A Century of War

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759 century warJohn Denson, in a book that covers the history of America's large wars from 1860 through the Cold War, describes the 20th century — not coincidentally a century of statism — as the bloodiest in all history: "More than 170 million people were killed by governments with ten million being killed in World War I and fifty million killed in World War II. In regard to the fifty million killed in World War II, it is significant that nearly 70 percent were innocent civilians, mainly as a result of the bombing of cities by Great Britain and America."

The horror of the 20th century could hardly have been predicted in the 19th century, which saw the 18th century end with the American Revolution bringing about the creation of the first classical-liberal government in the world. What bought it about? How can it be prevented in the future? These are the concerns that animate this work.

Denson recounts how the wars that destroyed American liberty came about through a series of deceitful political ploys. He discusses how Lincoln worked to provoke the South into firing the first shot and how he used that shot as the pretext for total war. Wilson learned from this experience in working to get the United States involved in World War I, which established a precedent for the planning state. FDR similarly engaged in political maneuvering to prepare a reluctant public for war.

Denson provides a close examination of the rise of executive dictatorship and demonstrates how far from the founders' vision of government we have come. It explains how world peace can only come through the practice of free trade and free markets, and why large government can only create conflict.

The Denson book is a wonderful presentation of a position that was more mainstream in the 1930s and the 1990s: the unity of libertarian economics with a pro-peace foreign-policy position. This position is far too rare in American life. This eye-opening treatment of history will go a long way toward restoring this proper libertarian perspective in American life.

 

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