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Robert Higgs Archive

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.

Full Biography and Recent Publications

Specialization and Free Trade Enhance Our Productivity—It’s Just That Simple



In most cases people recognize that increasing productivity is a good thing. If we develop new technologies or make organizational changes that allow us to produce more output with the same inputs, we celebrate. If people acquire education or experience that allows them to produce more with their human capital, we regard this payoff...
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Glorious Democracy



Election campaigns Painful but worse is to come Someone’s gonna win – Winner won’t be us Political class will win Rest of us, tough luck – Whole thing is great farce Diverts and entertains us Thieves make off with loot

A Cantaloupe Illustrates the Key to Prosperity



My family eats a lot of cantaloupes. We buy them from Lucio, a Mexican man who heroically hauls produce and other goods in his rickety pickup truck three times each week a hundred miles from Bacalar to our house on a wretched road at the extreme limit of the semi-civilized world in southeast Quintana...
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The Three Basic Means by Which Ruling Elites Maintain Their Control



Ruling elites have three basic ways to keep the subject population under their thumb: threaten, bribe, and bamboozle. Everything they do is a variant of one of these basic actions. So, if the lush, misleading overgrowth were cut away, all government activities could be undertaken by only three departments: the Department of Cops and...
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What Really Creates a Peaceful, Orderly, and Prosperous Society?



The idea that genuine self-government—the system in which individuals contract for the type of governance they prefer—must fail because under such a system no one can make others obey the rules is stunningly misconceived. On any given day, even in a world pervaded by states and their dictates, nearly everything that people do or...
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Even a Dimwit May Be Right and a Genius Wrong about Some Things



Sometimes when I criticize something maintained by a great intellectual such as Ludwig von Mises, people respond on social media by writing shorthand comments such as “Mises > Higgs.” This is silly. Am I the intellectual equal of Mises? Of course not. I would be an idiot to suppose I am. However, my overall...
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Dealing with Mistakes: Government Action versus Private Action



Government can hardly ever do just one thing. Its action has repercussions, and these repercussions have repercussions, and so forth. Even when the government’s initial action may seem compassionate or productive, it is highly unlike that the repercussions will prove likewise. Of course, private action also has repercussions, some of which may be unpleasant...
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So-called Police Misconduct



“Police misconduct” is a term one hears from time to time. Some people complain about it. Most, however, refer to it as simply a mistaken idea advanced by disgruntled ne’er-do-wells who refuse to accept that only a few “bad apples” among the police ever do anything wrong—and when they do it’s for altogether understandable...
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First, Do No Harm



Primum non nocere, or, in English, “first, do no harm,” is a venerable maxim often traced to the Hippocratic Oath. It has long served as an important admonition in the ethics of physicians and other healthcare providers. It seems an eminently sensible rule. In a way it resembles the provision in Catholic moral teaching...
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Mere Optimism Is Not a Good Substitute for Sound Theory and Far-reaching Evidence



As elderly people get older they tend toward feeble-mindedness. Not in every case, of course, but as a general rule applicable to any given cohort. I am acutely aware of this tendency whenever I express an opinion or explain a conclusion: I may simply be losing my grip. Moreover, older people tend to become...
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