All Commentary
Monday, June 1, 1981

Book Review: A Time for Action by William E. Simon (Readers Digest Press, 200 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017), 1980


$2.75 paperback

This latest contribution from the feisty former Secretary of the Treasury-briefer but just as potent as his best-selling A Time for Truth—is a compelling indictment of moral, political, and economic decay. This decay is embodied in and promoted by a government run amok—a monstrous bureaucracy which threatens our liberties and our standard of living.

Practically every nook and cranny of the sprawling federal establishment feels Simon’s sting in this book—the regulatory agencies, the executive branch, the State Department, and the Congress, to name a few. The “counterculture” which in recent years has dominated that federal establishment has its roots in four critical elements: “the media, the public interest groups and think tanks, the second and third echelons of the bureaucracy, and, increasingly, the courts.” Simon argues that an uncomprehending public has allowed these groups to do great damage and that disaster and dictatorship loom ahead if the public fails to regain the vision of America’s Founding Fathers.

The new mood in the country may be the beginning of the reawakening which Simon hopes for. Americans are coming to understand that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is also big enough to take away everything you’ve got.” Americans are also waking up to the fact that in our dangerous world, all the welfarist schemes devisable will be for nought if government neglects its proper function as a peace-preserving agency for defense.

In the final chapter, Simon prescribes solutions to the problems he has described. They include balancing the federal spending, reducing taxes, scaling down money supply growth, harnessing the bureaucracy, and restoring a strong defense posture. That may sound like a broken record to readers here, but as Simon says it, it sure doesn’t.

A Time for Action is packed with facts and figures drawn from Simon’s experience in Washington and seasoned by his commitment to principles. It is the stuff from which budget-cutters and statesmen are made. For every freedom believer who wants ammunition in the campaign to stave off tyranny, this is one arsenal which should not be overlooked.


  • Timothy G. Nash is the Director of the McNair Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Northwood University.