Robert Higgs Archive

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

How Much Longer Can the U.S. Economy Bear the Burdens?



Ordinary people, and sometimes experts as well, tend to overreact to short-term economic changes. The current economic malaise in the United States and Europe has brought forth a bevy of commentators convinced that this time the economy has taken a permanent turn for the worse. Never again, they declare, will we enjoy growing prosperity...
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Total National Security Spending Is Much Greater than the Pentagon’s Base Budget



In a recent publication of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “Defense Spending Extends Beyond the Pentagon’s Budget,” Veronique de Rugy presents a valuable compilation of data for fiscal year 2013, showing how much of the government’s national security spending appears not in the base budget of the Department of Defense, but elsewhere...
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Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Don’t Worry, They’ll Guard Themselves!



Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? Do not fret, mis amigos. Our guardians have already made ample provision for guarding themselves. They have, among other upstanding actions, appointed ombudsmen, established offices of inspector generals, enacted the Administrative Procedure Act, and created internal affairs divisions in police departments. So, as anyone...
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All Men Are Brothers, but All Too Often They Do Not Act Accordingly



In “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx and Engels tell us that “[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” In a sense, I agree, although I define the struggling classes differently than they did. In any event, it seems clear enough from what we know about the past ten thousand...
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Income Inequality Is a Statistical Artifact



The past year or so has witnessed a tremendous outpouring of commentary about income inequality. Pundits and politicians have huffed and puffed about it, mainly about its alleged evils and what governments should do to diminish it. Mainstream economists have devoted a great deal of attention to dissecting French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital...
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Gordon Tullock and the Transitional Gains Trap



Gordon Tullock, who died on Monday at the age of 92, was along with his longtime colleague James Buchanan, the founder of the modern field of public choice, which during the past fifty years has become a well-established subfield of economics and of political science and has also had an influence on other disciplines....
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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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