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Book Reviews: Economics on Trial

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Economics on Trial: Lies, Myths, and Realities by Mark Skousen (Homewood, Illinois: Business One Irwin, 1990) 314 pp.; $21.95 (h). For 150 years after Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, most economists started from a common premise in their writings: unhampered, free markets were demonstrably superior to any form of governmental regulation and control. Even when some economists argued for governmental intervention, their assumption was that laissez faire was the desirable rule to follow. The burden of proof fell on the advocate of intervention to justify why people should not be free to manage their own affairs and peacefully compete and exchange with one another in the marketplace. After 1936, however, the assumptions were reversed. The starting premise became that markets could ...

Book Review: Unfinished Business

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Unfinished Business: A Civil Rights Strategy for America's Third Century by Clint Bolick (San Francisco: Pacific Research Institute, 1990) 159 PP; $19.95. At a time in world history when the demand for human rights has become almost universal, little or no attention has been paid to the importance of economic liberty. If a man is to have a right to life, he must have a right to freely contract and exchange with his fellow men for the maintenance of that life. If a man is to have a right to liberty, he must have a right to acquire and possess property which has been honestly come by. If a man is to have a right to the pursuit of happiness, he must have a right to use his life and property in any peaceful manner he chooses. Yet, a full appreciation of economic liberty is precisely what has been lacking in practically all public policy discussions concerning human rights. This ...

The Preservation of the Bureaucracy

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Two hundred years ago, our American ancestors instituted the most unusual political system in history. The Constitution called into existence a government whose powers, for the first time ever, were extremely limited. Thus, unlike other people throughout history, Americans lived without such things as income taxation, welfare, licensure, immigration control, business regulation, drug laws, conscription, and passports. Generally, and with exceptions (slavery and tariffs being the most notable), laws were limited to protecting people from the violence and fraud of others. What caused these Americans to institute this strange and novel way of life? The answer lies in the way our American ancestors perceived the relationship between the individual in society and his government. Americans of that time believed that the preservation of the individual — and the freedom to live his life and dispose ...