Book Review: Cauldron by Larry Bond
DECEMBER 01, 1994 by GEORGE C. LEEF
Warner Books • 1993 • 592 pages • $22.95
The Left has long used popular fiction as a means of communicating and popularizing its egalitarian-statist philosophy. To cite but one well-known example, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was intended to make people believe that laissez-faire capitalism was horribly unjust and dangerous to our health as well. Appeals to fear and envy, the Left’s stock-in-trade, are easily woven into novels and the impact of such works on the outlook of the masses cannot be denied.
Writers of a libertarian bent have not ventured into fiction as frequently, with the notable exception of science fiction, where many novels have demonstrated the dystopian nature of socialism. Alas, for every Robert Heinlein or Ayn Rand, there have been many Upton Sinclairs. Most of the intellectual energy of the defenders of liberty has gone into scholarly works refuting the contentions of the socialists and exposing the counterproductivity of their nostrums. That is important, but as long as the opponents of liberty are on the attack, we risk losing the crucial battle for the hearts and minds of the populace.
That is why the appearance of Larry Bond’s Cauldron is such a happy event. Cauldron is an elaborate working out of the disastrous consequences of a breakdown in free trade internationally. The bad guys in this book are opportunistic politicians who revel in power and despise the idea of the free market. They are ruthless scoundrels who will sacrifice thousands of innocent lives in order to attain their objectives. They fight dirty. Although war is not their desire, they are inexorably led to engage in it by the ripple effects of their anti-market policies. Brutal warfare is the result of governmental meddling in the peaceful operations of the free market. Bastiat once wrote that if goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will. This book is an excellent illustration of the truth of that statement.
The villain of the piece is Nicolas Desaix, the French foreign minister. He dreams of Napoleonic glory for France—the statist’s glory of hegemony over one’s neighbors. The advanced age and poor health of the French President allows Desaix to seize de facto control over the government and he quickly sets about solving the many economic problems which beset France with, naturally, more coercion. He is especially eager to protect French industry from foreign competition. He has no use for “bubble-headed” economists who advocate free trade. What he desires is a European Confederation (EurCon), a French-dominated monetary union and trading bloc.
His plans go awry, however, when several nations—Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—decline to join EurCon. To bend Poland to his will, he engineers a natural gas shut-off from Russia. The United States and Britain attempt to keep Poland supplied by shipping liquified natural gas to Gdansk. When his orchestrated environmentalist campaign against the shipments fails to stop them, he has one of the tankers blown up.
Conflict erupts when the Hungarians overthrow their pro-Desaix government. French and German EurCon forces invade to restore their version of law and order. But aided by the U.S.- trained and equipped Polish air force, the Hungarians put up a surprisingly stiff battle. Desaix next attacks Poland to knock out their air bases and ultimately to subdue the independent Poles. That precipitates full-scale U.S. involvement, but Desaix is confident that he can win before American forces can intervene.
Bond is a talented writer and the military action on land, sea, and in the air is gripping. The issue is long in doubt, but eventually the anti-EurCon leaders find a way to exploit EurCon’s internal weaknesses. It crumbles under an unanticipated counter-attack. Desaix and like-minded authoritarians are swept from power. In the aftermath, the U.S. President proclaims that he seeks a new international alliance based on four firm principles: “free trade, free enterprise, free markets, and free governments.” Put one in the win column for Frederic Bastiat! 
Mr. Leef is an Adjunct Scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan.