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Dependent on D.C.

The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans

About the Book

Manipulation of the rules of a game can determine the outcome. It’s true of sports and it’s true of government.

In an important new contribution to the study of American government, Dependent on D.C., economist and historian Charlotte Twight applies this insight to document both the history of government’s growth and the techniques by which politicians and bureaucrats have manipulated the rules of the game to increase their powers and make them more difficult to roll back. In the process, politicians make Americans dependent on government, and more like passive supplicants than active citizens. Twight explains in clear language how Americans have been robbed of their independence.

Twight’s research on the origins of such linchpins of the modern dependence‐​state as Social Security, income tax withholding, federally funded education, Medicare, and federally mandated databases shows how time‐​tested techniques have allowed politicians to undercut opposition to such programs, not by persuading the public that the benefits of the programs were greater than their costs, but by using their powers to manipulate the electorate.

For example, when income tax withholding was instituted, taxpayers were promised a year of “tax forgiveness,” a tax forgiveness that in fact never happened. And when new and unpopular programs are proposed, they are typically bundled together with vitally important government functions in “take it or leave it” omnibus bills.

Dependent on D.C. documents a wide range of such techniques. It contributes substantially to our understanding of the history of government growth, the economics of public choice, and political science generally. Although written by a scholar, this eye‐​opening book is intended for informed citizens generally.

Published by Palgrave for St. Martin’s Press.

About the Author

Charlotte A. Twight is a professor of economics at Boise State University and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

What Others Have Said

“This book is a wake‐​up call to those libertarians, conservatives, and classical liberals, who, almost literally, went to sleep when the Cold War ended and socialist ideology collapsed. There has been no slacking off in the control efforts of the nanny‐​state, whose final aim is to make dependents of us all.”
—James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

“If the Framers of our Constitution were alive today, they would be shocked by the loss of so many liberties they sought to guarantee for us. Professor Charlotte Twight has produced an excellent analysis of the how and why of the diminution of our liberties. She shows that today’s intrusive federal government, unthinkable to the Founders, is not some evil conspiracy, but the natural result of Americans attempting to live at the expense of one another. The plain language of Dependent on D.C. and its thorough diagnosis not only puts us on alert, it might even suggest some strategies to strike at the menace of our runaway government.”
—Walter E. Williams, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, George Mason University