David R. Henderson

Research Fellow
Biography: 

David R. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution. He is also a professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Henderson's writing focuses on public policy. His specialty is in making economic issues and analyses clear and interesting to general audiences. Two themes emerge from his writing: (1) that the unintended consequences of government regulation and spending are usually worse than the problems they are supposed to solve and (2) that freedom and free markets work to solve people's problems.

David Henderson is the editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (Warner Books, 2007), a book that communicates to a general audience what and how economists think. The Wall Street Journal commented, "His brainchild is a tribute to the power of the short, declarative sentence." The encyclopedia went through three printings and was translated into Spanish and Portuguese. It is now online at the Library of Economics and Liberty. He coauthored Making Great Decisions in Business and Life (2006). Henderson's book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey (Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2001), has been translated into Russian. Henderson also writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune and, from 1997 to 2000, was a monthly columnist with Red Herring, an information technology magazine. He currently serves as an adviser to LifeSharers, a nonprofit network of organ and tissue donors.

Henderson has been on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School since 1984 and a research fellow with Hoover since 1990. He was the John M. Olin Visiting Professor with the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University in St. Louis in 1994; a senior economist for energy and health policy with the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984; a visiting professor at the University of Santa Clara from 1980 to 1981; a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute from 1979 to 1980; and an assistant professor at the University of Rochester's Graduate School of Management from 1975 to 1979.

In 1997, he received the Rear Admiral John Jay Schieffelin Award for excellence in teaching from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 1984, he won the Mencken Award for best investigative journalism article for his Fortune article "The Myth of MITI."

Henderson has written for the New York Times, Barron's, Fortune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Public Interest, the Christian Science Monitor, National Review, the New York Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, and Reason. He has also written scholarly articles for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of Monetary Economics, Cato Journal, Regulation, Contemporary Policy Issues, and Energy Journal.

Henderson has spoken before a wide variety of audiences, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the St. Louis Discussion Club, the Commonwealth Club of California (National Defense and Business Economics Section), the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. He has also spoken to economists and general audiences at many universities around the country, including Carnegie-Mellon, Brown, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Davis, the University of Rochester, the University of Chicago, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School, and the Hoover Institution. He has given papers at annual conferences held by the American Economics Association, the Western Economics Association, and the Association of Public Policy and Management. He has testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He has also appeared on the O'Reilly Factor (Fox News), C-SPAN, CNN, the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, CNBC Squawk Box, MSNBC, BBC, CBC, the Fox News Channel, RT, and regional talk shows.

Born and raised in Canada, Henderson earned his bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the University of Winnipeg in 1970 and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1976.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Nancy MacLean's Distortion Of James Buchanan's Statement

by David R. Hendersonquoting Russell Robertsvia EconLog
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Econlib colleague Russ Roberts has pointed to a passage of Nancy MacLean's recent book, Democracy in Chains: A Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, in which Professor MacLean left key words out of a quote from Tyler Cowen, thus seriously distorting his meaning.

Analysis and Commentary

Bret Stephens's Attack On Ron Paul

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Monday, June 26, 2017

As I noted last week, I was at an event at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco to discuss a forthcoming documentary called "Is America in Retreat?" (The video should be available in a few weeks.) The inspiration for documentary is a book with the same title written by Bret Stephens, currently a New York Times columnist and before that a foreign policy columnist with the Wall Street Journal and, before that, the editor in chief at the Jerusalem Post.

Analysis and Commentary

Are The Savings From Cutting Medicaid Illusory?

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Sunday, June 25, 2017

Answer: It depends. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, and also my long-time friend, reminds us of one of the most important principles in economics: There's no such thing as a free lunch. Indeed, this principle is so important that I've made it Numero Uno in my Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom. 

Analysis and Commentary

James Buchanan's Work

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Saturday, June 24, 2017

There's a lot of buzz on the Internet lately (see here for my recent commentary on Sam Tanenhaus's review) about the recent book by Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. MacLean sees economist James M. Buchanan as the key figure in the rise of the "radical right." 

Analysis and Commentary

Both Sides Gain From Exchange

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Friday, June 23, 2017

My friend and blogging competitor Don Boudreaux writes: You say that China's agreement to buy more beef from America is "a big win for us." Well, these beef exports from the U.S. are mostly a win for the Chinese people. From the perspective of us Americans, the beef that we export is a cost. 

Is America In Retreat?

by David R. Henderson
Thursday, June 22, 2017

This evening Johan Norberg, who, with Free to Choose Media, put together a one-hour video on foreign policy, will be presenting a segment of the video at the Commonwealth Club. There will be a panel discussion after. I will be one of the panelists.

Analysis and Commentary

Tanenhaus On James Buchanan

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I have just read the first serious book review I've seen of historian Nancy MacLean's book on James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. It's by Sam Tanenhaus.

Analysis and Commentary

A Father's Day Tribute

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Sunday, June 18, 2017

This tribute is to one of the two people without whom I wouldn't be a father: my daughter. (The other, of course, is my wife.)

Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize for economic science
Analysis and Commentary

Milton Friedman: Crusader For Liberty

by David R. Hendersonfeaturing Milton Friedmanvia EconLog
Friday, June 16, 2017

In Milton Friedman on Freedom, editors Robert Leeson and Charles G. Palm, both of the Hoover Institution, have put together many of Friedman's most important articles and chapters that make his case for freedom. (Disclosure: I was a friend of both Milton and Rose Friedman and am a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, where Friedman was a senior fellow from 1977 to his death in 2006.)

Analysis and Commentary

Henderson Review Of Schuck

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Three years ago in this magazine, I praised Peter Schuck's Why Government Fails So Often, calling it one of the most important books of 2014. Based on that book, I had high expectations for his latest, One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us. Though not quite as good as his 2014 book, One Nation Undecided is, nevertheless, quite good. 

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