Robert Higgs on the Independent Institute, Free-Market Thinking and the Impact of the Internet
The Daily Bell is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Robert Higgs.
Introduction: 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. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gary Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Defense of Liberty, Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty, Friedrich von Wieser Memorial Prize for Excellence in Economic Education, and Templeton Honor Rolls Award on Education in a Free Society. 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. A contributor to numerous scholarly volumes, he is the author of more than 100 articles and reviews in academic journals. His popular articles have appeared in major media and he has been interviewed at Fox News, NPR, NBC, ABC, C-SPAN, CBN and many other networks.
Daily Bell: You've had quite a career thus far. Tell us about your background.
Robert Higgs: I was born in Oklahoma, but my family moved to California when I was 7 years old, and I grew up there in a rural area west of Fresno. After graduation from high school, I attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Fresno State College, and San Francisco State College. I attended graduate school at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for one year before transferring to the Johns Hopkins University, where I completed my Ph.D. degree in economics in 1968.
Daily Bell: How did you get interested in libertarian issues?
Robert Higgs: My rearing imbued me with a strong desire for personal independence. Serving in the Coast Guard gave me an appreciation of how people with power often abuse those subject to their authority. My education in economics taught me about how markets work and how governments intervene in markets, often for the worse; most important, it taught me that scarcity makes trade-offs unavoidable, that is, that all choices have opportunity costs.
Daily Bell: How did you come to join the Independent Institute?
Robert Higgs: After I had worked for 26 years as a professor, I found that academic institutions no longer wished to employ me. (I had previously resigned positions as a tenured full professor at the University of Washington and as a tenured full professor and holder of an endowed chair at Lafayette College.) At that time, David Theroux, the president of the Independent Institute, offered me a position as research director. Three years later, in 1997, I handed off this position in order to concentrate on work as the editor of the Institute's just-launched scholarly quarterly The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy, which began publication in 1996.
Daily Bell: Tell us about The Independent Review and your role in this prestigious publication.
Robert Higgs: I have been TIR's editor from its creation to the present time, although I will soon surrender this position to a new editor. My responsibility has comprised the processing, peer review, and selection of all the articles and reviews in the journal. I have also put a great deal of time into improving the articles, both in substance and in exposition. We take pride in making TIR one of the most readable journals in political economy – a field that in my editorial capacity I have always construed broadly as including economics and the other social sciences, law, philosophy, and history, among other disciplines.
Daily Bell: What do you think of economics as it is currently practiced in the West?
Robert Higgs: I have many disagreements with the form and substance of mainstream economics. It is philosophically ill-founded, being essentially a positivistic pseudo-science that more or less apes what it takes to be the scientific approach of physics and chemistry. This project is not science, but scientism, because the methods of the "hard" sciences are not strictly applicable in the human sciences. In general, atoms and molecules act in constant, predictable ways under the same conditions. Human beings, in contrast, sometimes change their beliefs and values; they are creative in the invention and selection of the means they employ to achieve their ends; and, most important and most unlike the entities studied in the hard sciences, they have purposes, which they may also change at any moment. Mainstream economics ignores these essential differences and proceeds as if human beings were automatons that react to changes in conditions much as chemicals react, in constant, quantitatively predictable ways. Modern economics looks "scientific" to outsiders, however, because it covers its methodological nakedness with a thick cloak of mathematics and statistics. Empty formality gets high marks in modern economics, notwithstanding its frequently tenuous connection to economic reality.
Daily Bell: Are you a full-fledged Austrian? Do you believe in free banking or just a gold standard?
Robert Higgs: Whether I am a full-fledged Austrian is for others to decide. Austrian economists differ among themselves in their views about what this approach to economics requires and prohibits. I certainly have been greatly influenced by Austrian economists, especially by Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard, and over the course of my career, I have changed the way I do my own work and the way I understand what economic analysis, at its best, can and cannot accomplish.
On banking as on everything else, I favor complete freedom. If people freely adopt gold as a medium of exchange, that action is fine. If they freely adopt another medium of exchange, that action is also fine. Banking ought to be an unrestricted business carried on by parties who contract according to agreements of their own making.
I do not support a gold standard like the one the leading governments operated during the thirty or forty years before World War I, which was essentially a government price-fixing scheme for gold. Nevertheless, going back to that system would be an enormous improvement over the banking regulations and central-bank operations of the present-day monetary system.
Daily Bell: What do you think of Ellen Brown's point of view – as enunciated in her book Web of Debt – that the state is historically in charge of money and that state-run public banks along the lines that Benjamin Franklin suggested would be efficacious?
Robert Higgs: I have not read Brown's book, but I do not believe that the state was always in charge of money. Money emerged, as Menger, Mises, and Hayek explained, as an instrument bound up with a spontaneous order of indirect exchanges. I am completely opposed to state-run banks of any kind, including such anomalous institutions as the Federal Reserve System. Such institutions, whether they are state entities or merely state-spawned entities, are certain to be a means of political corruption and economic mischief, and they will ultimately cause economic ruin.
Daily Bell: Tell us about some of the well-received books you've written. We are especially interested in your work on war and the modern economy. What is the book "Arms, Politics, and the Economy" about?
Robert Higgs: This 1990 book, which I edited, is a collection of papers that grew out of a conference I organized at Lafayette College in 1987. Although the authors range over a variety of subjects related to the economics and politics of the military establishment and its economic support in the United States, the book might fairly well be described as focused on the dimensions and operation of the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC). The authors include excellent scholars in history, law, economics, and politics, including Dwight R. Lee, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, William E. Kovacic, Frank Lichtenberg and Charlotte Twight. The chapters are probing, well-documented, and analytically astute.
My most scholarly work on war economy and the workings of the MICC appears in my 2006 book Depression, War, and Cold War. In the first part of this book, I show why the Great Depression persisted so long, debunk the idea of "wartime prosperity" during World War II, and demonstrate that genuine prosperity did not resume until after the war, when the "regime uncertainty" of the late New Deal period was reduced and resources were made available for civilian uses. In the second half of the book, I show the Cold War's great opportunity costs and explicate the political, ideological, and economic aspects of the MICC from the late 1940s to the end of the 1980s.
Daily Bell: Tell us about "Resurgence of the Warfare State" and "Against Leviathan."
Robert Higgs: Resurgence of the Warfare State (2005) is unlike my other books. It is essentially a cri d'coeur, rather than a sustained analysis or scholarly narrative. It contains 47 short chapters, including interviews, commentaries, and other forms of expression, such as satires and poems. The common thread is my outrage against the U.S. government's exploitation of the 9/11 attacks to launch the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and to occupy these countries thereafter. I cover the period from September 2001 to December 2004, devoting much of my commentary to exposing the scare tactics, illogic, lies, distortions, and other propaganda the Bush administration used to sell the Iraq war to the public and Congress. I also deal extensively with the U.S. military's atrocities in the invaded and occupied countries.
Against Leviathan (2004) collects in revised form 39 essays originally published (and one substantial essay not previously published) over a span of more than 20 years. Although the topics range widely, all pertain in some way to the growth, form, and operation of contemporary big government – an institutional complex that I find morally repugnant, socially destructive, and economically indefensible. In Edmund Burke's oft-quoted words, "The thing! The thing itself is the abuse."
Daily Bell: Tell us about "The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914," "Competition and Coercion," and "Crisis and Leviathan."
The Transformation of the American Economy, 1865-1914 (1971) is my first published book. It is essentially a long essay devoted to the interpretation of the U.S. economy's growth and structural transformation during the period of its most rapid development. A novelty of my approach was the application of newly developed economic concepts and models to subjects that previous historians had treated less rigorously. I emphasized the importance of fairly secure private property rights as an underlying condition of the nation's rapid economic progress.
Competition and Coercion (1977), my second published book, is subtitled Blacks in the American Economy, 1865-1914. This book departed substantially from previous historical treatments of the economic condition of blacks during the first 50 years after the War Between the States. I emphasized the powerful role of market competition, especially for laborers and farm tenants, in helping blacks to avoid to some extent the racial oppression of white-run state and local governments in the South. I also showed that the blacks made considerable economic progress during this era, a conclusion that clashed with long-standing claims by historians of the South.
Crisis and Leviathan (1987) is my best-known book. It advances analytical concepts and reasoning applicable to understanding the growth of government and then presents a detailed historical interpretation focused, as the subtitle states, on Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. The narrative covers the period from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Among the book's novelties is a thorough explication of ideology as a central concept in the study of political economy and a detailed analysis of what I call the ratchet effect in the growth of government – an effect visible in all of the great national emergencies the United States experienced during the period studied, especially the world wars and the Great Depression.
Daily Bell: What is going on now? How do the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fit into the larger goals of the nation's military industrial complex?
Robert Higgs: These wars have an overarching geopolitical goal, which is to make the United States the dominant power in the Great Game region, ensuring the exclusion of competing powers China and Russia and intimidating uncooperative regional powers, especially Iran. Underlying this goal is the U.S. power elite's belief that they must control access to the vast energy resources of the Caspian Sea region and, not coincidentally, reap great profits for U.S. energy and energy-facility-construction companies in the process. The wars themselves, which have cost more than a trillion dollars so far, have been a godsend for the military leadership and for the tens of thousands of contractors and their employees who have been able to plunder the Treasury, owing in part to the loose or nonexistent accounting associated with doing business in the war zones. Of course, the war in Iraq has also been aimed at weakening or destroying Israel's enemies.
Daily Bell: Will the West be going to war against Iran?
Robert Higgs: I hope not, but I do not know. I am certain, however, that if the U.S. military or its Israeli counterpart launches at attack against Iran, the result will be catastrophic in every regard and that the only possible gainers will comprise no one except the political leadership of Israel and a handful of political figures and their "intellectual" shills in the United States. War against Iran is simply another scheme to satisfy the neo-cons' bloodlust and fulfill their ideological fantasies – nothing more and nothing less.
Daily Bell: What is the meaning of these serial modern wars? What is the West, particularly the Anglo-American axis, trying to accomplish?
Robert Higgs: Different persons and groups with influence on this war-making have different goals. The political leaders understand that war is the health of the state, and as the state's kingpins they stand to benefit politically (and in many cases materially, in due course) from U.S. aggression against weak countries in the Third World. An array of economic interests – the so-called military-industrial complex – stands to gain profits, as do other parties, such as some of the big financial institutions. Influential political groups, such as the U.S. evangelical denominations, have become iron-clad supporters of militarism and of pro-Israel actions of all sorts. The military itself seeks to get or to maintain a gigantic flow of money and the power and positions associated with maintenance of a globe-girdling empire of bases. Overarching all of these particular interests is the shared ambition many members of the U.S. power elite have in maintaining U.S. global hegemony, and in using the leverage such hegemony provides to serve a variety of subsidiary interests, ambitions, and fantasies.
Daily Bell: Are you optimistic about freedom going forward? Has the Internet had a positive impact?
Robert Higgs: In the United States and other advanced Western countries, freedom continues to shrink. The wars in the Middle East and the current economic crisis have accelerated the movement toward totalitarianism. Meanwhile, however, in other parts of the world, most importantly in China and India, economic freedom continues to increase, with magnificent consequences for the economic well-being of hundreds of millions of people long trapped in poverty.
On balance, the Internet seems to have had a positive effect in strengthening the position of people who are resisting the ongoing growth of government. It has not been sufficient to stop that growth, but matters might have been even worse had the Internet not been available to permit the rapid, inexpensive transmission of counterarguments and counterevidence to the government's unceasing lies and propaganda.
Daily Bell: What is the future for America? Is it in inevitable decline or will the Internet, like the Gutenberg press that came before, change the course of history for America, Britain and the West and help reverse the decline and usher in a modern Renaissance, etc.?
Robert Higgs: I foresee no new Renaissance. People in the West today are more inclined to believe economic, social, and political nonsense than their nineteenth-century ancestors were. Statism is rampant in many forms and many areas of social and economic life. People are ideologically brainwashed by the government schools and the mass media. The intellectuals are overwhelmingly opposed to economic freedom and inclined toward various more-or-less totalitarian schemes. Fears about a looming global-warming catastrophe and other ill-founded scenarios generate widespread delusions, receive constant stoking by the media, and keep the academics and the crony capitalists well served with grants, contracts, and consulting fees, among other things.
Daily Bell: What is the Independent Institute doing to arrest the authoritarian decline of the West and America in particular? Is it speaking out or is it involved in any particular educational endeavors?
Robert Higgs: The Independent Institute sponsors a wide variety of studies, conferences, and public programs to spread more reliable information about sounder analyses of economic, political, scientific, and related developments. Its fellows and affiliated scholars write and speak actively in diverse venues, on television, on the radio, and in personal appearances before many different groups in academia and among the general public. The Institute also operates a scholarship program to allow young people to attend private schools and a summer program for high-school and college students that focuses on instruction in the basics of philosophical, economic, and political understanding.
Daily Bell: Do you have alliances?
Robert Higgs: The Independent Institute cooperates actively with a variety of like-minded organizations, groups, and individuals who seek to promote peace, limited government, and economic prosperity based on private property rights and freely functioning markets.
Daily Bell: What is your position on the current administration? Does it hope to advance a merger of Canada, America and Mexico?
Robert Higgs: I view the present administration as a menace to almost everything I hold dear. I viewed the previous administration in the same way. In today's world, all governments pose standing threats to peace, prosperity, and simple human decency. I do not expect the U.S. government to seek a merger of the North American countries, which are already tightly linked by economic and financial ties, among other things. I view the prospect of such a merger as a bugbear of U.S. national chauvinists.
Daily Bell: What freedom literature can you recommend to our readers? What websites? Any of your own material? Do you have a private website?
Robert Higgs: The literature of liberty is immense and intellectually imposing. My own thinking owes a great deal to the writings of Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Murray N. Rothbard, but countless others have made important contributions to my education and understanding. Perhaps the most towering libertarian intellectual now writing actively, notwithstanding his advanced years, is the radical psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.
Extensive references to the literature of liberty – and related work by non-libertarian authors – as well as many complete texts may be found at websites maintained by the Independent Institute, by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and by the Liberty Fund.
Many of the articles I have written during the past thirty years are available online HERE, which is the closest thing to a personal website that exists for me.
Daily Bell: Any last thoughts? What plans do you have for the future that you might want to point out?
Robert Higgs: The defense of liberty is a never-ending project. I continue to write and to speak on a variety of topics connected with the analysis of economic history, political economy, economic and military policies, and related matters. I contribute a substantial column on economic history ("Our Economic Past") to every third issue of the Foundation for Economic Education's venerable magazine The Freeman. I speak from time to time at programs organized by the Mises Institute, the Cato Institute, the Future of Freedom Foundation, the Foundation for Economic Education, and other such pro-market groups, as well as at academic conferences and at colleges and universities in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. In 2006, I was a visiting professor of political economy at the University of Economics, Prague, and I work from time to time with the economics Ph.D. program at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala. I appear frequently on radio and television programs, and I make myself available for interviews by journalists with a wide variety of news media. Although I will soon hand off the editor's job at The Independent Review, I expect to continue the other activities I've mentioned.
Daily Bell: Thanks for sitting down with us and sharing such an informed perspective.
Robert Higgs is our kind of guy, someone who marries intellectual curiosity to free-market thinking and still retains a good deal of fire in his belly. This is a very valuable combination as many in academic world may tend to focus on minutiae and thus miss the big picture. Obviously, Robert Higgs does not miss the "big picture" from a socio-political perspective and, in fact, paid dearly for his continued insistence on seeing it. He makes it clear that he became something of a pariah in academic circles before finding his berth at the Independent Institute.
Today, perhaps Robert Higgs would not be such an anomalous fellow. And ironically, while Higgs himself, in this interview, (despite his eloquence and knowledge) sounds somewhat downbeat about the prospects for freedom in the West, we cannot bring ourselves to share his view on this one important point. We remember (as he does) that even 20 years ago the whole conversation that the freedom-oriented alternative media engages in could probably have been held in a single small conference hall. Not anymore. Millions are participating in the free-market conversation on thousands of web sites.
Yes, it is true that the power elite controls the mainstream media and much of the freedom conversation on the Internet has not leaked into the mainstream. But so what? The information has gotten out there and has changed the minds and lives of countless viewers. Just look what's going on with US Tea Parties, and increasingly over in Europe as well.
Higgs himself has gone on to have an increasingly successful career at the Institute and one of the reasons he is in such demand – even in the mainstream these days – is because of the views he holds and the scholarly perspective he brings to those views. But let us try to be specific. Here is the statement of his to which we are reacting in this After Thought:
I foresee no new Renaissance. People in the West today are more inclined to believe economic, social, and political nonsense than their nineteenth-century ancestors were. Statism is rampant in many forms and many areas of social and economic life. People are ideologically brainwashed by the government schools and the mass media. The intellectuals are overwhelmingly opposed to economic freedom and inclined toward various more-or-less totalitarian schemes. Fears about a looming global-warming catastrophe and other ill-founded scenarios generate widespread delusions, receive constant stoking by the media, and keep the academics and the crony capitalists well served with grants, contracts, and consulting fees, among other things.
No, this is the one area where we would respectfully disagree. Free-market thinking is "blowing up" as the kids would say. It's really "the bomb," especially on college campuses. Things may change, though admittedly not right away. Ironically, Higgs himself has had an impact on the freedom conversation in the West. We might therefore be tempted to argue this statement is a form of false modesty. The Internet has virtually exploded the dominant social themes that the power elite has used to keep Western societies moving in lockstep toward greater and greater authoritarianism. We think it's self-evident. A tree often rots from the inside out. The authoritarian state is in a good deal of difficulty these days. Its intellectual underpinnings have been undermined.
Human beings – largish "naked apes" – are metaphorical and conversational. What separates humans from other creatures is the biological compulsion to describe and justify the sociopolitical manifestations that organize their daily lives. If it cannot be named, explained and justified, it will not continue to exist as an over-riding influence. The elite understands this. And this is the reason that in the 20th century societies were structured around dominant social themes and the disseminating mechanisms (think tanks, universities and mainstream media) that permeated Western society with their promotions.
It is clear to us that the power elite – a handful of indescribably wealthy families and individuals – spent an inordinate amount of time (decades and centuries) putting together this distribution mechanism and that today it is in tatters. The Internet has blown it up and the justifications for the current system are in the process of failing or have failed. We often tick them off. Everything from global warming to central banking and event the West's continued serial wars are under intellectual attack.
People, living among the trees (to continue our previous metaphor) often do not fully recognize the forest -and thus it is that many in the freedom movement do not appreciate the entire picture in our humble opinion. Perhaps a complicating factor is that people do not fully appreciate, either, how important a successful argument is to an authoritarian society. These arguments, painfully erected over centuries, are all under sustained attack thanks to the truth-telling of the Internet.
One can go to almost any mainstream site these days and read foolish articles in support of this or that elite promotion – only to be pleasantly surprised by the nature and tenor of the feedbacks beneath. The pronouncements of central bankers and their political colleagues are often challenged and rebutted, to the approval of others in the queue. And woe betide an article that dares to try to drum up support for global warming, peak oil or an abundance of other scarcity memes that were so popular in the 20th century. They are all foundering on facts evermore easily brought to bear.
We have always maintained in our (very small) private circles that Mao had it wrong when he said that power springs from the barrel of a gun. One can see it in China today, in fact. The ruling elite has all the weapons in the world, but it is scrambling desperately to keep the Chinese economy afloat. The Communist ideology is bankrupt and if the economy falters, the ruling class most evidently perceives that it will be in great trouble. Without an animating ideology, there is only prosperity. Prosperity, in an authoritarian state, is never enough. It always dissipates.
And so it will go in the West, we believe. The "awakening" need not permeate the entire society. It is enough for a historical percentage of activists and thinkers to become disenchanted with the ruling mythos. Once this takes place, we would argue that the society will face change regardless. Of course, the elite hopes to control this change. But, again, we would argue that the 21st century is not like the 20th and that the power elite, having lost control of the dialogue will also eventually lose control of events. We believe this happened during the time of the Gutenberg press as well.
We are not prepared to say what will come next, although we have postulated that the elite – eventually – will prudently "take a step back" as it has before. It certainly doesn't look that way now. But to use a historical analogy, Nazi Germany was defeated when its leaders launched one of the war's most furious assaults, which later became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Sometimes, appearances can be misleading.
We have used in past exegeses, the metaphor proffered in the great Narnia books – the description of the melting of the realm of the Ice Queen as the Christ-Lion steps forth. Yes, we do detect a melting, and not the global warming kind! We offer this perspective once more in the hopes of slightly resuscitating Dr. Higgs optimism if he happens to read this After Thought. It would be little enough reward for the good fight he has waged.
Posted by MetaCynic on 05/04/10 12:17 AM
It seems to me that the issue of where we as a society are heading will be decided by what's going on in the minds of the most enlightened and energetic amongst us.
When will their numbers and actions serve to create a large enough public profile to be noticed by the trend following masses? Will their charismatic pull be strong enough to produce defections within the ranks of the Power Elite's armed enforcers?
The history of the last two centuries proves that Power Elites will pack up and scurry away not only when the masses refuse to obey their orders but more importantly when their armed enforcers, whether out of fear or conviction refuse to enforce the Elite's orders.
The Power Elite are not fearless ninja warriors ready to man the ramparts to die for their cause. They are in reality flabby old men with old men's hardwired fear of confrontation and loss of comfort. We should never forget how quickly European Communism collapsed once the masses united to demand their freedom. The old men fled!
Posted by AnarchoChristian on 05/03/10 05:16 PM
I don't find Dr. Higgs a pessimist, I find him to be a realist. While there is certainly more talk of liberty in the U.S., this rise is concurrent with a general loss of liberty. The more our liberties are curtailed, the more people speak out. But if freedom of speech really counted for anything, it would be taken away from us tomorrow. We can march by the millions but the feds will press on with their agenda, regardless, just as they always do.
Tyranny will not be defeated by the Internet. The tyrant will merely unplug it. Prevailing ideology in the U.S. supports empire, and until the system itself implodes, I don't see any hope for any sort of massive ideological shift. It took the Soviet Union decades to collapse. There is no reason to assume that our coming serfdom won't outlast even our great-grandchildren. (Unless, of course, global warming kills us first. ;-))
Posted by Mark Y on 05/03/10 04:48 PM
While it is understandable that a person who is immersed in academia such as Dr Higgs would tend to have a pessimistic view of the world, I believe there are real sprouts of hope for the resurgence of freedom in the United States, and therefore the world.
The biggest sprout is probably the younger people, who are not entrenched in the statist way of thinking that has pervaded our culture for the past 100 years and who are much more in tune to the internet revolution. Solid evidence of this can be seen by the popularity of Ron Paul amongst the young and the growth of his "Young Americans for Liberty" organization across the country. My son formed a chapter of YAL at UCLA and it is growing quickly. He says when they have done events on campus a majority of the students are very receptive to their message of freedom.
War and The Fed are not viewed as positives amongst our young people! The Young Americans for liberty web site is: Click to view link
Another nice sprout is Joyce Riley's "The Power Hour" radio show which is carried by many radio stations around the country and available for listening free on the internet. . Her show is pure anti-corporatist truth.
Click to view link
Obviously, there is a battle on for the soul of the tea party movement. Resistance by those who know the truth can make the oppression of the icy "Narnian" elite recede.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Thanks for the links.
Posted by Dauden on 05/03/10 02:40 PM
This "intellectual curiosity" has smitten me in the past few years thanks to the internet and Click to view link. I'm a stay at home mother of 4. I homeschooled my children the first half of their education before having to put them into charter schools. They have learned to think independently and carry this "ic" into every aspect of their lives. Thanks Free Market thinkers!
Posted by MetaCynic on 05/03/10 12:19 PM
The Daily Bell's depiction of the seemingly all-powerful establishment as a tree rotting from the inside, is an excellent analogy for why some governments collapse from a relatively mild push.
When examined closely, instances of sudden and unexpected regime change, triggered by localized civil disobedience, are really the outcome of the silent withdrawal of legitimacy in the minds of the disillusioned citizenry.
At first only a brave few, out of conviction or desperation, dare to act out against the regime. Their courage emboldens sympathetic others. This always happens against a backdrop of war or extreme personal and social stress produced by government caused economic crises.
We can see this phenomenon at work in the abdication of Louis XVI in France in 1789, the abdication of the Russian Czar in 1917 and the German Kaiser in 1918. The initially successful Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was triggered by student demonstrations against the Communist regime.
The Communist dominoes in Europe finally started to topple after the Berlin Wall was breached during massive demonstrations in Berlin in 1989. Unfortunately, bringing about regime changes from the bottom up is no guarantee that the replacements will be any better.
What the above demonstrates is that all power elites, no matter how brutal, can govern only with the consent of the governed. They will run away when enough people refuse to obey.
So the question for us here in America and Europe is, has the internet educated enough minds about the true nature of our governance that the silent majority will withdraw their allegiance to the Power Elites once a brave activist minority digs in and refuses to obey?
If successful at regime change, will the majority then once again foolishly embrace servitude and war or will it give freedom and peace a try?
Reply from The Daily Bell
Great feedback, thanks. The elite is always fears peaceful mass movements of "spontaneous order."
Posted by Acudoc on 05/03/10 01:53 AM
Gentlemen scholars, all.
Posted by Jones on 05/02/10 11:25 PM
You should read this article: Click to view link
There is a lot of foul languange contained therein but do not let that distract you from the main theme of the message...
Namely, most all of the Western "economy" is based upon lies and fraud. The powers that be know that the first player who blinks will bring down the whole house of cards so we continue a charade that maintains the illusion that there is some sort of viable economy that is "recovering". All the while we continue to march closer to the precipice.
Posted by Terry Haney on 05/02/10 07:22 PM
Wow! I've never seen a Bell interview cause such wierd ranting. Did you do something to invite in the Trolls?
Posted by Capn Mike on 05/02/10 01:03 PM
I regret to say I share Dr. Higg's pessimism regarding our future. Not because I am "pre-internet", but because I have been there and done that.
I remember SDS. Co-founded by the late great Karl Hess, Barry Goldwater's speechwriter ("I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"). SDS was soon coopted by lefties (Weathermen anyone?) as well as other 60's orgs, such as SNCC etc.
Also, the Spanish Civil War (The Anarchists were backstabbed by the Commies) and on and on.
The Tea Party movement, begun by Ron Paulians, has been pretty much coopted by Neocon Palinites. That didn't take long did it? God, I hope I'm wrong, but I'm continuing to re-decorate the bunker!
Reply from The Daily Bell
Yes, you are a pessemist.
Posted by Bud Wood on 05/02/10 12:37 PM
Yes, Dr. Higgs sees the big picture. As a long time subscriber to the Independent Review, I have found the ideas discussed by Higgs and his colleagues stimulating and prophetic. And like Higgs, I am not optimistic regarding any "awakening" from the collective funk. We are, collectively, easily led.
That seems to be because we each have "ancestor memory" which tells us to follow the leaders whomever they may be and wherever they may lead. We're just like birds that will fly "back" to a nesting area that they've never seen but to where ancestor memory directs. Similarly to those lemmings whose ancestor memory directs them over a cliff.
So, here we go as always. Easily led into bigger disasters as our encompassing technology expands individual problems into worldwide crises. All aboard?
Reply from The Daily Bell
"That seems to be because we each have 'ancestor memory'"
Humans are pack/tribal animals, it is true. Very good point.
Posted by AmanfromMars on 05/02/10 12:14 PM
"The closest translation to what the Iranian President actually said is, ''The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.''
I do hope this will set the records straight? " ... Posted by B.Benhamid on 5/2/2010 8:25:26 AM
That is a simple job for New Virtual Memory Records which Seal Off All Past Memories to Capture/Generate Virgin Future Thoughts for Shared A'Thinkin/Think In/Think Inn in AI Singularity of Mutually Beneficial Purpose.
And a Devil of a Job for Noble Knights, Submission to Passionate Conquest for the Sweetest of All Powerful Surrenders .... which is a Live Operational Virtual Environment Driver ....... and well known to True Lovers. Satyrs and Nymphs on the Wild XSSXXXXSide of Life.
And if one interchanges Israel for Iran and Iran for Israel, then does Posted by Beth on 5/2/2010 3:24:13 AM paint a most vivid real picture?
Posted by Ryan on 05/02/10 10:50 AM
Higgs appears to have touched a nerve within the more bloodthirsty Bell commenters.
Good for him. The more often these people have to confront the basic insanity of the notion of starting a war to prevent a war, the more likely they are to recognize the cognitive dissonance within and seek to resolve it.
Posted by Trog69 on 05/02/10 08:48 AM
Am I correct in assuming that this site agrees with Dr. Higgs that GW is not occurring? If so, how do you explain the events happening now, and are you saying that the general consensus of science about this is just some grand scheme by all those people?
Reply from The Daily Bell
We've written about 10 articles on the topic and referenced it a dozen times more, recently.
Two years ago, when the Bell started up, we didn't believe in manmade global warming.
Ten years ago when we started other sites, we didn't believe in manmade global warming.
We won't believe in it tomorrow either. It's an obvious promotion.
Posted by Bobby Glen on 05/02/10 08:35 AM
Mr Higgs is being reasonable and fair, qualities which are rare. Its not America's duty to defend anyone except America. America does not have to even be a part of the UN. America can get along quite nicely without the rest of the world.
The best thing the U.S, can do is to mind its own business and leave the rest of humanity to solve its own problems. Its amazing how soon these conflicts work themselves out without the presence of American capital and weapons.
Posted by B.Benhamid on 05/02/10 08:25 AM
'Wipe off the Map'- The Rumor of the Century.
Did Ahmadinejad really threaten to ''wipe Israel off the map''or is this phrase just another jingoistic brand slogan for selling the next war in the Middle East?
Wiping Israel off the map suggests a physical genocidal assault, a literal population relocation or elimination akin to what the Nazis did.
According to numerous different translations, Ahmadinejad never used the word ''map'', instead his statement was in the context of time and applied to the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem.
The Guardian's Jonathan Steel cites four different translations, from Professors to the BBC to the New York Times and even pro-Israel news outlets, in none of those translations is the word ''map''used. The closest translation to what the Iranian President actually said is, ''The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.''
I do hope this will set the records straight?
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by Myron Martin on 05/02/10 08:04 AM
In response to Victor Barney I would suggest that while I AGREE that scriptural prophecy IS reliable it is misapplied and misunderstood by ALL organized religions. I would suggest that while the scriptures ARE written with Israel as its central focus point, partisan groups fail to recognize the most important statement in scripture by Yahweh when HE says in Rev. 18:4 that "MY people" referring to ALL branches of Israel are "deceived" (see Rev. 12:4) and are to "come out" (of what) the rejection of the Creators Laws and adoption of human government.
Human government RULES through "legal tender laws" of fake fiat currency under a fractional reserve system that STEALS the substance of the worker through inflation. The first step in returning to Constitutional government is repudiation of the Central Banking Federal Reserve system that was DESIGNED to foster DEBT SLAVERY, it was never abolished, just more cleverly hidden and disguised. Scripture labels gold and silver of specific weights as "MONEY" counterfeit currency is just that "mandated currency" not MONEY, which must have intrinsic value that preserves purchasing power as gold and silver have demonstrated for over 5000 years.
JUDAH is equally as "deceived" as the so called "Lost Ten Tribes which includes Sabbatarians of all stripes who have been taken in by fake calendars whether the modern Gregorian or the Jewish calendar that is an amalgam of Babylonian, Roman and Greek mythology. The Sabbath of scripture has nothing to do with, and is not determined by, the pagan Roman week! On that basis I REJECT Victors assertion that Sept. 9th is the Feast of Shoutings (Trumpets) on which the two witnesses will be manifested. It is much to EARLY for the fall Feasts. (maybe for the two witnesses) as well! Read Deut 14 CAREFULLY and you will see that the HARVEST in Israel must be COMPLETED BEFORE "ALL THE TITHES can be brought to the Feast of Tabernacles (In gathering) or Feast of Booths!
JUDAH is just as much a part of apostate Israel as the ten tribes that migrated into Europe and hence into Britain, America, Australia, Canada etc, and her "traditions" are no more biblically reliable than those of Western Christianity! Yahweh will UNITE 10 tribed Israel and Judah, the separation is temporary, too many scriptures to list, but Jer. 2 & 3 would be a good starting point.
Posted by Howard Bernbaum on 05/02/10 08:00 AM
I 've had the pleasure of reading some of Dr. Higg's writings in the past and have gained much in the process. I tend to share in his pessimism. As a professional engineer, I've become a passionate believer in Murphy's Law.
Still, I equally and passionately hope the optimism you've expressed in these After Thoughts comes to pass. Despite their total stupidity, people are entitled to a modicum of peace and freedom, something they diminish by their persistent vote for the incumbent.
Posted by George Sign on 05/02/10 06:57 AM
A great interview has just been posted on Click to view link Max Keiser interviews David Degraw. I would love to know what Robert Higgs makes of it.
Reply from The Daily Bell
We'll draw his attention to it.
Posted by Kathleen on 05/02/10 06:54 AM
I tend to side with The Daily Bell in its optimism regarding the impact of the Internet. I have to! Otherwise, I'd go crazy! :)
I'd like to offer up another website that I thought might interest The Daily Bell, as well as its readers: Click to view link. This organization arranges training camps, if you will, for English language practice with liberty as the discussion point.
It's a fledgling organization here in the States that seeks volunteers to help organize, donate to, and teach at these camps in various places in Europe and elsewhere. Just wanted to give it a plug here. There is a lot of good taking place--we may not hear or see it all, but the Internet makes it possible in unimagined ways to spread the word of liberty!
Reply from The Daily Bell
Thanks for the update and link to this obviously valuable organization.
Posted by Victor Barney on 05/02/10 06:52 AM
I see Dr. Robert Higgs right in about everything, but often for the wrong reasons! What has infiltrated our education system is Marxism(Since at least1922), which appeals to intellectuals because it works on paper but not out of the classroom for many of the reasons Dr. Higgs, Ph.D gave!
I agree that the Bush family are Marxist too, as Obama(A Mao-ist), but the Bush's are more like Hitler, not inclusive of people like blacks??? Maybe the Bush's are not really Fascist, although they did support the Nazis! Whereas, in the 60s came the weathermen movement out of Chicago to lead a "Black Revolution" in America led by the two of them(This brought to us Charles Manson, as mentioned early)!
This in spite of the fact that Blacks were only about 11 1/2 % of the worlds population(Although make up about 70% of the UN without having veto power(Also the most poor, by the way), until the "Chicago weathermen" put a Black man in the White House!
Yes, Charles Manson in California, remember him(?) too off on them! Well, they made it to the White house and now they are in Africa grouping the 70% of the U.N. Nations, which are Black without veto power, but now have it through the weathermen from Chicago!
Also, in the Bible, which I have seen scientifically proven through email: info@Click to view link; or mail: P.O. Box 208, Pocahontas, AR 72455; as being 100% true says that Islam is actually came out of Israel's half-brother and started a little after 600 AD and Islam actually have been at war with his brother Israel(now made up of Great Britain and America, not Judah!) ever since!
Yes, the Bible actually is about Israel, not the world, accept that more gentiles get converted in this age by man's Savior then Israelites! In fact, soon the two-witnesses will come to punish Israel(America from the tribe of Joseph, not Judah) for appointing a "foreigner"(non-Israelite) over them in President Obama! Deuteronomy 17:15 in the Bible clearly forbids our appointing this "foreigner" over us and as said in a Clint Eastwood movie, "prepare yourselves, because hell is coming for dinner! Biblical prophecy says that "Jacob's trouble" will last 3 1/2 years once the two witnesses of Yahweh are revealed, perhaps as early as this September 9th, the Feast of Shoutings! Watch!
Reply from The Daily Bell
If the implication is that African-Americans are in any way inferior to other races and ethnicities, we emphatically disagree. The human family emerged from the same gene pool and given the genetic mixing that has taken place we simply don't see how people can insist that one skin color is somehow superior to another.