Cover image for Freedom in chains : the rise of the state and the demise of the citizen
Freedom in chains : the rise of the state and the demise of the citizen
Bovard, James.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
326 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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JC599.U5 B596 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Governments are bigger and more powerful than ever, while a citizen's ability to control his or her own life has never been less effective. Freedom in Chains is James Bovard's guided tour through the development of the State from its humble beginnings to its present behemoth form. It shows how the State threatens to destroy the individual in order to preserve the belief that any government is superior to the citizen. Bovard asks how we got to this point and answers with a thoughtful look at the history of governmental control from ancient times to the present, peppered throughout with observations on our present day, out-of-control governmental regulatory commissions and an all-confiscating IRS. It's must reading for everyone who took Bovard's Lost Rights to heart as a wake up call for people everywhere.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bovard (Lost Rights) throws more red meat to angry libertarians in this antigovernment jeremiad. While he provides some frightening examples of how governments‘mostly the U.S. federal‘do more harm than good, his passion leads him to some hyperbolic conclusions. There are many passages that will make readers‘not only welfare-state liberals but also moderate Democrats and Republicans‘wonder whether they live in the same country as Bovard. One of his biggest targets is the notion of state sovereignty: "The doctrine of `sovereignty' often does nothing more than provide a respectable gloss for some people's lust to control other people's behaviors, or to seize the fruits of other people's labor." That last clause is telling, for it could just as well be turned against Bovard. It is precisely to stop nongovernmental entities (e.g., factory owners) from seizing the fruit of other people's labor (e.g., factory workers) that so many of the regulations and laws Bovard decries (e.g., a minimum wage or corporate taxes) were instituted. But Bovard is well-read and makes entertaining use of Rousseau, Hegel, Hobbes (he's very fond of Leviathan) and other thinkers. He's also consistent and intellectually honest enough to follow his own ideology to its logical conclusion about, for instance, marijuana (legalize it, he says). Few readers will agree with Bovard that the dominant spirit in America today is one that idolizes the state, but most will find that he makes a rousing theoretical case against statism. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This author comes highly touted by the mainstream conservative press, and with good reason. Bovard, a journalist best known for his influential Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (St. Martin's, 1994), sets forth a passionate indictment of the state's coercive powers over the people. He is especially critical of the "Peter Pan" theory of good government and other political illusions fostered by the state. Bovard reviews 200 years of political philosophy and makes effective use of extreme examples of government programs and regulations to drive home his essential message. Although his argument is bipartisan in its critique of the state's excesses and excuses, the overall effect is one of polemical overkill. Still, this is a well-researched book that can serve as a sampling of libertarian thought for many libraries.‘Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Bovard, a journalist and author of Lost Rights (CH, Jul'94), in which he decried the power of big government, contends that the most pressing political issue of our time is the rise of the paternalistic state. Believing that "a minimal government is the only just government," he argues that since the time of the New Deal self-interested politicians and bureaucrats have undermined the liberties of individual citizens by embarking on a quest to realize a specific moral vision of society. The author supports his position by pointing to some of the excesses perpetrated by elected officials and governmental agencies. Bovard concludes his analysis by outlining a "few general principles and guides that should be considered" in the effort to diminish and carefully circumscribe the power of the state. While this book clearly raises some important issues, it is hardly a systematic and balanced critique of government in the US. Recommended for the general reader. G. L. Malecha; University of Portland

Table of Contents

1. Introductionp. 1
2. The Great Pretending: The State, Ideal and Realp. 9
3. The Mirage of Welfare State Freedomp. 51
4. Cagekeepers and Caretakers: Modern Democracyp. 97
5. The Moral Glorification of Leviathanp. 141
6. Sovereignty and Political Slaveryp. 187
7. Paternalism versus the Blessings of Libertyp. 219
8. A Few Thoughts on an Ideal Political Orderp. 249
9. Taking Coercion Seriouslyp. 261
Acknowledgmentsp. 267
Notesp. 269
Indexp. 315