Robert Higgs (born 1 February 1944) is an American economic historian, economist combining the insights from the Public Choice, Institutional and Austrian schools of economics, and 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.
Participation in academia
He is a Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute (since September 1994), and is editor of The Independent Review (since 1995). He is an adjunct faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.
Higgs received his Ph.D. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University, and has held teaching positions at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, and Seattle University. He has also been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University. Higgs held a visiting professorship at the University of Economics, Prague in 2006, and has supervised dissertations in the Ph.D. program at Universidad Francisco Marroqu n.
The Ratchet Effect
Daniel McCarthy praised Higgs and summarized his ratchet effect theory in a review of Against Leviathan that appeared in The American Conservative. In the review, McCarthy remarked that,
What made Crisis and Leviathan a milestone was the rigor with which it elaborated upon the logic of James Madison's 1794 warning against "the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in government." Other political economists had studied the growth of state power during times of war, depression, and general upheaval before, but none had done so as thoughtfully and thoroughly as Higgs. He took special care in describing the "ratchet effect" once a crisis has passed state power usually recedes again, but it rarely returns to its original levels; thus each emergency leaves the scope of government at least a little wider than before.
J rg Guido H lsmann, Joseph Salerno, Lew Rockwell, and other scholars have discussed the Higgs Ratchet Effect in their writings.
The Iraq War
A vehement critic of the Iraq war, Higgs wrote in the Los Angeles Chronicle in February 2008 that only a high toll in casualties or economic hardship will end the Iraqi war, not cogent arguments. Higgs continued:
It follows directly that up to this point the continued prosecution of the war has served the leaders' interests. They may say they are trying to end the war. They may have secured their election or reelection, as many of the Democrats now serving in Congress have, by promising to do whatever they can to end the war. Yet the truth is that they've sold the public a bill of goods. When the leaders have considered all the personal consequences they expect to follow from acting to end the war, they have concluded that, all things being considered, doing so does not serve their interest, and therefore they have refrained from doing so.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and social security
Higgs's 10 September 2008 article, "Ticking Time Bomb Explodes, Public Is Shocked," stated that
[t]he failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, setting in motion the biggest government bailout/takeover in U.S. history, brings a grim sense of fulfillment to competent economists.... Our political economy is rife with such catastrophes in waiting, yet the public always seems startled, and outraged, when the day of reckoning can no longer be deferred, and another apartment collapses in the state s Hotel of Impossible Promises, loading onto the taxpayers more visibly the burden of sheltering the previous occupants.... Call it democracy in action or utterly corrupt governance; they are the same thing.
The Transformation of the American Economy, 1865 1914 (1971) 
Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy, 1865 1914 (1977; paperback edition 1980) Nominated for the American Historical Association's Beveridge Award
Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (1987)
Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society (2004)
Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 (2005)
Depression, War and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy (2006)
Politick ekonomie strachu ("The Political Economy of Fear") (Czech language; 2006)
Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government (2007)
Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy (2012)
Emergence of the Modern Political Economy (1985)
Arms, Politics, and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (1990)
Hazardous to Our Health? FDA Regulation of Health Care Products (1995)
Re-Thinking Green: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy with Carl P. Close (2005)
The Challenge of Liberty: Classical Liberalism Today with Carl P. Close (2006)
Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism with Carl P. Close (2007)
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