Ending Big Government: The Essential Case For Capitalism and Freedom, by Michael Dahlen
Minneapolis: Mill City Press, 2015.
370 pp. $15.99 (paperback)
As a professional investor for many years, I have often found myself in discussions about economics. To help friends or colleagues understand the basics of free markets and capitalism, I often recommend (and sometimes give away) two favorite works. The first is Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson, which eloquently explains the practical benefits of free markets. The second is a brief but moving validation of the morality of capitalism: Francisco D’Anconia’s famous “Money Speech” from Atlas Shrugged.
But if my friends read both of these and want more, the next recommendation is more difficult. To study sound economic theory, I suggest Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises. For a full moral justification of capitalism, I tell them to read all of Atlas Shrugged. And, for a synthesis of both the moral and the practical arguments for capitalism, I recommend George Reisman’s magnum opus Capitalism. The problem is, these works comprise several thousand pages of dense, technical text. Who has time to read it all? We have needed something to bridge the chasm between the simple and the daunting, and I’m happy to report that Michael Dahlen has written just the book to fill this gap.
In preview, Ending Big Government merits strong praise. Dahlen has written, in only 370 pages, an artfully organized case for free markets and capitalism. Although he doesn’t break new conceptual ground (this was not his goal), Dahlen’s new book makes the case for capitalism so well that it deserves a prominent place in the personal library of anyone committed to defending free markets or advancing their knowledge of sound economics.
Regular readers of The Objective Standard may already be familiar with Dahlen’s writing. Two chapters of this, his first full-length book, previously appeared as stand-alone essays in this publication. A modified version of the book’s chapter 1, titled “The Rise of American Big Government: A Brief History of How We Got Here,” appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of TOS. And part of chapter 5, titled “The British Industrial Revolution: A Tribute to Freedom and Human Potential,” appeared in the Fall 2010 issue.
Ending Big Government is addressed to those who are concerned about the growing intrusion of government into the economy but who want to know more and thus improve their ability to defend free markets and capitalism. Since America’s beginning, the author argues, its predominantly capitalist system has been undermined by the constant expansion of government controls. The foundering economy we find ourselves in today is not, as the left contends, the result of unbridled capitalism but of growing statism—the intrusion of the government into what was once a mostly free system. The result is not capitalism but a “mixed economy”—a mutation that still permits considerable economic freedom but that is being disfigured by government intervention in the economy, which throttles and ultimately thwarts economic progress. The only rational alternative to this ruinous condition, Dahlen argues, is laissez-faire capitalism, implemented in every sector of the economy, and the elimination of economic controls at every level of government. As he states in the introduction: “This book will show that capitalism is moral and practical while also showing that statism is immoral and impractical. Toward that end, this book systematically contrasts the history, economics, and the underlying philosophy of each system.” Dahlen makes good on this promise, and the result is a book that is not only interesting and enjoyable but also of lasting value as a reference work. . . .