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

Boudreaux's Export Error

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

In an otherwise good critique of a recent op/ed by Steve Moore, titled “Steve Moore Is No Free Trader,” economist Don Boudreaux makes his own error. He writes: First, exporting, as such, no more enriches a country than does vandalism or arson. Exporting enriches a country only insofar as the people of that country receive imports in return for their exports. Unlike Mr. Moore, every true free trader understands that exports lead to growth only if and to the extent that exports bring in more imports.

Analysis and Commentary

Craig Richardson On The Cuban Tragedy

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Monday, June 3, 2019

Along with a dozen other professors visiting Cuba, I was there for an educational program sponsored by the U.S.-based Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). The theme was Cuba’s economy, society, and political system. CIEE’s marketing brochure promised a mixture of academic lectures, cultural experiences and travel to various parts of the country. Along with North Korea, Cuba is the last of the Communist regimes to actively discourage free markets, private property rights, and profit making. Although I traveled there with an open mind, I was about to experience a country in which the state’s overarching vision of equality for all has vanquished nearly every aspect of entrepreneurial dreams—and many normal human dreams, as well.

Analysis and Commentary

E-Verify's Perverse Effects

by David R. Henderson quoting John H. Cochranevia EconLog
Sunday, June 2, 2019

Last week, President Trump announced that his immigration plan would not mandate that employers use E-Verify, the employment verification system that checks new employees against government databases. While the president felt it was too “tough” on illegal workers, he is wrong. Nearly all illegal workers passed the system last year. In reality, E-Verify is tough on legal workers who have had nearly 760,000 jobs held up by the system since 2006.

Analysis and Commentary

Bio Of William Nordhaus Is On Line

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Friday, May 31, 2019

Starting in the 1970s, Nordhaus constructed increasingly comprehensive models of the interaction between the economy and additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, along with its effects on global warming. Economists use these models, along with assumptions about various magnitudes, to compute the “social cost of carbon” (SCC). The idea is that past a certain point, additions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere heat the earth and thus create a global negative externality. The SCC is the net cost that using that additional carbon imposes on society.

Analysis and Commentary

Joe Newhouse's Failure Of Omission

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Friday, May 31, 2019

In his excellent analysis of health care costs, Alex Tabarrok refers to a widely touted finding by health economist Joseph P. Newhouse that the main driver of increases in health care costs has been increased technology. Alex links to this article by Newhouse, but the earlier Newhouse article that received so much attention was his “Medical Care Costs: How Much Welfare Loss?” Journal of Economic Perspectives (Summer 1992 ): 3-21 .

Analysis and Commentary

Bio Of Paul Romer Is Online

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Thursday, May 30, 2019

There are actually two very different phases in Romer’s work on endogenous growth theory. Romer (1986) and Romer (1987) had an AK model. Real output was equal to A times K, where A is a positive constant and K is the amount of physical capital.

Analysis and Commentary

My Ah Hah Moment About Academia

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I was telling a friend the following true story last week and we both think it’s relevant to people who are hesitant about approaching famous academics.

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The Case Against An Interventionist Foreign Policy

by David R. Hendersonvia Defining Ideas
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

An analysis offered by an economist and classical liberal.

Analysis and Commentary

Labor Income For Top 0.1% Exceeds Income From Capital

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Monday, May 27, 2019

How important is human capital at the top of the U.S. income distribution? Using tax data linking 11 million firms to their owners, this paper finds that entrepreneurs are key for understanding top income inequality. Most top income is non-wage income, a primary source of which is private “pass-through” business profit. These profits—which can include labor income disguised for tax reasons—accrue to working-age owners of closely-held, mid-market firms in skill-intensive industries.

Analysis and Commentary

McArdle's Confusion About Costs Of Inputs

by David R. Hendersonvia EconLog
Sunday, May 26, 2019

One of the best economic journalists in the United States is Megan McArdle of the Washington Post. That makes her error in a recent WaPo article all the more striking. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek has pointed out the error. But I want to do my own analysis because it’s a more general error that I see people make and the first time I saw a friend make was when I was 20 and really starting to “get” economics. 

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