CRISIS AND LEVIATHAN: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government by Robert Higgs

CRISIS AND LEVIATHAN: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An analytical study of the trend towards growth in American government. Higgs (Political Economy/Lafayette) attempts to find answers to the question: ""What has generated the growth of government?"" Citing a half-dozen occasions or eras when government made major leaps in growth--the Progressive Era, WW I, the Depression, WW II, and the Great Society years--he argues that, generally, wars, depressions, and labor disturbances have acted as catalysts--or excuses--for Federal officials to take over previously private rights and activities. Although brought into being to solve specific emergency problems, the laws and regulations usually remained after the crises passed. Higgs finds great concern in the fact that in these cases new regulations were reinforced by ideological changes on the part of the public. Unlike European governmental gigantism, in the US ""the development of Big Government was a matter not of logic, however complicated and multidimensional, but of history."" Higgs' major weakness is in putting his analysis to work. The future is given short shrift in a mere three paragraphs. ""In speaking of the future one must be brief. No one knows, no one can know, the future."" But one can also carry brevity too far. Overall, a cogent but old-hat analysis.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press