Crisis and Liberty: The Expansion of Government Power in American History

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10. Crisis and Liberty

  • Crisis and Liberty Seminar
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Tags U.S. EconomyU.S. HistoryPolitical Theory

09/03/2004Robert Higgs

The attack on September 11, 2001, showed us what we can expect from any fresh crisis. Military forces were assigned to domestic police activities. Police state surveillance was expanded. But, wiping out terrorism cannot be done. The ultimate result is Big Brother.

The USA Patriot Act – more than 400 pages that Congress never read – creates new categories of domestic terrorists. Many ordinary activities are criminalized. Asset forfeiture – theft of property – is liberally encouraged.

The US response was to do what they know how to do – drop bombs. Bombs fell on Afghanistan, although the terrorists were mainly from Saudi Arabia. Approval of government had been low, but when the towers fell, people demanded that the government do something. They wanted to feel protected. By 2002, the 500 page Homeland Security Act was passed. It mainly reorganizes agencies, which gives them more budget clout as a big unit. It had 170,000 employees already in 2004.

Two distinct forces in the growth of government are structural, like urbanization, and ideological, like socialism imported from Germany.  

Lecture 10 of 10 from Robert Higgs' Crisis and Liberty: The Expansion of Government Power in American History.

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