Robert Higgs–Crisis and Leviathan–Videos

Posted on June 23, 2010. Filed under: Blogroll, Communications, Crime, Culture, Economics, Education, Employment, Federal Government, Fiscal Policy, government, government spending, Law, liberty, Life, Links, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Rants, Raves, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , |

“We know that other great crises will come. Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurance. Yet in one form or another, great crises will surely come again, as they have from time to time throughout all human history. When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social affairs. Everything that I have argued and documented in the preceding chapters points toward this conclusion. For those who cherish individual liberty and a free society, the prospect is deeply disheartening.”

~Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, page 262.

“An important, powerful, and profoundly disturbing book.”

~James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate, in Journal of Economic History

“A blockbuster of a book, one of the most important of the last decade. It is that rare and wondrous combination: scholarly and hard-hitting, lucidly written and libertarian as well.”

~Murray N. Rothbard in Liberty

“A superb history. …Two hundred years after the establishment of the American Constitution, I can think of no more important reading than Mr. Higgs’ book, aside from the Constitution itself.”

~R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., Former Editor-in-Chief, The American Spectator

“…This seminal treatise in the history of ideas demonstrates what has come to be known as the Higgs thesis: that government grows in periods of crisis, for example, war and depression. He demonstrates this with a detailed look at twentieth century economic history.

Higgs’s thesis is so compelling that it has become the dominant paradigm for understanding the so-called ratchet effect: government grows during crisis and then retrenches afterwards, but not to the same level as before.

This book is absolutely essential for anyone who seeks to understand the dynamics of government growth and the loss of liberty. The contents of this volume include:

  • Part I. Framework
    • 1. The Sources of Big Government: A Critical Survey of Hypotheses
    • 2. How Much Has the Government Grown? Conventional Measures and an Alternative View
    • 3. On Ideology as an Analytical Concept in the Study of Political Economy
    • 4. Crisis, Bigger Government, and Ideological Change: Toward an Understanding of the Ratchet
  • Part II. History
    • 5. Crisis Under the Old Regime, 1893-1896
    • 6. The Progressive Era: A Bridge to Modern Times
    • 7. The Political Economy of War, 1916-1918
    • 8. The Great Depression: “An Emergency More Serious than War”
    • 9. The Political Economy of War, 1940-1945
    • 10. Crisis and Leviathan: From World War II to the 1980s
    • 11. Retrospect and Prospect

Paperback ISBN 0-19-505900-X …”

Robert Higgs on C-SPAN2’s Book TV, Part 1 of 3

Robert Higgs on C-SPAN2’s Book TV, Part 2 of 3

Robert Higgs on C-SPAN2’s Book TV, Part 3 of 3

“Since 1945, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans have come into and out of power as the oscillations of a pendulum, but regardless of the political swings the fixed point has remained a fundamental abrogation of private economic rights. Constantly vulnerable to unsettling governmental intervention–whether wage-price controls, energy controls, labor-market controls, environmental controls, international trade controls, or any number of other intrusions into once-private economic affairs–the postwar economy has staggered forward. All shades of politicians have preferred the powers available to them in a mixed economy to the conceivable alternatives. Without the powerful ideological and constitutional restraints that operated for over a century after the birth of the United States–restraints destroyed during the national emergencies of 1916-1945–modern governmental authorities may think deeply and often from the heady wellsprings of political power and social control.”

~Robert Higgs, Crisis and leviathan, page 257.

Background Articles and Videos

Historians, the State and Liberty [Robert Higgs]

The New Deal [Robert Higgs]

The National Security State [Robert Higgs]

Robert Higgs

“…Robert Higgs (born 1 February 1944) is an American economist of the Austrian School and a libertarian anarchist. His writings in economics and economic history have most often focused on the causes, means, and effects of government growth.

He is a Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute (since September 1994), and is editor of Independent Review (since 1995).[1] He is an adjunct faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute[2] and is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.[3] Higgs is also a contributor to[4]

Higgs has held teaching positions at 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,[1] and has supervised dissertations in the Ph.D. program at Universidad Francisco Marroquín.[5]



As author

  • 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)
  • Politická ekonomie strachu (“The Political Economy of Fear”) (Czech language; 2006)
  • Neither Liberty Nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government (2007)

As editor

  • 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)…”

Robert Higgs: Archives

Past articles by Robert Higgs on

Crisis and Leviathan: Observations amid the Current Episode

by Robert Higgs

“…Since the early twentieth century, periods of real or perceived national emergency have been “critical episodes” in the growth of government’s size, scope, and power in the United States and in many other countries. Hence, the concise conceptualization: Crisis and Leviathan (the main title of my 1987 book on the growth of government in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century).

In the past century, the first five such critical episodes in the United States were: World War I; the Great Depression; World War II; a multi-faceted set of crises associated with the civil-rights revolution and the Vietnam War, roughly coincident with the presidencies of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon; and the post 9/11 events associated with the so-called War on Terror and the U.S. attacks on and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. We are now amid another such critical episode, which springs from the housing bust that began in 2006, the economic recession that began late in 2007, and the financial debacle that reached its climax in September 2008.

The current troubles are complex and raise a multitude of questions. Many books and articles no doubt will be written to analyze these various issues in scholarly depth and detail, and certainly anything we might say today must be regarded as preliminary, at best. I focus here on a few aspects of the present episode that relate closely to my own research on the growth of government, a field of study to which I have returned again and again over the past thirty years. …”

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