9/11 Anniversary: Book and Movie Recommendations

There is no joy in saying “We told you so,” when the dangers against which we warned turned out to have been realized, and, indeed exceeded, so far beyond anyone’s imagining.

As longtime observers of political economy, and the lessons so succinctly laid out by Robert Higgs in his masterful Crisis and Leviathan, we saw in the horror of the attacks of 9/11/01 the very real and present danger that politicians would do as they always have in exploiting a very real tragedy to capture unprecedented powers for themselves.

And so, against the backdrop of others immediately posting nationalistic symbols on their websites, and removing words like “peace” from their lexicons, the Independent Institute sallied forth with warnings against allowing 9/11 to provide the basis for unprecedented grabs of power, and the predictable exercise of military might against targets that had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks.

We on the afternoon of 9/11/01 posted a message on our homepage, issued as a press release a few days later, calling for adherence to our true American values of liberty and justice for all. We called for the issuance of the Constitutionally-provided Letters of Marque and Reprisal to bring the perpetrators to justice. And we established our new Center on Peace and Liberty, and began issuing analysis and organizing events against wars that only undermine Americans’ security.

Our country and culture have changed beyond all imagining in the past 10 years. We take as a matter of course that our children can be groped by government agents as a condition of the “privilege” of using the plane ticket we have purchased. Our police have been militarized and have power at their disposal that no mere humans should be tempted with (see my previous post, “The U.S. Surveillance State: Big Brother on Steroids”). Government spending has spiraled completely out of control, as, first, the Bush administration exploded spending by 60%, followed by a 27% increase under the Obama administration. In all, federal spending has increased from $1.86 trillion in 2001, to $3.8 trillion today. Crisis and Leviathan, indeed.

And so, to my recommendations for our 9/11 commemoration:
Book: Crisis and Leviathan.
Movie: “The Conspirator,” the story of the trial of Mary Surratt as a conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln. I’m not sure why this amazingly powerful movie has stayed under the radar, but it’s now available on cable and DVD and I highly recommend it for this anniversary.

Having been endowed by our Creator with the power of rational thought, we have the ability to learn from the lessons of history, or we can choose to allow ourselves to be victimized by its unlearned lessons. Abdicating our responsibility to hold our rulers in check is not an option free people are allowed.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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