David R. Henderson

American economist

David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984

David R. Henderson


  • The history of economic growth is the history of people making more with less and shifting into new jobs that were unheard of in the previous generation.
    • “The Case for a Dynamic Economy,” Hoover Daily Report (Sept. 22, 2003)
  • Milton Friedman and I had our differences about foreign policy. I tried, in vain, to persuade him to be against the first Gulf war. Even there, though, he publicly supported, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, my economic argument against the war. He stated, ‘Henderson’s analysis is correct. There is no justification for intervention on grounds of oil.’
  • Many people at various points on the political spectrum have claimed that the U.S. thirst for oil is so great that, unless we change our habits (the left emphasizes conservation, and the right emphasizes drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge and elsewhere), the U.S. government will find itself drawn into wars to maintain access. This thinking shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy markets work. There is no good case for going to war over oil.
  • Our oil supply is secure, not because our government threatens to use force against those who would make it insecure, but because the world’s oil suppliers want to make money.
    • Handbook of Oil Politics, edit. Robert E. Looney, Routledge, Chap. 11 “Do Governments need to Go to War for Oil?” (2012) p. 144

The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey (2002)Edit

Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ 2002

  • Most people understand the right to property better in practice than in theory. This was vividly illustrated by economist Gordon Tullock in a class he taught at the University of Virginia in the late 1960s. An undergraduate student in his class said that there was no such thing as property rights;…. So Gordon grabbed the student’s wallet. The student asked him to give it back, figuring presumably, that his simple request would get him his wallet back. But Tullock refused, saying that if there was no such thing as property rights, how could he, the student, own this wallet that he claimed as his.
    • p. 62
  • The worst discrimination against black people in the United States was the introduction of slavery. Short of murder and torture, slavery is the greatest possible violation of people’s rights. It is essentially legalized kidnapping.
    • p. 106
  • Early in the twentieth century, the railroad business was highly unionized. Just as in South Africa, employers often wanted to hire black people. But unions run by white people excluded blacks from membership and often committed acts of violence against black workers who tried to get such jobs.
    • p. 108
  • Throughout history, governments have generally been much less tolerant of racial difference than private employers have been. This is because the government officials who discriminate incur no cost for doing so, as long as discrimination is politically acceptable…
    • p. 121
  • The bottom line is that in a free market, any employer who discriminates on grounds that have nothing to do with productivity will pay a cost for doing so. The economic system that removes the props from racism is free markets.
    • p. 123
  • British author Thomas Carlyle called economics ‘the dismal science’ because the free-market economists around him were strongly opposed to slavery.
    • p. 133
  • Why did all these people—Lady Godiva, the barons of England, William Tell, the Founding Fathers of the United States, and Henry David Thoreau—oppose taxes? Because they understood that taxation is, in essence, legalized theft. When a government taxes you, it takes something you own without your consent. That’s exactly what a thief does. The main difference is that the thief is breaking the law, whereas the government is (usually) taking your money legally.
    • p. 217
  • One thing we know from centuries of history is that if the government has revenue to spend, it will spend it.
    • p. 229
  • There are two main differences between Ponzi’s original scam and the Social Security system. The first difference is that Social Security is run by the government and, whatever its constitutionality and its questionable ethics, is legal. The second difference follows from the first: Whereas Ponzi had to rely on suckers, the government can and does use force.
    • pp. 234-235
  • Health care costs so darn much because we pay so darn little for it… So we have almost no incentive to care about how much it cost… Most of what we spend on health care is other people’s money. We never spend other people’s money as carefully as we spend our own.
    • p. 256
  • I noted that one reason we buy so much health care is that the price to us is artificially low; if we paid the full price for health care, we would make better life-style decisions on exercise, smoking, and foods and would need less health care.
    • p 263
  • The efficacy regulations on drugs, economists have found in countless studies, have delayed the introduction of new drugs by years and added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of developing a typical new drug.
    • p. 277
  • Unfortunately, not content to enforce its monopoly power over what new drugs get produced, the FDA also seeks to limit doctor’s uses of legal drugs for uses not specified on the label.
    • p. 279
  • The government’s monopoly is what has allowed it to produce so bad a product for so long.
    • p. 298
  • People often criticize government schools in the United States for teaching little and doing it in boring ways, yet many advocate increasing the amount of time that children are in school. This reminds me of the old joke about two people complaining about the food at a restaurant. ‘The food tastes awful,’ says one. The other replies, ‘And the portions are so small.’ Given the amount of oppression and simple boredom that goes on in government schools today, thank goodness the portions are so small.
    • p. 304
  • West points out that early in the nineteenth century, the British government was quite upset about the number of working-class people who were reading political literature. The government, writes West, took ‘fiscal and legal action against the spread of newspapers, especially those critical of government.’
    • p.308
  • It is not always easy to define property rights. What is striking, though, is how often government legislation and court rulings have prevented the common law system from handling pollution problems even when common law seemed to be working well toward resolving them.
    • p. 328

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