Monday, May 28, 2012

Robert Higgs on War

From an interview conducted by Paul Craig Roberts:
PCR: From your extensive research into previous U.S. wars, have you drawn any conclusions that shape your thinking about the present situation?

RH: One conclusion stands out: from the Civil War onward, engagement in war has left Americans less free when the war was over than they had been before the war. In countless ways, the warfare state has proved inimical to the preservation of liberty, just as patriots such as James Madison warned us long ago that it would. War brings higher taxes, greater government debt, increased government intrusion in markets, more pervasive government surveillance, manipulation, and control of the public. Going to war is the perfect recipe for expanding the size, scope, and power of the federal government. You have to wonder why so many conservatives, who claim to cherish liberty, enthusiastically embrace the government's schemes for plunging the nation into war.

PCR: Many claim that whatever war's risks to civil and economic liberties, it still generates definite economic benefits.

RH: That claim represents a prime example of what sound economists call the broken-window fallacy. Despite many current myths about so-called war prosperity, war is always an economic disaster. The resources used for war purposes cannot be used for alternative purposes; there's no free lunch, and the Keynesian arguments that imply one are just bad economics. I have spent years demonstrating that even World War II, which allegedly rescued the economy from the Great Depression, did nothing of the sort. Participation in the war simply substituted one kind of economic deprivation--a worse kind--for another. Genuine prosperity resumed only after the war ended.

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