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The American Economy, 1935-47
Assessing Robert Higgs’ Pioneering Analysis of Government Policy
Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Robert Higgs
Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal, The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy. Author, Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society.

New Orleans, Louisiana • November 23, 1999

A Special Session Co-Sponsored by

The Independent Institute and the Southern Economic Association

This special session at the 1999 meeting of the Southern Economic Association focuses on Robert Higgs’s three papers on the impact of government policies during the New Deal and World War II period of American history.

In this work, Dr. Higgs shows how government policies during the latter half of the 1930s prolonged the Great Depression, with its massive economic hardship, unemployment, bankruptcies, and waste of economic resources. Moreover, notwithstanding the orthodox understanding, the war did not bring about economic prosperity in any genuine sense: both private consumption and private investment fell during the war, as the government imposed a command system to divert resources toward the production of military goods and services. Only after the end of the war, when the most damaging government policies were abandoned, did genuine economic prosperity and economic growth resume. Even then, however, the legacies of the New Deal-World War era fostered a pervasive and growing involvement of government in the American economy and society for the rest of the twentieth century.

Three Papers by Robert Higgs for Discussion:

“Wartime Prosperity? A Reassessment of the U.S. Economy in the 1940s,” Journal of Economic History, March 1992.

Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed after the War,The Independent Review, Spring 1997.

“From Central Planning to the Market: The American Transformation, 1945-1947,” Journal of Economic History, September 1999.


Daniel B. Klein, Professor of Economics, Santa Clara University


Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow in Political Economy, The Independent Institute. Editor, The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy


Robert W. Clower, Professor of Economics, University of South Carolina
Hugh T. Rockoff, Professor of Economics, Rutgers University
John James, Professor of Economics, University of Virginia

Against Leviathan New from Robert Higgs!
AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society

Against Leviathan offers an unflinchingly critical analysis of government power. Topics include Social Security, the paternalism of the FDA, the “War on Drugs”, the nature of political leadership, civil liberties, the conduct of the national surveillance state, and governmental responses to a continuing stream of “crises,” including domestic economic busts and foreign wars both hot and cold. Buy It Today »»

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