Scott Horton Interviews Robert Higgs

Scott Horton, February 24, 2009

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Robert Higgs, senior fellow at the Independent Institute and author of Depression, War and Cold War, discusses his thesis of “regime uncertainty” as a major factor of the Great Depression, the crash and recovery of 1921-22, the bubble created by the Fed in the later “roaring” twenties in order to prop up British interests, how World War II provided the certainty big business needed to start investing again – in arms, why the Cold War buildup was still cheap enough for the economy to continue under its weight, who really benefits from empire, who pays, the irrelevance of trade deficits, the roots of the financial crisis in Wall St.’s bogus financial models, congressional and Federal Reserve polices and the cartelized ratings business, the all-important intertwined policy of inflation and war, his view of the extent of the collapse and whether the empire will be dismantled, the danger of high price inflation, danger of nationalization, and why government regulation of the market is responsible for – not the solution to – its failures.

MP3 here. (1:16:17)

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Higgs is the editor of The Independent Institute books Opposing the Crusader State, The Challenge of Liberty, Re-Thinking Green, Hazardous to Our Health? and Arms, Politics, and the Economy, plus the volume Emergence of the Modern Political Economy.

His authored books include Neither Liberty Nor Safety, Depression, War, and Cold War, Politická ekonomie strachu (The Political Economy of Fear, in Czech), Resurgence of the Warfare State, Against Leviathan, The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914, Competition and Coercion, and Crisis and Leviathan. A contributor to numerous scholarly volumes, he is the author of more than 100 articles and reviews in academic journals.

13 Responses to “Robert Higgs”

  1. So who does this guy think will borrow when banks are ready to lend again? The unemployed, whose ranks are rising at 600,000 per month? The employed, whose wages are falling, homes are unmarketable, 401(k)s are now 101(k)s? The other households who may be still employed but who are scared to death as their friends and neighbors lose their jobs and homes? The corps whose utilization rates are plummeting and whose excess inventories pile up every day?

    Oh, I get it! It's the hedge fund managers who are bailed out by the govt who will build new McMansions who will turn the economy around. Brilliant!

    Longer run, I guess he hates things like the transcontinental railroad because govt never does anything right. (And if he thinks that private enterprise built the RRs without govt subsidies, then I have a bridge to sell him.)

  2. [...] Horton interviews Bob Higgs for Antiwar Radio. They discuss “regime uncertainty,” the 1921 depression, [...]

  3. eCAHNomics, you write, “Longer run, I guess he hates things like the transcontinental railroad because govt never does anything right. (And if he thinks that private enterprise built the RRs without govt subsidies, then I have a bridge to sell him.)”

    Why shouldn’t Higgs “hate” anything the government does? Since it must either tax directly, borrow, or inflate, which is another way of saying no one freely purchases its services–roads, security, etc.–there really is no way of knowing whether these things are in demand. And if they are to what extent. And by the way, if something needs a government subsidy, then it is uneconomical, a poor use of capital. That capital would be better put elsewhere.

    The real question must never be “How would we have roads and mail, for example, without the wise hand of government? but rather how much better would they be if produced by the free market?”

  4. Since the idea of globalization requires a shift from people having faith in the actions of their respective sovereign states to placing all power into the hands of global entities; a kind of Fukuyama style endgame ideology, it then makes perfect sense, from a corporate point of view, to run political systems into the ground.

    51 of the world’s largest 100 economies are corporations. Could it be that it is corporations who are responsible for governmental failure?

  5. “Globalization” is certainly not about running political systems in the ground, it’s about centralising that power. Hence, the vast increase in the size, scope, and power of political entities (both local and global) over the past several decades alone.

    Indeed, corporations need strong political entities (local or global) otherwise they would have no one to turn to for favours and privileges and easy money – wars, bailouts and stimulus plans = lifesavers for corporate elites.

  6. If roads were produced by the ‘free market’ you wouldnt be able to afford all the tolls the greedsters would charge to drive on their private roads.

  7. in the USA, the intercoastal waterway of the east coast from the chesapeake and delaware canal to miami was federalized a long time ago. try “florida’s big dig” for some local flavor.

  8. If roads were produced by the ‘free market’ you wouldnt be able to afford all the tolls the greedsters would charge to drive on their private roads.

    Actually, it’d be pretty easy for everyone to afford pretty much all the basic necessities of life, because in a free-market society there would be no income tax.

  9. The point is, having public roads reduces cost for business.

    Lets be clear: privatization isn’t about handing over public property to the free market, but to select political allies. Anyone who believes that privatization of roadways is a good idea would do well to read up on the railroad ‘robber’ barons of the 1800s.

  10. “So who does this guy think will borrow when banks are ready to lend again?”

    The US Treasury Department; I hear they going to be selling a lot of bonds this year.

  11. “do well to read up on the railroad ‘robber’ barons of the 1800s.”

    Allow me to recommend Robert Higgs book, The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914.

  12. Great interview. Yea, Robert Higgs.

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