Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute
Robert Higgs

Robert Higgs (born 1 February 1944) is an American economic historian and economist combining material from Public Choice, the New institutional economics and the Austrian school of economics; and describes himself as a libertarian anarchist in political and legal theory and public policy. His writings in economics and economic history have most often focused on the causes, means and effects of government power and growth.

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1 Feb 1944, in

Awards Received

2006 Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, granted by Center for Independent Thought, Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, 2006


Cato Institute, Adjunct Scholar
Independent Institute, Senior Fellow in Political Economy; Editor at Large, <cite>The Independent Review</cite>
Mises Institute, Senior Fellow
Eris Society

Web Pages

Robert Higgs - Libertarian
Advocates for Self-Government


A scholar's scholar retires, by Donald J. Boudreaux,, 21 Jul 2015
Discusses Higgs' retirement, highlighting his books Competition and Coercion and Crisis and Leviathan as well as his identification of "regime uncertainty"
"Bob is one of our greatest living scholars. Specializing in economic history, Bob's first major work is his 1976 book, 'Competition and Coercion.' In it, Bob documents the many ways that economic competition — including people's ability to move from place to place — enabled blacks to improve their economic situation after the Civil War. These improvements came despite the bigotry that then reigned in the South — and despite the activities of government."
How Star Wars Can Lead America Off the Dark Path, by Dan Sanchez, 4 May 2017
Examines the first two Star Wars trilogies, drawing parallels to 20th and 21st century U.S. and world history, and draws lessons from the films that could help the United States from "giving in to the dark side"
"Palpatine assures the Senators: '... Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me.' ... The emergency-propelled rise of the Sith also fits with Robert Higgs's broader insight that crisis is the health of Leviathan. ... As Higgs detailed, the expansions of state size and power that occur during a war or other emergency are generally scaled back after the crisis passes, but never all the way down to the pre-crisis level. Thus, the power of the state ratchets up with every war."
Libertarian moment or movement?, by Robert J. Cihak, Michael A. Glueck, 24 Jan 2003
Two months before the 2003 Iraq invasion, presents the views of Robert Higgs and David Theroux as to whether the libertarian movement can have "a major role to play in post-9/11 America"
"Robert Higgs, a political economist who taught at several universities and who now edits the Independent Review, says 'There's no libertarian moment now ...' Higgs spent decades documenting this process of 'crisis opportunism.' His 1987 classic, 'Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government,' lays out what most of us know intuitively. Government grows via what he calls the 'ratchet effect' ..."
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 4: War, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 22 Aug 2005
Part of a six-segment series examining The Prince vis-à-vis contemporary U.S. politics; this article covers Machiavelli's simple advice on war and contrasts it with that of James Madison and Robert Higgs in Crisis and Leviathan
"In his book Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs showed how wars and economic crises help to expand the power of government and diminish individual liberties. In one example, he showed how the Wilson administration overcame the opposition of Americans to involvement in World War I by hiding its true costs. Instead of relying on free-market purchases to acquire needed resources (and reveal all costs), the government resorted to command-and-control measures and propaganda to head off opposition ..."


Atrocities in the 'Good War': A Tract for Today, 19 Jun 2006
With excerpt of "One War is Enough", Feb 1946 Atlantic Monthly article by Edgar L. Jones
"It is not my intention either to excuse our late opponents or to discredit our own fighting men. I do, however, believe that all of us ... should fully understand the horror and degradation of war before talking so casually of another one. War does horrible things to men, our own sons included. It demands the worst of a person and pays off in brutality and maladjustment."
Related Topic: World War II
A Viper Lived in Johnny's House, or A Child's First Verse in Political Philosophy, 9 Oct 2006
"'Listen, boy, it's not wise to wonder.
From the earliest days of mankind,
everyone's had a viper or another
sort of snake: people say they're divine.'
At home, they surrendered a great deal
of their food for the snake to consume."
Related Topic: The State
No More Great Presidents, The Free Market, Mar 1997
Discusses the results of a 1996 poll of historians asking them to rank U.S. presidents, focusing on those ranked Great, Near Great and Failure, and offers his own ranking
"My idea of a great president is one who acts in accordance with his oath of office to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' Not since the presidency of Grover Cleveland has any president achieved greatness by this standard. Worse, the most admired have been those who failed most miserably. Evidently my standard differs from that employed by others who judge presidential greatness."
Peace and Pacifism, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Reviews what prominent classical liberals and libertarians had to say on the subject of peace and war, as well as the history of United States wars from the War of 1812 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the efforts of those who opposed them
"If 'war is the health of the state,' as writer Randolph Bourne famously declared, then peace is a necessary condition for individual freedom to flourish. ... In U.S. history, opposition emerged before or during almost every war, although it assumed much greater proportions on some occasions than on others. These historical episodes serve as lessons for contemporary libertarians, nourishing their pacific proclivities and inspiring their resistance to the unnecessary wars that the state continues to launch with distressing frequency."
The President Seems Out of Touch With Events on the Ground in Iraq, 31 May 2006
"The president's speech employed, as such speeches usually do, an abstract, high-flown rhetoric intended to stir the listeners' patriotic juices and to place U.S. actions in the purest possible light. The reports of the massacre at Haditha, however, shine a different light on the war."


Faculty Spotlight Interview: Robert Higgs, 2 Dec 2010
"What drew you to the Austrian school and to the Ludwig von Mises Institute? I stumbled upon Hayek's writing during the first year of my career as a professor (1968-69). Hayek's references led me to read Mises's Human Action several years later, and around the same time, I discovered Rothbard, Kirzner, and other Austrians."
Related Topic: Austrian Economics


War and the Growth of Government, Mises University, 20 Jul 2015
Includes a six minute introduction where Lew Rockwell presents the 2015 Murray N. Rothbard Medal of Freedom to Higgs; discusses, with many examples, how wars and militarism influenced the growth of government
Related Topic: War


How Major U.S. Neo-imperialist Wars End, 6 Jun 2008
Speech given at the Future of Freedom Foundation's 2008 conference "Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties"
Related Topic: War

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert Higgs" as of 18 Apr 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.