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The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History

About the Book

As revealed by John Samples in his essential new book, the battle over the size and role of government has been raging for decades. Arriving at a critical time, with clashes over limiting government occupying more battlefields than ever, The Struggle to Limit Government expertly chronicles this war’s history, as well as its implications for the future.

In examining the high and low points of the nearly 30‐​year struggle, from the Reagan revolution to the Obama administration, Samples first provides a fascinating look at the institutions and policies created by progressives from 1933 to 1968—the New Deal and Great Society—and their influence on all that has followed. “The institutions and policies of the old regime created both a politics of entitlement and a people who favor the persistence of such benefits,” writes Samples. “It fostered a dependence on government amongst a people culturally disposed to liberty.”

Samples then assesses the rise, successes, and failures of Ronald Reagan, the historic 1994 elections, and the ensuing unsuccessful struggles to fulfill Reagan’s goal of reversing government’s growth. He traces the drift of the Republican majority in Congress, and the epic battles within and between the Republican and Democratic parties, Congress and Bill Clinton, which left us nowhere—with “neither limited government nor enduring majorities.”

The book then examines the trauma of George W. Bush: his high spending, his mixture of religion with government, and his floundering crusade to bring democracy to the Middle East. The 2006 and 2008 elections, Samples shows, were a repudiation of the Bush presidency, not of limited government.

Samples does not simply point and critique; he also includes extensive prescriptions for improvement. With its political analysis of major government programs, from Medicare and Medicaid to Social Security and taxes, The Struggle to Limit Government is an energetic, sobering, and essential guide to the political battles of today and tomorrow.

About the Author

John Samples is the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government. He resides in Washington, D.C.

What Others Have Said

“For three decades Americans have tried to limit the power and scope of their federal government. John Samples offers a convincing account of that struggle with an eye to its successes as well as its evident failures. He also tells us what it all means for what counts: the future of limited government and individual liberty. Anyone concerned with those ideals, as we all should be, will want to read this book.”
—Former Governor Gary Johnson

“Freedom fights a losing battle with an out‐​of‐​control Washington in this manifesto. Cato Institute scholar Samples decries seven decades of “progressive” government, from the New Deal to today’s giant bailouts in this story of soaring taxes, spending, and deficits in which both parties come out tarnished. Samples shrewdly analyzes the politics behind government expansion.”
Publishers Weekly

“This clear, concise, well‐​researched survey of government growth will make both liberals and conservatives uncomfortable by showing their history, warts and all.”
—Jonathan Bean, Southern Illinois University
Author, Beyond the Broker State

“Convincingly makes the case for a libertarian resurgence within the GOP grounded on Reaganite principles.”