happy that my copy of Rollback
arrived today. It is a very different book from what you would
expect. Once again, Thomas Woods dealt with a publisher that packaged
his book for a particular niche market but if you pay attention
to the packaging, you miss the substance. In this case, and probably
once again, the target is the Tea Party. But the substance? This
is the book that tracks its target like a hound on the chase,
and the prey is the central government and the myths that surround
it. In some way, I really do hope that Tea Party people buy it.
They will leave this book much enlightened, changed, and even
is certainly going to make most readers uncomfortable and thatís
all to the good. It takes on both liberal and conservative conventions
and their habits of mind. The objective of the work is dramatically
ambitious but never quite stated outright. I would describe it
this way: Woods works with relentless precision, like an intellectual
surgeon, to convince the reader that the government is not what
it says (the source of security, prosperity, peace, justice, health)
it is but is rather the opposite and thereby we can and should
do without it precisely in the name of promoting security, prosperity,
peace justice, and health.
to completely lift the veil that covers the state, and he does
so not through rhetorical bombast or libertarian theorizing but
through careful, fact-filled argumentation on the issues that
most people think about.
of the book owes something to its extremely creative organization.
He begins with the general theme and jumps straight into the big
issues that are being debated right now. So the first target is
health care, and here he goes back to the beginning of government
involvement and takes us straight up to the present, showing that
the entire sector is half-socialized as it is and it is precisely
because of this that there are so many problems. Then he demonstrates
the gross error of proceeding further down the socialist path,
and argues for repealing the existing apparatus, not in the way
that Republicans are imagining but in a way that goes beyond what
anyone in public life is willing to say.
up the model for the book, and this model is then applied to the
economic stimulus packages and counter-cyclical policies the government
has used to deal with the great recession. Here we see the full
Austrian perspective in glorious display. This pattern is extended
to the chapter on the Fed, which ends up being a sweeping attack
on all forms of central banking and government monetary policy.
we move into the surprising area that is sadly neglected in reformist
literature: the military. He treats the bureaucracies, programs,
and policies as another species of interventionist practice, no
different in its operations, dynamics, and effects than any other
government program. It lives parasitically off the productivity
of the people, draining capital and killing innovation, plus wrecking
lives. He adds an interesting twist here by demonstrating that
there does exist an anti-militarist strain within American conservative
thought; his goal here is simply to extend and apply that strain.
we come to the real meat of the book, and the most challenging
part. Woods debunks the myth of good government and makes clear
that the goal of all reform must not be to make government work
better but to disengage it completely from society and economic
life. Whereas the previous sections might have educated many readers
on facts that they did not know, this section, the largest of
the book, deals with the core of the American civic religion.
This is also where the scales being to fall from the eyes. His
point is that there is nothing that the government does that improves
our lives relative to how freedom might handle the same issue,
that there is nothing that needs to be done in society that freedom
cannot do better than bureaucracies. Now, obviously, this section
represents a dramatic departure from every political convention.
It takes us out of the framework of "limiting government"
and into the area of radical freedom.
value added here relative to a philosophical book on anarchism
are the specifics that are up to the minute in current affairs.
He puts meat on the theoretical bones of the case for living without
government. We might say that this is the peopleís case for orderly
anarchism. It is for this reason that Rollback isnít really the
right word, in fact. It is really about eliminating the federal
government as we know it. In this sense, the book is rather mind
on every resource, and the best resources too, to make the case,
and never shrinks from taking on the really hard issues. He is
a serious scholar with an editorís strategic sense. He knows what
issues to discuss and he knows the best arguments to explain them
from the point of view of freedom. In so doing on issue after
issue, he helps the reader imagine life without power. Without
his thousands of specifics, he demonstrates that radical liberty
is not just a beautiful theory; it is a beautiful and essential
practice. I can easily see this book as this generationís Common
Sense: a book that enlightens and emboldens people to see the
practical urgency of liberty in our times and in our world.