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Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution (Hardback)


By Michael D. Tanner

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About the Book
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For conservatives generally and the Republican Party in particular, now is a time of intense soul-searching. For the first time in a dozen years, Republicans have lost control of Congress. As a result, they are being forced to reexamine who they are and what they stand for.

It’s about time. After all, more than a decade has passed since President Bill Clinton announced in his State of the Union address that “the era of big gov-ernment is over.” Yet, since then, government has grown far bigger and far more intrusive. It spends more, regulates us more, and reaches far more into our daily lives than it did before the Republican Revolution. Behind this alarming trend stands the rise of a new brand of conservatism—one that believes big government can be used for conservative ends. It is a conservatism that ridicules F. A. Hayek and Barry Goldwater while embracing Teddy and even Franklin Roosevelt. It has more in common with Ted Kennedy than with Ronald Reagan.

Leviathan on the Right provides an incisive analysis of the roots and core beliefs of big-government conservatism and the major currents that fueled its growth—neoconservatism, the Religious Right, supply-side economics, national greatness conservatism, and Newt Gingrich–style technophilia—and offers a detailed critique of its policies on a wide range of issues.

The book contains a clear warning that, unless conservatives return to their small-government roots, the electoral defeat of 2006 is just the beginning.

Leviathan on the Right is the recipient of the Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty.
About the Author
MICHAEL D. TANNER is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute and is the leading advocate for private Social Security retirement accounts. He is also the editor of Social Security and Its Discontents, named by Choice magazine as one of its outstanding academic titles of 2003.
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What Others Have Said
"George W. Bush, reviled by the left ever since he became president, has recently accomplished the feat of acquiring a new and unlikely set of detractors. The longer he flounders in domestic and foreign policy, the more a vocal contingent of intellectuals and columnists allied to the Republican Party is attacking him. Unlike that of most Bush critics, however, their complaint isn't that the president has veered too far to the right. It's that he isn't conservative enough. In Leviathan on the Right, Michael D. Tanner offers the fullest exposition of this line of reasoning to date. Tanner is a lucid writer and vigorous polemicist who scores a number of points against the Republican Party’s fiscal transgressions."
The New York Times Book Review
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"In this thorough political analysis, Tanner examines the transformation of conservative doctrine in America, decrying the movement towards big-government spending. Since being elected, George W. Bush has allowed the largest expansion of government spending since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. According to Tanner, this shift is not circumstantial, a result of post-9/11 considerations, but rather a fundamental shift in the conservative paradigm. Articulate and incisive, Tanner's critique provides a helpful overview of the issues facing conservatives today and an introduction to the myriad facets of contemporary conservative thinking-from national-greatness conservatives to technophiles to compassionate conservatism. Tanner's arguments are considerate and well-researched, and his optimistic belief in a return to small-government conservatism is largely appealing."
Publishers Weekly

"Since President Bill Clinton proclaimed the demise of big government in a State of the Union address, the federal government "spends more, regulates us more, and reaches far more into our daily lives than it did before the Republican Revolution." This is the thesis of Tanner, who argues that the Republican Party, "supposedly the party of smaller government" and until recently in power for over a decade, in fact succumbed to the many temptations and opportunities to govern actively. Tanner is especially good on the roots of big-government conservatism, an analysis based upon his categorizations of neoconservatives, national-greatness conservatives, supply-siders, technophiles, and the Religious Right and his view of domestic issues like welfare, health insurance, entitlements, and education. He presents a lucid argument that deserves a place in any public or academic library collection seeking to document contemporary U.S. politics."
Library Journal

"Tanner offers an argument more likely to generate a discussion than a partisan food-fight. Tanner cogently makes his case that Mr. Bush's big-government policies alienated key constituencies within the conservative movement and have rarely been clear-cut policy success stories."
–Jim Geraghty, The New York Sun
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"So the Tanner gist to Republicans is soul-searching: Study this book, think hard and get back to your roots and drawing board, fast. You can't out-center the centrists. The future is yours to lose. Or, conceivably, win."
–William H. Peterson, The Washington Times
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"How the party of limited government evolved into a new breed of conservatives willing to use the power and resources of the state to shape society in their own image is the subject of Michael Tanner's excellent new book."
–Caroline Baum, Bloomberg.com
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"Tanner tells how Republicans have helped increase the federal government's power. One is tempted to compare the Republicans to preachers who denounce sin in the pulpit and then practice it at the no-tell motel. But Tanner shows that such an analogy would be off point. Instead of hiding their support for big government, he writes, many conservatives openly embrace it. It would be as if a pastor used the church bulletin to praise adultery."
–John J. Pitney Jr., The Politico
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"In simpler times, the phrase “big-government conservatism” was considered an oxymoron. Today, it is the subject of heated debate as well as an increasing number of books. The latest and perhaps most policy-focused of these titles is Leviathan on the Right.
–W. James Antle III, National Review Online
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"Essential for any college-level political science discussion of modern American trends."
Midwest Book Review

"Though this isn't the first book to condemn the modern perversion of conservatism, Tanner's thorough research and excellent writing might just make it the best."
–Laissez Faire Books

"Liberals are so convinced that Bush is the most conservative president in American history, they have long overlooked his many transgressions from conservative orthodoxy, well documented in the new book Leviathan on the Right."
–Bruce Bartlett, Nationally Syndicated Columnist

"In his new book, Tanner details the degree to which the Republicans in charge of Congress from 1995 through 2006 were drawn into the vortex of political plunder and abuse. What Tanner tries to explain is why the American political party that claimed to defend individual freedom and limited government over the last 70 years has seemingly turned its back on those ideas."
–Richard M. Ebeling, The Freeman
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"A compelling critique of the growth of government under Republican leadership. Like many of the other recent titles, Tanner’s book begins with a taxonomy of what he calls “big-government conservatism”—but his is the most thorough. Tanner’s approach is analytical, not pejorative, and even though he pointedly disagrees with big-government conservatism, he does not resort to caricature. His nuanced explanation of neoconservatism is especially worth the attention of that movement’s critics on both right and left. He manages to combine serious scholarship with readability. His prescriptions—a return to federalism, spending cuts, entitlement reform, pay-as-you-go, and term limits—are sound policies."
–Evan Sparks, American.com
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"Tanner has produced a devastating, damning work. It would be one thing for true conservatives to accept a compromise in which the GOP pushed to cut domestic government power while pushing an activist foreign agenda. But Republicans today are busy expanding government everywhere, all the time. Tanner systematically reviews the flawed results of big-government conservatism. First, as conservatives tasted power, they proved Lord Acton correct, notes Tanner, referring to Acton's famous aphorism that 'power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.'"
–Doug Bandow, Antiwar.com
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"Leviathan on the Right is a powerful argument that not only explains how today’s brand of ‘conservativism’ is fundamentally different from that advocated by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan but also shows the dismal consequences once opportunistic Republican politicians and notionally right-of-center pundits embraced big government intrusiveness and social engineering. Tanner focuses brilliantly on domestic matters. Yet a darker context is implicit: the hubris among neo-con crusaders, technophile dirigistes, and other fine-tuners of human affairs in the Bush administration is also what has led us straight into the fiasco of Iraq."
–CC Goldwater, Executive Producer, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater

"Leviathan on the Right is a rational and in-depth look at the evolution of the Republican Party and government expansion. This is a must-read for anyone who truly believes that less government is better government."
–Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)

“In Leviathan on the Right, Michael Tanner methodically strips away the empty rhetoric employed by the current generation of Republican leaders in Washington and lays bare the dirty little secret of the vast majority of Republicans in positions of power: they are not conservative at all, but rather distorted mirror images of those they loudly criticize—liberals.”
–Former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA)

"Tanner names and details the gradual abandonment of the commitment to limited government, federalism, and individual freedom that has led us to the mess in which we find ourselves today."
–David Keene, Chairman, American Conservative Union

“In addition to documenting the Republican legislative embrace of an ever-expanding federal government, Tanner provides a cogent and persuasive analysis of the intellectual currents on the center-right that have swept big-government conservatism into the mainstream of Republican thinking. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the Republican Congress’s abandonment of the limited government/personal freedom principles that won them their majorities in 1994.”
–Former Congressman Pat Toomey (R-PA)