Institute for Liberal Studies – Liberty Summer Seminar

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I will be speaking at the annual Liberty Summer Seminar sponsored by the Institute for Liberal Studies. This year’s event is being held on July 24-26 in Hastings, ON. I will be speaking on “The Fatal Conceit of Foreign Intervention,” scheduled for the evening of Saturday, July 25.  More details are available here.

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UN “Peacekeepers” Trade Sex for Basic Goods

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New revelations about the sexual exploitation of hundreds of women by United Nations peacekeepers have emerged a decade after the organization first identified the problem.

In a draft report obtained by the Associated Press, the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services — a U.N. watchdog within the U.N. — said members of a peacekeeping mission had “transactional sex” with more than 225 Haitian women. The women traded sex for basic needs, including food and medication.

Read the entire article here.

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The War on Drugs in Afghanistan: Another Failed Experiment with Interdiction

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That is the title of a new working paper, co-authored with Abby Hall and Scott Burns. Here is the abstract:

Following the start of the war on terror in 2001, U.S. policymakers determined that winning the war on drugs in Afghanistan was necessary for winning the war on terror. Yet despite spending $12 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since 2002, the country is currently producing three times more opium than at any other point in its history. We examine the failures of the U.S.-led war on drugs in Afghanistan using the tools of economics. By driving the opium economy into the black market, the war on drugs has fostered regime uncertainty, resulted in the violent cartelization of the drug industry, empowered the Taliban insurgency, and contributed to corruption. The U.S. experience in Afghanistan has broader implications for international drug and terrorism policy.

You can read the entire paper here.

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Drones: Public Interest, Public Choice, and the Expansion of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

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That is the title of a new paper authored by Abby Hall, published in the current issue of Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy.  Here is the abstract:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” have become a core component of the US military arsenal following September 11, 2001. In much of the literature and public discourse regarding drones, it is assumed that drone policy is created within the broader “public interest.” That is, those who construct drone policy set aside private incentives and other motives to construct policy solely to achieve the goals of US citizens and maximize some larger social welfare function. This paper identifies the conjectures associated with this public interest ideal and examines their accuracy. I find a general disconnect between the evidence and the public interest assumption. In several cases, the evidence directly contradicts the assumption of public interest. In light of these findings I offer an alternative analytical framework, the “public choice” framework to adjudicate between observed realities and stated goals.

Here is an ungated version of the paper.

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In Search of Libertarian Realism

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That is a title of a symposium in the current issue of Reason magazine. Contributors include: Matt Welch, Sheldon Richman, Christopher Preble, William Ruger, and Fernandon Teson.  You can read the entire symposium here.

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The Revolving Door and the Entrenchment of the Permanent War Economy

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That is the title of a new working paper, co-authored with Tom Duncan.  Here is the abstract:

This paper analyzes the “revolving door” phenomena in the military sector in the United States. The revolving door refers to the back-and-forth movement of personnel between the government and private sector. We examine the structure of the revolving door and explain how its very nature leads to the perpetuation of the permanent war economy. This analysis yields several important implications. First, the dynamics of the revolving door shape the military-industrial complex in a way that serves the narrow interests of select elites rather than the broad interests of citizens. Second, because the perverse incentives are a product of the institutional structure of the U.S. military sector, the negative consequences are also structural and cannot be solved by increased oversight.

You can read the entire paper here.

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USAID Food Aid and Waste

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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is spending more on the transportation of its food aid than the food itself, according to an investigative report from USA Today and graduate students at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

For their report, entitled “Hunger Pains: U.S. Food Aid Program Struggles To Move Forward,” they found that the agency spent $7.4 billion on food between 2003 and 2012 while shelling out $9 billion on transportation and logistics. Experts said it was the most “inefficient humanitarian aid program in the world.”

That is according to Kathleen Caulderwood writing at International Business Times. Read the whole thing here.

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Winning the battle, losing the war?

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Writing in the Washington Post, Andrew Bacevich argues that:

We must hope for victory over the Islamic State. But even if achieved, that victory will not redeem but merely prolong a decades-long military undertaking that was flawed from the outset. When the 14th campaign runs its course, the 15th will no doubt be waiting, perhaps in Jordan or in a return visit to some unfinished battleground such as Libya or Somalia or Yemen.

He also provides a stocktaking of the 14 interventions by the U.S. government in the Middle East since 1980:

Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.

The entire piece is well worth reading.

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Foreign Intervention: A Case for Humility (Or, why I am a peacemonger)

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This past Thursday I had the pleasure of giving a dinner address to the Institute for Humane Studies Board of Directors. The purpose of the event was to honor Jerry Fullinwider upon his retirement from the IHS Board. Jerry was a founding member of the Board and worked closely with Baldy Harper to launch IHS in 1961. Over the decades he has been an unwavering advocate for freedom and has worked tirelessly to advance liberty through IHS and a variety of other initiatives.

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I am personally grateful to Jerry and his family. I am an alumnus of IHS’s undergraduate seminars and am now a frequent participant in seminars as a faculty member, as well as a member of the Board. I am also very fortunate to hold the position of F.A. Harper Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center which Jerry helped endow. Given this, it was a true honor to have the opportunity to speak at the event recognizing Jerry’s work and contributions.

The topic of my remarks was “Foreign Intervention: A Case for Humility.” I used the opening lines of Baldy Harper’s, “In Search of Peace” as motivation:

The topic of my talk is fitting not only given current global events, but also because it was a topic of great importance to Baldy Harper. The opening lines of his wonderful 1951 article, “In Search of Peace,” read as follows:

Charges of pacifism are likely to be hurled at anyone who in these troubled times raises any question about the race into war. If pacifism means embracing the objective of peace, I am willing to accept the charge. If it means opposing all aggression against others, I am willing to accept that charge also. It is now urgent in the interest of liberty that many persons become “peacemongers.”

Harper’s words are as relevant as when he first wrote them. My goal tonight is to urge all of you to fully embrace Harper’s call. Being a committed peacemonger is a controversial position even among classical liberals and libertarians, let alone among members of the two mainstream political parties. Indeed, any pushback against the current “race into war” against supposed foreign threats is met with the exact type of criticism noted by Harper over six decades ago. Let me provide four reasons why I am highly skeptical of foreign military intervention.

And here are my closing lines:

In closing, let me say that I realize that it is important to be aware of potential external threats to our liberties and freedoms. At the same time, it is crucial that we never forget that there is a significant internal threat to those same liberties and freedoms that we must battle on a daily basis—the State.

If interested, you can read the entire text here (my dinner comments were an abridged version).

Cross posted at Coordination Problem.

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The “Boomerang Effect”: How Foreign Policy Changes Domestic Policy

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That is a title of a post by Sheldon Richman which discusses my paper, with Abby Hall, Perfecting Tyranny which I discussed a few days ago.

Here are Sheldon’s opening lines:

The late Chalmers Johnson, the great analyst of the American empire, warned that if Americans didn’t give up the empire, they would come to live under it.

We’ve had many reasons to take his warning seriously; indeed, several important thinkers have furnished sound theoretical and empirical evidence for the proposition. Now come two scholars who advance our understanding of how an interventionist foreign policy eventually comes home. If libertarians needed further grounds for acknowledging that a distinctive libertarian foreign policy exists, here it is.

Read the entire thing here.

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