Send this article to a friend:


The 15 Years That Destroyed America
Paul Craig Roberts

The United States Government today bears little resemblance to the government created by the Founding Fathers.  Many “reforms” contributed to the transformation of an accountable government to an unaccountable one.  For example, the direct election of US senators and the expansion of the franchise from male property owners adversely affected the security of private property. Others point to the effects of wars. All of these played a role in America’s destruction.  However, in my opinion the transformation of American government can be explained by events in three short periods of our history.

The founders saw the US as an association of states in which central power was limited and weak.  The 10th Amendment gave governing to the states.  President Lincoln’s war for the tariff destroyed states’ rights and led to the supremacy of centralized federal power over the states.  Today what happens in specific states can be determined by votes in other states.  Lincoln’s war lasted four years, and that was time enough for Lincoln to destroy the framework devised by the Founders.

The second devastating period was 1913.  That year the United States took two hard blows.  One from the creation of the Federal Reserve, and one from the establishment of an income tax. The creation of the Federal Reserve took control over money from the government and gave it to the big bankers.  The income tax resurrected slavery.  Historians have ignored that historically the definition of a free person is a person who owns his own labor.  A slave or a serf is a person whose labor is owned in whole or part by an outside party.  No person subject to an income tax owns his own labor. Once a person is violated in this way, all his other protections fall away–his privacy, his security in his home and documents, his protection against arbitrary arrest, self-incrimination, indefinite detention without conviction.  No American alive today has experienced the freedom known to the Founders.

The third destructive period was the depression of the 1930s.  This was the work of the Federal Reserve which permitted the money supply to shrink, thereby collapsing employment, income, and prices.  The Great Depression produced President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.  The New Deal transferred Congress’ lawmaking power to the new progressive regulatory agencies.  Today when Congress passes a law, it amounts to an authorization for regulatory agencies to write the regulations that implement the law.  For example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act expressly prohibited racial quotas, but the EEOC imposed racial quotas by regulatory means. 

These three periods, comprising 15 years of American history or 6 percent of our time as a country, sufficed to destroy what the Founders created. Historians are blind, because history has been written for propagandistic reasons to serve agendas. Lincoln’s war for the tariff has been turned into a moral cause of freeing black slaves, something Lincoln denied while initiating and fighting the war.  The year 1913 is described as a progressive turning in the direction of financial stability and equity or fairness.  The New Deal is presented as measures that tamed the instability of capitalism. When Henry Ford reportedly said “history is bunk,” he wasn’t far off.

It is unfortunate that our political heroes, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and England’s Winston Churchill come under scrutiny at the very time that the countries are under assault for their evil past.  It is now when we need belief to fend off assault that our idols are shown to have feet of clay.  David Irvin’s Churchill’s War destroyed the artfully created reputation of Churchill.  Now David T. Beito’sThe New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights completes the destruction of progressive hero FDR.

Like Lincoln, Roosevelt used war to achieve his agenda–the destruction of the British Empire and its replacement with the American Empire based on the US dollar taking the British currency’s role as world reserve currency.  It is a paradox that liberals have regarded as a progressive hero a president, who squashed dissent and free speech, locked up American citizens of Japanese ethnicity in concentration camps, destroying their lives and allowing their properties to be stolen, and attacked the  Bill of Rights that made Americans secure under the protection of law.   As Beito’s exposure of FDR makes clear, the man was a tyrant who elevated executive power by stripping power from Congress and intimidating the Supreme Court.

Beito spent a decade researching and writing his book, and the voluminous  notes and index comprising more than 25 percent of the printed pages attest to his thoroughness.  The book is not one man’s opinion.  It is a historical record.  

If America had had historians different from the gullible and insouciant liberals, we might still exist in the freedom and liberty that the Founders gave to us.

Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles and a columnist for Investor's Business Daily. In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists.

He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department's Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy." From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.

In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor.

Dr. Roberts' latest books are The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with IPE Fellow Lawrence Stratton, and published by Prima Publishing in May 2000, and Chile: Two Visions - The Allende-Pinochet Era, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen Araujo, and published in Spanish by Universidad Nacional Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, in November 2000. The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen LaFollette Araujo, was published by Oxford University Press in 1997. A Spanish language edition was published by Oxford in 1999. The New Colorline: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, was published by Regnery in 1995. A paperback edition was published in 1997. Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, co-authored with Karen LaFollette, was published by the Cato Institute in 1990. Harvard University Press published his book, The Supply-Side Revolution, in 1984. Widely reviewed and favorably received, the book was praised by Forbes as "a timely masterpiece that will have real impact on economic thinking in the years ahead." Dr. Roberts is the author of Alienation and the Soviet Economy, published in 1971 and republished in 1990. He is the author of Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974.

Dr. Roberts has held numerous academic appointments. He has contributed chapters to numerous books and has published many articles in journals of scholarship, including the Journal of Political Economy, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law and Economics, Studies in Banking and Finance, Journal of Monetary Economics, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Choice, Classica et Mediaevalia, Ethics, Slavic Review, Soviet Studies, Rivista de Political Economica, and Zeitschrift fur Wirtschafspolitik. He has entries in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Economics and the New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. He has contributed to Commentary, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Harper's, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, London Times, The Financial Times, TLS, The Spectator, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Figaro, Liberation, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.

Dr. Roberts was educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S.), the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: [email protected]


Please Donate

I listen to my readers. In March 2010, I terminated my syndicated column. Thousands of you protested. So persuasive were your emails asking me to reconsider and to continue writing that, two months later, I began writing again.

In order to create a coherent uncensored and unedited archive of my writings, The Institute For Political Economy, a non-profit organization that supports research, writing and books, has established this site, thus gratifying readers' demands that I continue to provide analyses of events in our time.

In order to stay up, this site needs to pay for itself.

Send this article to a friend: