HEY THERE, BIG SPENDER: The Book Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government Analyzes Presidents Who Claimed to Want Smaller Government-And Their Results

By Vance, Laurence M. | The New American, February 5, 2018 | Go to article overview

HEY THERE, BIG SPENDER: The Book Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government Analyzes Presidents Who Claimed to Want Smaller Government-And Their Results


Vance, Laurence M., The New American


Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government, by Ivan Eland, Oakland, California: Independent Institute, 2017,370 pages, hardcover.

Republicans claim to be the party of the Constitution. They have since the early 20th century cultivated the image that they and their presidents are in favor of limited government while the Democrats and their presidents are in favor of big government.

Ivan Eland, in his new book Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government (hereafter Eleven Presidents), is an iconoclast. He shows, conclusively, that from the Eisenhower administration on:

* Republican presidents, compared to Democratic ones, have generally presided over greater average annual increases in the federal government's spending as a percentage of GDP;

* Such greater government spending includes more spending on welfare and social programs as a portion of federal spending by Republican presidents than by Democratic chief executives; and

* Republicans have greatly increased public debt accumulation as a portion of GDP, while Democrats have substantially decreased it.

He concludes that "Republican presidents in the last hundred years have often failed to limit government." Only three Republican presidents--Harding, Coolidge, and Eisenhower--"had much of a record of doing so." And surprisingly, the Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton "actually have not received enough credit for their efforts to limit government." The omission of the name of Ronald Reagan is no accident. Eland maintains that Reagan, whose "championing of limited government was mostly rhetorical," converted the Republican Party "into a more statist political organization."

Eland is senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy from George Washington University. His forte is foreign policy. He worked for Congress and the GAO, and testified before Congress on national security issues. Aside from several books and numerous scholarly and popular articles in a variety of publications, Dr. Eland is the author of 45 in-depth studies on national security issues. This is Eland's second book on U.S. presidents. His first, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty (2009, updated 2014), is essential reading for any study of U.S. presidents, as is his new one.

Although there have been more than 11 presidents over the past 100 years, Eland limits his study to "only certain chief executives who served during the last hundred years--the age of big government, which began with World War 1 and has lasted to the present--who promised to constrain government."

Eland focuses on the objective of limited government because he believes that "limiting government and letting the private sector flourish are the best ways to promote peace, prosperity, and liberty in the United States." Therefore, "for the most part, with a few exceptions," his discussion is about the '"limited government' hypocrisy of Republican presidents in the last hundred years." He classifies the 11 presidents of the last 100 years into three groups. Protolibertarians or libertarianesque are Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Moderately progressive are Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. Big government hawks are Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. The book obviously doesn't have anything to say about Donald Trump.

The book has neither preface nor introduction --the first chapter functions as an introduction. The last chapter serves as the book's conclusion. Chapter two, "Years of Normalcy and Restraint," covers both Harding and Coolidge, while chapter five, "Watergate and a More Restrained Foreign Policy," covers both Nixon and Ford. Each of the chapters devoted to a president (or presidents) has a nice conclusion. …

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