September 13, 2019 Print

Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History, the newest book by Florida State University professor Randall G. Holcombe, has just been released by Independent Institute. Holcombe, a research fellow at the Oakland, California-based think tank, examines the recent trend towards big government solutions to modern-day problems and how this new approach has evolved throughout U.S. history.

In discussing the role that individual liberty has played since the country’s founding, Holcombe highlights the shift in our fundamental principles from liberty to democracy, and why this change has serious and negative economic and political consequences. “We often think of liberty and democracy as complements, even two sides of the same coin,” explained James R. Otteson Jr., Thomas W. Smith Presidential Chair in Business Ethics at Wake Forest University. “Holcombe begs to differ. Americans in the founding era championed liberty and founded a constitutional republic to secure it. In the modern era, however, Americans champion political ‘democracy’ instead, which has come at the expense of liberty.”  

Holcombe uses the backdrop of American history to show how this gradual, damaging shift began in the first place. He argues that economic and political systems are not separate entities but are intimately intertwined—and the result has been tension between democracy, liberty, a market economy, and the institutions of a free society. “Liberty in Peril seeks to show the transformation of the underlying ideology of American government since the Revolution”, explained Yale Law and Economics Professor George L. Priest. “From commitment to the principle of individual liberty to the principle of democracy—that government should be responsive to the will of the people.” 

Essentially a blueprint on how to restore individual rights and freedom, Liberty in Peril is a must-read for historians, economists, legal experts, or anyone in the liberty movement with a  passion for limited government.