Tom Woods begins Rollback by asking “is it already too late?” Before giving a lengthy answer, he points to recent polls that suggests most Americans claim to not trust the federal government; though much like a teenager that insists his parents are clueless – still looks their way for a solution. In answering the question Woods writes, “[t]he coming fiscal crisis is an opportunity to take a careful second look at government… we would not only survive but flourish in the absence of countless institutions we are routinely told we could not live without.”
Woods finishes the first chapter by describing “the crisis.” In short, the crisis being the $14 trillion federal debt (interest payments alone, according to CBO estimates, will cost nearly $1 trillion per year by 2020) and future unfunded liabilities estimated at over $100 trillion ($19.4 trillion of which was added by “small government” George W. Bush’s administration, thanks to Medicare Part D). But don’t worry, the Republican Party wants to cut the bloated federal budget by $100 billion – Woods writes, “that’s like taking $3 off a trip to the moon.” The crisis is not just at the federal level, many States and dozens of cities are facing financial collapse as well.
In Chapter 2, Woods looks at “Barack Obama and ‘Change We Can Believe In'” by writing “[t]he looming fiscal crisis didn’t originate with Barack Obama, but he sure hasn’t helped.” Woods explains “how we got here” and why health care costs are rising (hint: it’s not because of any perceived “free market”). Woods does not blame Obama, he explains how Obama is just one in a long line of Presidents who have contributed to the problems in the name of helping the people.
Woods spends the next two chapters explaining how Keynesian economic policies in conjunction with central banking have perpetuated the problems, while perceived deregulation and the “free market” (that doesn’t exist) are blamed.
“Three words guarantee the coming federal bankruptcy: ‘off the table,'” writes Woods in Chapter 5, “[t]he only area a majority (of American’s) would cut (according to a 2010 poll by The Economist) [i]s foreign aid” or roughly 1% of the federal budget. Woods continues, “[t]hat means the only thing on the table is default.”Woods goes on to explain what Frederic Bastiat called “the seen and the unseen” of those items that are off the table, specifically military spending – the largest of the government’s sacred cows. Oddly enough, Woods points out, some people argue that military spending is too low, even though the U.S. government spends as much on military as the rest of the world combined.
In a chapter that has me wondering whether Woods is a minarchist, anarchist or voluntaryist, he does a fine job of tackling “The Myth of ‘Good Government’.” He writes, “[o]ne of the many reasons it has been so difficult to limit government’s growth is that the public has been conditioned to believe that… the government by and large has their best interests at heart.” Woods goes on to smash the propaganda that government is needed to save us from monopolies that would enslave humanity and to save us from ourselves. Before offering some possible solutions to the coming collapse, Woods writes, “Imagine a world in which Walmart supplied people with various services we today associate with government.” If Walmart educated children and broadcast messages “about the wonders of Walmart, how it alone guarantees their safety… and so-on” would you believe it? Or would you see past the lies?
Woods concludes with some possible solutions:
- Social Security and Medicare opt-outs.
- Across-the-board cuts. Woods writes, “[i]f everything is cut, any of the fiefdoms that protest… will immediately expose themselves as special-interest groups seeking special privileges.”
- Currency competition. “Private mints should be allowed to issue coins as money,” Woods writes, “[m]oney… is the very worst commodity for government to monopolize.”
- State nullification.
- Repeal Amendment. This proposed amendment would or rather should work in conjunction with nullification. If a majority of States disapprove of a federal law, it is repealed.
- Crack through the media monopoly – for free. In other words, be the media!
- Jury nullification. “The ultimate tool,” Woods writes, “by which the people may deliver a verdict on the laws that govern them.”
- Free State Project. The FSP’s goal is to get as many liberty-lovers as possible to move to the same State in the hopes to bring “liberty in our lifetime.”
- Agorism. “Agorism,” Woods explains, “rejects political activity altogether… Agorism begins with the libertarian premise that individuals have the right to interact… peacefully without the intervention of… the state.” Many people practice agorism without even knowing it; anyone using a radar detector, that has ever had a yard sale without a permit or reporting the proceeds or has ever been paid in cash, “is to some extent an agorist.”
- Debt repudiation. Since it is obvious that the federal government can not pay off the federal debt without inflating the currency some suggest the federal government should “default on it honestly.”
Woods concludes by explaining the choice facing you, me and everyone else: “Do you want a life of toil and slavery, followed by ultimate destitution, or do you want to stand up for yourself and fight for the chance of a decent life?”