- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Independent Institute (May 1 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1598130293
- ISBN-13: 978-1598130294
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 454 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,453,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity Paperback – May 1 2009
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"Robert Higgs is a contrarian and an iconoclast. He believes that economists and historians have misunderstood U.S. economic history during the middle decades of the 20th century." American Journal of Sociology
"Thoughtful and detailed criticism." Hugh T. Rockoff, professor of economics, Rutgers University
"Necessary correctives to the popular and scholarly willingness to remain emotionally invested in erroneous explanations." Journal of American Studies
"An important book. Those interested in the interaction between the domestic economy, war, and heavily armed peace will find it essential reading." Paul Johnson, author, Modern Times and A History of the American People
"A real eye opener and bold foray into contemporary political economy."
Richard E. Sylla, Henry Kaufman Professor of the History of Financial Institutions and Markets, New York University
"Key challenges to both the macromonetary and Keynesian explanations of the American experience in the era of depression and world war." Journal of Markets & Morality
About the Author
Robert Higgs is a senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and the editor of the quarterly journal Independent Review. He is the author of Against Leviathan, Neither Liberty Nor Safety, and The Resugence of the Warfare State, and has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics in Prague. He lives in Covington, Louisiana.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book was not written as a whole. It is an assemblage of magazine articles, some several decades old. This has the effect that not only do the chapters fail to connect or build upon each other, there is the problem that a chapter with 15 pages of text and graphs is padded out with 5 pages of notes and references. The notes and references are there for reasons that perhaps make sense in dusty professional journals, but most readers will be hard pressed to understand why Higgs regularly cites 8 or more sources for the same fact. In the same vein, in what is advertised as a discussion of the economics of the "hot" war of WW2 and the subsequent Cold War of Containment against Communism, Higgs spends 56 of book's meager 208 pages simply complaining about how American domestic politics affect some DoD spending. Since Higgs had already established that the government portion of US GNP has been essentially flat at 20% since the Korean War, the readers would be better served by some discussion of the interplay between military and non-military federal spending within that 20%.
Another shortcoming, probably resulting from the preparation of the material in the 1980s and early `90s, is that the tables and graphs are breathtakingly crude, the kind of work one would expect from a bright high school student. Modern PCs can of course whip out not simply more visually attractive graphics, but allow for much more complex exploration of the data. Since the actual work of choosing and applying deflators and other adjustments is not shown in the book, one can either attempt his own recalculations using the raw data or accept what Higgs says he did. I understand enough about statistics to generally understand what he says he did. I can't imagine most readers will bother with an independent calculation.
And on the data itself, Higgs chooses 1938 as the earliest date for any of his analyses. This makes no sense, especially when discussing the 1940-41 transition to WW2. What's clearly needed is data that goes back to 1910 and shows the comparable buildup and disarmament for WW1, which was the original American experiment with "command economy" and central planning. As presented by Higgs, the reader gets neither the sense of how the civilian economy of 1945 compared with the deep Depression of 1935, nor any feel for what a non-Depression, non-war US GNP was like prior to 1929.
A few personal comments. For most Americans, choosing to label the non-military portion of federal budgets as "roads" (to contrast with Hermann Goering's famous "guns" and "butter") instead of "welfare" should raise some eyebrows about Higgs' personal politics. This is especially true after Higgs implies that there was never any real threat from Russian Communism and that The Cold War was a scam created in Washington to mislead the American voters into supporting excessive military spending.
In summary, Higgs' basic ideas that the delay in the recovery of the US economy from The Great Depression is obscured by increased military spending for WW2 and that the Depression continued into 1947 are useful and apparently true. But you don't need this book to convince yourself of that. The key chapters of the book are available online, free.
This is a thoroughly readable book which everyone who is interested in our current economic problems should read.
Such insight can get us out of the Bush/Obama Depression too. We should bring home our troups and close the thousand bases they populate while slashing government spending by two-thirds.