Robert Higgs Archive

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
Full Biography and Recent Publications

Burgeoning Regulations Threaten Our Humanity



Insofar as mainstream economics may be said to make moral-philosophical assumptions, it rests overwhelmingly on a consequentialist-utilitarian foundation. When mainstream economists say that an action is worthwhile, they mean that it is expected to give rise to benefits whose total value exceeds its total cost (that is, the most valued benefit necessarily forgone by...
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Chances Are that You Have No More Expertise in Economics than You Have in Astrophysics



Although the statement is commonly attributed to Mark Twain, his friend Charles Dudley Warner was the one who said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Regardless of who said it, the statement was and remains fairly accurate. In contrast, we might observe, “Everybody complains about the economy, and a...
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Wait! You May Not Need to Lop Off So Many Heads



The current U.S. population is about 318 million. Approximately 25 percent of these people are younger than 18 years of age, which leaves roughly 239 million adults. Of these, therefore, the 1% with the greatest incomes number about 2,390,000 persons. How many of these do you suppose possess extraordinary political clout? My not-entirely-wild guess...
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Do You Remember the Sixties?



Do you remember the Sixties? I do, vividly. The latter half of that decade was the worst time of my life so far as the enveloping social and political conditions were concerned: endless, horrifying war; unraveling civil rights movement; urban riots and violence; political assassinations and mass protests; university upheavals and bombings; police brutality...
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Some Basics of State Domination and Public Submission



Familiarity may indeed, as the saying goes, breed contempt, but it also breeds a sort of somnolence. People who have never known anything other than a certain state of affairs—even an extraordinarily problematic state of affairs—have a tendency not to notice it at all, to relate it, so to speak, as if they were...
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Tolstoy’s Remarkable Manifesto on Christian Anarchy and Pacifism



I’ve just finished reading Leo Tolstoy’s remarkable book The Kingdom of God Is Within You. This was written in Russian and completed in 1893, but the Russian censors forbade its publication. It circulated in unpublished form in Russia, however, and was soon translated into other languages and published abroad. It had substantial influence on...
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The U.S. Government Makes a Mockery of the Principal-Agent Relationship



The philosophical and legal foundation of the U.S. government (and some other governments) is that government officials are the agents of the citizens—in the familiar phrase, those who govern have the “consent of the governed.” An agent, of course, is someone I authorize to act on my behalf. For a host of reasons, this doctrine...
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Against Libertarian Infighting



Like any ideology that has attracted a substantial following, libertarianism has splintered into a variety of sects. Thus, there are hard-core and soft-core libertarians; plumb-line and big-tent libertarians; Rothbard-loving and Rothbard-hating libertarians; pro-political and anti-political libertarians; academic and movement libertarians; thick and thin libertarians; socially conventional and libertine libertarians; pro-war and anti-war libertarians; bleeding-heart...
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Governor Stevens and I



When Governor Isaac Stevens went around Puget Sound in the mid-1850s making treaties with the Indian tribes to clear the way for an anticipated influx of whites, he found again and again that asking for the tribal chief got him nowhere. The Indians would look around and shrug their shoulders. They had no chiefs....
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Bootleggers and Baptists; Silversmiths and Artemis Cultists



All students of government regulation (and, to some extent, of other intervention, as well) know about Bruce Yandle’s model of bootleggers and Baptists. In this vision, a special interest with a large financial stake in a regulation joins forces politically (sometimes only covertly or simply in effect) with a religious or ideological interest group...
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