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Very well said. I have been thinking a lot about Bush's expansion of executive power recently, and I fear you are correct. Hoover also laid the groundwork for FDR, and I consider him to be among the worst presidents too. My only point, really, was that I fear sometimes that libertarians lack imagination when they say that the next president couldn't possibly be worse than Bush. Maybe Bush is "worse" in some sense for making possible the subsequent president, but that president may actually put into action the policies of demise. When free market proponents don't seem to see the difference between two candidates because nobody could be worse than Bush, I worry.

But, you are basically correct, I think, in everything you say above.

Also, I wonder whether Bush needed to lay the groundwork. The economic "crisis" on its own could have been stage-setting enough for Obama. We dont really know what FDR's presidency would have been like if he took over right after Coolidge but somehow the Depression had begun anyway. And we don't know how an Obama presidency would differ if Bush had not expanded government scope-- a real FDR-like Obama presidency might take all the powers that Bush took and many more without any precedent. FDR took many powers that Hoover never would have considered taking. Hoover was a pretty considerate constitutionalist despite wanting to expand government's scale.

There is a story that the Russian serfs and peasants used to say "Long live the Tsar" regardless of the badness of the current incumbent because the next one could be worse.
There is a more modern saying along the lines "'Cheer up" they said, 'Things could be worse!', so we cheered up, and sure enough, things did get worse!".

The distinction between scale and scope is important and it also helps to make a distinction between big and strong government. The government does not need to be big, but it does needs to be strong enough to stick with the minimal set of things that it needs to do and resist the efforts of rent seekers and factions to broaden its scale and scope. Of course that is a bit much to ask at present because the factions and rent seekers are firmly in the saddle, like the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

An irritating by-product of the scope of government is the incredible range of detail on every topic under the sun that political leaders need to have at their fingertips. So "gotcha" journalists will ask the PM or a PM contender the price of a pint of milk or the precise size of the national debt and a conservative politician will be lampooned if they slip up on any detail.

As far as economic powers I think the recent crisis has only made explicit what was always implicit in our FRB system with fiat money. In a sense this is more *honest* and thus better in so far as people will see who to blame.

As far as police powers, I am afraid that Bush has shredded the constitution and laid the ground work for a future dictator.

I agree with the assessment of Bush's presidency and I think "Crisis and Leviathan" is a wonderful book.

However, I'm not very sure that there is a difference in the scale (and scope) of awfulness between FDR and Bush.

Bush expanded the scope of government and probably opened the way for more Big Government to come: also FDR did. The problem with the New Deal was not a problem of scale, was a problem of scope, too.

Besides, probably Roosevelt's New Deal was more innovative from the point of view of the expansion of state power than Bush's presidency. Bush already had all the powers he needed, he only needed the chance to put them in practice.

The only real competition Bush has for worst of the last 100 years are Wilson and FDR. All three dramatically expanded the scope of gov't power during their administrations

I didn't mean to suggest FDR was only "scale" - quite the contrary. My point was only to suggest that whatever fears we might have about Obama, the blame for opening the door he's going to walk through lies with Bush (and yes, FDR and Wilson and others before that).

Ok. I completely agree.

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