War is the Health of the… Economy?

Nope, Tyler Cowen is wrong. War is still the health of the state, and the worst sickness that can afflict an economy.

Cowen versus Higgs

And there are two other major growth-hampering impacts of war that Cowen not only doesn’t factor in, but that he doesn’t even mention: (A) the war-induced increased economic statism that does not directly involve “death and destruction,” and (B) the remainder of that increase that lingers after the war. It is the latter, and not some alleged “focus on liberalization,” that is the chief peacetime legacy of war. The greatest living theorist and historian on this subject is Robert Higgs.

Case Study: World War I

Probably the most baleful modern war, in terms of its far-reaching consequences, economic and otherwise, was World War I. It is thus an excellent example of just how wrong Cowen is. The ramifications of this war have received much consideration recently, because this is the centennial year of its inception. Charles Burris’s blog post, “Consequences of the Great War,” is a good collection of links to outstanding resources on this topic, including some classic works by Murray Rothbard.


The War Party’s drumbeat for re-escalating American involvement in the Iraq War has just begun. So why, especially now of all times, would Cowen debut, in such a high-profile space, an argument that is so facile and wrong, and yet so potentially dangerous in the hands of warmongers? To give him the benefit of the doubt, he does not strike me as a crypto-warmonger, striving and secretly wishing for a new massive war, even as he exclaims, “perish the thought!”

Essays by Dan Sanchez

For Peace and Liberty

    Dan Sanchez

    Written by

    Essayist, Editor, & Educator | dansanchez.me

    Essays by Dan Sanchez

    For Peace and Liberty