One Big Thing

This book’s heart is in the right place, but its head needs, as they say, to wrap itself around that heart.  Devouring Freedom is substantially a useful history of the spending wars between America’s two main political parties since 1932, culminating in the years since 2009 when Barack Obama became president of the United States.  James Antle’s argument that the U.S. deficit should be controlled, the debt and federal spending hugely reduced, and government at every level reined in and brutally cut back is, of course, unanswerable.  Antle quotes James Burnham as saying, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”  (Surely, he should have attributed the aphorism to Herbert Stein—though it does have the Burnham ring.)  A society that lives on borrowed money lives on borrowed time as well.

What Antle seems not to understand is that spending is a symptom, not the cause, of the giantism from which the United States, in company with most of the world’s democracies, suffers.  Antle glimpses the truth in a passage in which he refers to the late Andrew Breitbart’s insights regarding “big”—big business, big journalism, big Hollywood, big peace, big government.  “It probably wasn’t Breitbart’s intention,” Antle remarks, “but these names illustrate an uncomfortable truth...

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