I am glad that the “Free Market Hall of Fame” poll has such great radical thinkers as Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard in the category for favorite historical free market academic economist, and I am also very glad that the wonderfully antistate Lew Rockwell and antiwar Ron Paul are listed in categories. For many other categories, the given choices strike me as more conventional. For favorite living free market economist, in particular, this radical would have no choice but to write someone in. We are lucky that there are many excellent economists doing radical free market research these days to choose from, but, having to choose just one, I selected “other” for the great Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.*
So far as I know, all of the candidates currently listed are pro-war, or at least have failed to apply the important lessons of free markets and private property to the realm of foreign policy. War is the greatest threat to liberty, limited government, open trade, and property rights.
Higgs, in contrast, has devoted much of his academic life to showing the connection between crises, especially wars, and big government. His ratchet effect thesis and other insights have had an immeasurably deep impact on our understanding of the political economy of the warfare state. His research has opened up many possibilities for further exploration of these issues.
In his many books, including Crisis and Leviathan, Depression, War and Cold War, Neither Liberty Nor Safety, and Against Leviathan, he has established an unbeatable standard for excellence in unmasking the true nature and modus operandi of government power. But his work also includes precedent-setting scholarship in American economic history, including the 19th Century, Great Depression, World War II, and Cold War periods, as well as such topics as the economics of the environment, property rights, finance, agriculture, and health care. I might be tempted to vote for Higgs just based on his stellar work on the disastrous effects of the New Deal, especially his advancement of the concept of “regime uncertainty,” as well as his decisively putting to rest the fallacy of World War II “prosperity.” Then there is the indispensable Independent Review for which he has served as editor for years.
And to be truly for a free market, as we all know, is to oppose statism — which Bob Higgs does without flinching. His bulletproof scholarship combined with his anti-state radicalism makes him my choice for best living free-market economist.
* Full disclosure: I am honored to be professionally associated with Dr. Higgs, though I assure you my humble association is not the cause of my humble admiration.