Robert Higgs on The Decline of American Liberalism


Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie recently sat down with the Independent Institute's Robert Higgs, the author of such classics as Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government and Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity.

The topic at hand was the Independent Institute 's reissuing of Arthur A. Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism, a brilliant reading of American history from a libertarian perspective that was originally written in 1955. Ekirch, writes Higgs in his foreword to the new edition, argued that liberalism (in its original 18th and 19th century meaning) "had reached its apogee…at the time of the War of Independence and that despite a certain amount of ebb and flow thereafter, the tendency was toward its decline." The result was an ongoing battle between forces of centralization and decentralization in all aspects of American political, social, and economic life. Despite writing during the 1950s, a time of wide-ranging repression of speech and the individual, Higgs says that Ekirch was far from a pessimist. In fact, his revelation of how the government routinely used crises to amplify its power is the starting point of challenging that very dynamic.

Higgs also talks about the new paperback edition of his own invaluable Depression, War, and Cold War and gives his take on the government reaction to the current financial crisis.

Approximately 10 minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and edited by Roger M. Richards.

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