24 hours after a book becomes available to the public are anxious
ones for an author. Will people love the book, hate the book,
or be indifferent? And so you wait.
I was in
that very position earlier this month. And then I read what Jeffrey
Tucker wrote about my new book, Rollback:
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)
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. He strives 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. ...
I can easily see this book as this generation's Common Sense:
a book that enlightens and emboldens people to see the practical
urgency of liberty in our times and in our world.
proceeds as if peeling layers from an onion. The first layer involves
facts and interpretations that are in effect disputed by no one.
(You can read the first
chapter online.) Here is the fiscal crisis Americans are facing.
It will force us to make wrenching changes. The situation, though,
is an opportune moment to go back and reexamine the myths by which
we were sold the ongoing expansion of government in the first
place. I announce at this point that I intend to describe the
crisis as an opportunity to be seized, not a calamity to be deplored.
book is saying, in short, is this: given the collapse that is
staring us in the face, we can't afford to think about government
like sixth graders anymore, even if we should want to. And what
we were taught in sixth grade about our allegedly selfless and
indispensable political class was a pack of lies anyway. It is
not the case that without the political class (1) we'd have no
art or science, (2) our limbs would be blown off by exploding
consumer products, and (3) we'd all be working in a mine for a
dollar a day.
then proceeds to one of its least controversial claims: the policies
of Barack Obama have been a disaster. I probably don't need to
elaborate on this here.
has a habit of blaming the private sector for its own failings
while taking credit for advances we in fact owe to the private
sector. The financial crisis is the classic case of the former
(though I discuss others), and that is the onion's next layer.
Why, it was lack of oversight by our wise public servants that
caused the problem! And wherever would we be without government
stimulus to see us through economic downturns?
is not merely a rehash of Meltdown,
my New York Times bestseller from 2009, which gave an Austrian
overview of the financial collapse. Rollback adds additional
lines of inquiry, including a substantial section on financial
deregulation and its connection or lack thereof to what happened.
As long as
we're on the financial crisis, the next layer is the Federal Reserve
System. What is it? What does it do? Has it been successful? Hasn't
there been more stability, as well as fewer and shallower recessions,
since the creation of the Fed? Doesn't the Fed protect us against
"deflation"? And so on through most of the common arguments
in support of the Fed.
the functions we think of as being essential to our very notion
of government. Thus I have a chapter on the military, which covers
(1) the neglected and unknown economic effects of the military
state on the civilian economy; (2) the truth behind the weapons-acquisition
process; (3) the missing trillions at the unaudited and misnamed
Department of Defense; and (4) the real cost of the military establishment.
By the final
chapter I am offering rather unconventional approaches to dealing
with the situation a couple policy proposals, yes, but
primarily things like agorism,
nullification, the Free
State Project, and other suggestions along those lines.
is, unfortunately, being pitched all wrong as if it were
primarily a book on cutting the budget. Well, sure, the budget
would be low to nonexistent if people adopted the views I defend
here. But my aim is far more ambitious than that. I am inviting
the reader, step by step, to rethink the view of government and
society he has imbibed since childhood. A tall order, to be sure.
But I'm throwing everything I've got at it.
of the topics discussed in my book includes,
we survive without the welfare state?
- Was the
Industrial Revolution a disaster for workers and an evidence
of the wickedness of the free market?
- The market
vs. global poverty
- How the
market, in spite (not because) of government, leads to higher
living standards for everyone
- How the
market leads to improved working conditions and does away with
education programs: a critique
Sweden prove a large welfare state is compatible with lasting
- If government
shrinks, won't big business fill the void and oppress the public
via predatory pricing?
- Why it's
impossible to design a wealth-redistribution program that does
not cause net harm
- The truth
about "affordable housing" programs
and the financial crisis: a case study of free markets run amok?
energy "deregulation" proof that free markets
- Is the
Savings & Loan (S&L) crisis evidence of the failure
of free markets?
- The real
record of Sarbanes-Oxley
- The Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
and workplace safety
- The Food
and Drug Administration
we need to make an exception for government science funding?
- A primer
on the War on Drugs
the problems and the solution
- Why "stimulus"
programs make things worse
- How prudential
regulation contributed to the financial crisis
- Are some
firms "too big to fail"?
- Did the
"repeal" of Glass-Steagall
contribute to the financial crisis?
- The real
story of "deregulation" and the financial crisis
- Is Paul
Krugman right to absolve Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of blame?
- The Pentagon's
impact on the US economy
- Has the
Federal Reserve really made the US economy more stable, as so
many proponents claim?
- What caused
the bank panics of the 19th century? Are they evidence of the
need for a central bank?
- The separation
of money and state
- Do we
need the Fed to protect us from deflation?
as an anticompetitive device
is a modest side effect I hope the book might have: pushing conventional
conservatives toward a Misesian/Rothbardian outlook. My publisher
caters to just such a constituency, and I hope those people who
buy it in the expectation that it will supply them with arguments
against Obama will find it gives them a lot more food for thought
I don't think
this is a pipe dream. My 2010 book Nullification
(see my interview
with Jeff Tucker and my interview
with a zombie) reached quite a few people outside my usual
libertarian constituency. In Idaho, to give just one example,
the governor read the book, as did many state legislators. And
following a hearing on nullification at the state house, a hearing
attended by hundreds of people, a nullification bill passed 49-20.
this ABC News report on the book for a quick summary.) Elsewhere,
nearly 50 tea party and related groups cosponsored a letter to
the leadership of a certain state legislature urging them to meet
with me to discuss nullification as an option. (That meeting is
being scheduled right now.)
occurred without any major media exposure for that book, and without
any of the would-be handlers from DC, who claim to speak for these
groups, saying a single word kind or otherwise about
the idea. That means some grassroots people are thinking in completely
unconventional and unapproved ways, in defiance of the official
range of allowable opinion. That has to count for something.
I am all
too aware of the problems with the tea parties. Some of their
political heroes are quite appalling, and their foreign-policy
views differ little from the bipartisan consensus. There is no
point in pretending otherwise. But those were once my own views,
some 20 years ago. And I abandoned them in favor of Rothbardian
antistatism. Having managed to reach these groups in one area,
therefore, I'd like to take a crack at reaching them on everything
I have seen
sparks of hope here and there. The New York Times reported
for purposes of ridicule that some tea partiers
were reading authors like Frédéric
Bastiat, the great 19th-century French economic thinker. I'd
say that's a pretty good start. When I've been on their radio
programs and the Federal Reserve has come up, they have been universally
critical, and more than open to the total abolition of the Fed.
This is no small thing.
are told to read Dick
Morris, the former Clinton confidante turned GOP cheerleader,
whose books are the usual pap you might expect, and who seeks
to channel tea-party energy into predictable and conventional
outlets. They could use something with a bit more zing, to say
the least. So I wanted to write a book that would be of interest
not only to libertarians, but that could also pull conventional
conservatives along the same philosophical path I myself traveled.
A book like
this is unlikely to get much, if any, big media behind it, so
if you enjoy it, I'd sure appreciate your help in spreading the
word. I have written five books in five years, and after this
one I intend to take a break.
to throw everything I had into one final project, and then take
a breather while doing other things (like teaching
US history at the online Mises Academy and starting a regular
I had a chance
to speak about this book at the 2011 Conservative Political Action
Conference (CPAC). I closed with this:
with which we are flooded regarding how indispensable the political
class is why, they are selflessly devoted to "public
service"! is unworthy of a fifth-grader. We would
not die instantly in the absence of the Joe Bidens and Mitch
McConnells. We would flourish. And here's the proof.