Bill Steigerwald

Thomas E. Woods Jr. is a successful historian who doesn't hide his libertarian views about American history, politics and economics but instead emphasizes them. Among his nine books are "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," a 2004 New York Times best-seller, and last year's "33 Questions About American History You Aren't Supposed to Ask."

Woods is a senior fellow at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., which describes itself as "the world center of the Austrian School of economics."

Austrian economics is the polar opposite of the Keynesian or socialist economics practiced today by the United States and most of Europe. Austrians -- who advocate for and defend the free-market economy, private property and sound money -- believe it is government intervention in the economy that causes crises like the current one.

It is from an Austrian point of view that Woods has written his latest book, "Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse." A New York Times best-seller earlier this year, its first chapter can be read at

Q: Can you briefly describe what your book is about?

A: It's the truth about the economic crisis that you don't get from CNBC or the usual suspects. It defends the free market against the extremely unfortunate conventional wisdom that the meltdown we've observed represents the collapse of the free market. It is no such thing. This is to the contrary a government- and Federal Reserve-instigated crisis from beginning to end. It is extremely important for people who believe in the free market and in a free society to know how to defend themselves, to know what the arguments are, in order that we might resist the expansion of government power that will take place using this crisis as a pretext.

Q: What part of the government would you indict as the major culprit?

A: More than anything else, it's the Federal Reserve System. Now strictly speaking, the Federal Reserve is a private institution. But it was created by Congress. A lot of its personnel are appointed by the government. And it enjoys government-granted monopoly privileges. So for all intents and purposes, it is a government-established central bank.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..