This lecture series given by economist, Robert Higgs, is a systematic examination of how times of social and economic crises lead to predictable and sustained increases in the scope of government power at the expense of individual freedom. At the basis of Higgs’ analysis is what he refers to as the “ratchet effect”. This, he explains, is the process by which the state expands its powers in all realms during a crisis, and yet never fully relinquishes them after the turbulence has subsided. Even if the bulk of the newly grasped powers are not carried over after the crisis the size and scope of government never returns to its starting point, thus leading to a government that perpetually grows over time. With each subsequent crisis the government inches its way into more and more areas, diminishing personal freedom along the way.
In these lectures, Higgs’ traces the growth of the American state throughout history. All ten lectures can be downloaded as an mp3, and while each is approximately an hour and a half long, I found it quite manageable during car rides to and from work over the course of a few weeks.