (such as Richard Nixon, who, truth be told, was no more amiable and tactful in private discussion than he was honest and humble in his public “service”). I’d really like the comments of anyone who’s read the book, or anyone who hasn’t read it. This collection of essays truly is superb.



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Anthony Gregory - 6/20/2005

David, I see the unfortunate lack of interest in history among libertarians, who seem more interested, if in academics at all, in the subjects of philosophy and economics. These are important, of course, but we need many more libertarian students of history. Although I see us winning on the economics front, we're effectively losing the historical arguments to the leftists and neoconservatives.


Anthony Gregory - 6/20/2005

David, I see the unfortunate lack of interest in history among libertarians, who seem more interested, if in academics at all, in the subjects of philosophy and economics. These are important, of course, but we need many more libertarian students of history. Although I see us winning on the economics front, we're effectively losing the historical arguments to the leftists and neoconservatives.


David Timothy Beito - 6/19/2005

Unfortunately, Higgs is a rarity. For reasons that are not entirely clear, libertarians and classical liberals tend to shun the field of history.


William Marina - 6/19/2005

It will take some kind of massive collapse to offer an opportunity for change such as the seemingly impending financial one as the Empire bankrupts us.
That will most likely result in more State Socialism for the rich.

In more recent comments above, I note the work of MacMulllen on Rome. What idiots like Boot don't understand, and MacM did his dissertation on it, is that in the last three or so centuries of the "decline" in the West, Rome was essentially a State Socialist Empire. I know of no Empire in history that sought to be a Universal Empire, that didn't end up that way.


Anthony Gregory - 6/17/2005

Bill, I have Taoist leanings, if such a thing is possible. I don't know enough about it to say more than that, but I do know enough about libertarians to say I'm one of those, so I keep saying it.

Do you think the empire will continue and get worse and worse?


William Marina - 6/17/2005

I have read Bob's recent compilation of articles and very much agree with the analysis.
I do not, however, believe much will be done to change the nature of the
empire.
That is basically why I define myself as a Taoist rather than a libertarian.
Rome took from 202 BC to 1453 AD to collapse with "old republicans" grousing all along the way. By that time there were new republicans in city states such as Florence.
If monarchists can say, "the king is dead, long live the king!" why can't we say, "the republic is dead, long live the republic?"

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