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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

All Government Policies Succeed in the Long Run



A crazy claim you are probably thinking after reading my title. After all, “failed policies” are a staple of discussions and debates about government actions in the United States. Everybody, regardless of political preferences, has a list of what he regards as the most glaringly failed policies. This way of looking at the matter,...
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Ronald Coase, Professional Odd Man Out



Ronald Coase (1910-2013) died yesterday at the age of 102. Since Coase became an economist, in the early 1930s, the economics profession has been altered enormously in fundamental ways. Most notably, perhaps, (1) the degree of analytical formality (especially the mathematical specification of theoretical models) has increased greatly in every part of the field; (2)...
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Creative Destruction—The Best Game in Town



In his justly famous 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Joseph A. Schumpeter described the dynamics of a market economy as a process of “creative destruction.” In his view, innovation—“the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates”—drives this...
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Is Macroeconomics Really Economics?



The world probably would have been much better off had macroeconomics never been devised. Although I have in mind Keynesian macroeconomics above all, I include other types of macro models as well. I even include, somewhat reluctantly, the whole quantity theory approach descended from David Hume to the Friedmanites, now known as monetarism. One...
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Our System’s Complexity Is Both Its Weakness and Its Strength



If our politico-economic system were the creation of a small group of über-conspirators, it would be easy to change. People would need only to identify, expose, and oust the “man behind the curtain.” But our system is nothing of the sort, notwithstanding the enduring popularity of Grand Conspiracy Theories. Even the formal government itself...
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Not Even Achieving an Impossible Libertarian Dream Will Suffice



Libertarians dream of cutting back the bloated Leviathan under whose weight people now struggle simply to catch their breath—breathing freely being almost beyond imagination. A few of us dream of eliminating the state altogether, however much we recognize the impossibility of doing so. Many more libertarians, however, believe that in propitious circumstances, the state...
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Where’s the Outrage?



Several weeks have passed since the world received Edward Snowden’s revelations of the massive scope of the U.S. government’s invasion of privacy by means of collecting and storing millions of persons’ emails and website visits, as well as information about their telephone calls. The public appears fairly equally divided about whether these revelations constitute...
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The U.S. Empire’s Shameful Multiplier Effect



Let X = number of persons who died in the USA as a result of the 9/11 attacks. X ≈ 3,000. Let Y = number of persons who have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of direct war violence associated with the U.S. attacks and occupations since 9/11. Y ≈ between...
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Why Fight for King and Country?



There is something monstrously out of whack about going to war for a large nation state. I can understand why a man might take up arms in defense of himself, his family, his friends, perhaps even his neighborhood or his town. But once we get past the lived-in milieu, a man’s risking his life,...
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Robert William Fogel (July 1, 1926 – June 11, 2013)



Robert Fogel died a few days ago. He was a prominent figure in the academic economic history profession for five decades, virtually from the time he burst onto the scene with the publication of a polished-up version of his Johns Hopkins Ph.D. dissertation, Railroads and American Economic Growth, in 1964. This book was the...
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