Author: Robert Higgs
I know you're not supposed to give away a books plot in a review, however, the Depression ended, we won World War II, and then the Cold War began and lasted for almost fifty years, though not necessarily in that order.
When I began reading Depression, War, And Cold War, a collection of essays and articles spanning almost two decades, my first thought about Robert Higgs was that he has an ax to grind.
In the introduction he elaborates the Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC) and then goes on to assert, "…if the Soviet government did the devil's work, so, on many occasions, did the U.S. government and its allies. Not the least of the self-damage was the transformation of the executive branch of the federal government into a secretive, highly discretionary, often ill-advised and badly informed organization that was far too dedicated to attempting the futile task of running the whole world." He then proposes to examine the evidence and the circumstances surrounding the events in the book's title, something Mr. Higgs admits very rarely happens without bias in the study of economic history.
The text, for the most part, focuses on an analysis of the "war is good for the economy" myth. This is where Robert Higgs, as an economist, shines. He provides the framework to see events surrounding World War II as an end to "regime uncertainty" and not as the actual catalyst for any kind of boom. He then goes on to dissect the troubled relationship between government and industry that prolonged the Depression, and analyzes the subsequent policy and personnel changes that encouraged everyone to enter once again into discourse. Changes, incidentally, that still affect every American today almost seventy years later.
There are two chapters on Congress that, while highly entertaining, are mostly anecdotal but do make you want to query your Congressman about being a "pork hawk". Here he admirably shows a lot of tact by using "misfeasance" instead of a harsher term. Next come private sector profits and the gaps in shareholder returns between companies involved in defense contracts and those not. The last chapter tells how the public can sway the system and also be swayed by the system.
Judging from the statement, "We are talking about history, not physics; unique events may have unique causes," Mr. Higgs seemed to have two targets for his ax. The first target is regular people in whom he wishes to instill the notion that history repeats itself unless they fully understand its implications. The second are the Keynesian economists whom he thinks just plain get it wrong.
After finishing the book though I've decided it wasn't an ax being ground and that, if anything, it's probably lenses so we can all see where we've been and in turn where we're heading.
The above review was contributed by: C.D.(David Allen): Passionate Reader & Writer