USAID Food Aid and Waste

 | 

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.

Share

Winning the battle, losing the war?

 | 

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.

Share

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

 | 

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.

Photo

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.

Share

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

 | 

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.

Share

Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Control

 | 

That is the title of a new paper by myself and Abby Hall appearing in the current issue of The Independent Review. You can read the entire paper here.

Here is a nice summary by Carl Close of the Independent Institute:

More than a century ago, Mark Twain noted that if a “Great Republic” goes about “trampling on the helpless abroad,” then that government stands a good chance of turning against its own citizens. But why does a government’s intervention into other countries raise the risk of curtailing liberties at home? The short answer, according to Independent Review co-editor Christopher J. Coyne and Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall, is that coercive foreign intervention sets in motion various politico-economic mechanisms that cause it to act like a boomerang, knocking down freedoms in the “throwing” country.

Coyne and Hall put forth their thesis of the “boomerang effect” in the Fall 2014 issue of The Independent Review. How does it work? When a government tries to impose social controls on foreign populations, the authors explain, typically it does so using means that expand the scope of government domestically. Those means include new skills and equipment to monitor and quell resistance, greater centralization of government power, and the inculcation of a willingness to impose more coercion on ordinary citizens. When mixed together, these ingredients act as a potent corrosive that erodes rights and liberties at home.

Coyne and Hall also offer two illuminating case studies of the boomerang effect. The first involves government surveillance of ordinary Americans. Its origins, they show, go back to the U.S. occupation of the Philippine Islands after the Spanish-American War, when Army Captain Ralph Van Deman helped create a data collection system to monitor Filipino insurgents and others. After his return stateside, Van Deman lobbied high-ranking officials to create a similar program that later spied on U.S. citizens who opposed America’s entry into World War I—a precursor to the NSA’s high-tech surveillance programs. Coyne and Hall’s second example examines the militarization of domestic policing. The paramilitary SWAT teams now common in police departments across the United States, they show, were first created by Los Angeles police chiefs eager to adapt what they learned from special military units during the Vietnam War and World War II. The lesson? Mark Twain could have summarized his point with one karmic aphorism: What goes around comes around.

Share

The Case Against a U.S.-Arms Monopoly

 | 

That is the title of a new working paper by myself and Abby Hall.  Here is the abstract:

The U.S. government is the dominant player in the global arms market. An existing literature emphasizes the many benefits of an international U.S.-government arms monopoly including: regional and global balance, stability and security, the advancement of U.S. national interests, and domestic economic benefits from international sales. The purpose of this paper is to balance this largely one-sided treatment of the U.S. government’s dominant position in the international arms market. We discuss several negative consequences and costs associated with U.S. arms sales which call into question the net benefit of the U.S. government’s control over global arms.

You can download the entire paper here.

Share

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

 | 

That is the title of a new working paper by Abby Hall. Here is the abstract:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” have become a core component of the U.S. 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 U.S. citizens and maximize some larger social welfare function. This paper identifies the propositions associated with this public interest ideal and examines their accuracy. I find a general disconnect between the empirical 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, and more realistic, analytical framework to adjudicate between observed realities and stated goals.

Read the entire paper here.

Share

The Role of Institutions & Why Humanitarian Action Fails

 | 

This summer I spoke at the Independent Institute’s “The Challenge of Liberty” seminar held at the University of Denver. I gave two talks and the video of both talks is available below. The first discusses the role of institutions in a free and prosperous society. The second discusses why humanitarian action fails.

 

 

Share

Freedom of foreign movement, economic opportunities abroad, and protest in non-democratic regimes

 | 

That is the title of a paper in the current issue of the Journal of Peace Research by Colin Barry, K Chad Clay, Michael Flynn, and Gregory Robinson. Here is the abstract:

Allowing or restricting foreign movement is a crucial policy choice for leaders. We argue that freedom of foreign movement reduces the level of civil unrest under non-democratic regimes, but only in some circumstances. Our argument relies on the trade-offs inherent in exit and voice as distinct strategies for dealing with a corrupt and oppressive state. By permitting exit and thereby lowering its relative costs, authoritarians can make protest and other modes of expressing dissatisfaction less attractive for potential troublemakers. Liberalizing foreign movement can thus function as a safety valve for releasing domestic pressure. But the degree to which allowing emigration is an effective regime strategy is shaped by the economic opportunities offered by countries receiving immigrants. We find that freedom of foreign movement and the existence of economic opportunities abroad reduce civil unrest in non-democratic states. However, at high levels of unemployment in the developed world, greater freedom of foreign movement actually increases protest.

The paper (gated) is available here.

Share

Observing the capitalist peace

 | 

That is the title of a paper in the current issue of the Journal of Peace Research by Allan Dafoe and Nina Kelsey. Here is the abstract:

Countries with open capital markets tend to have fewer militarized disputes and wars. Gartzke, Li & Boehmer propose that this association arises from the enhanced ability of states with open capital markets to credibly signal resolve through the bearing of economic costs ex ante to militarized escalation. We test this causal mechanism by qualitatively examining six crucial cases in which the mechanism is most likely to be operative and observable. We employ a formal case selection strategy designed to yield cases with high inferential leverage for our confirmatory test and to select cases for an exploratory analysis of scope conditions. Through analysis of media reports, government documents, and other sources, we evaluate the extent to which relevant individuals drew the appropriate inferences about market-mediated costs and resolve. We conclude that while market-mediated signaling may operate in major conflicts, it is unlikely to account for much of the association between capital openness and peace. Exploratory analysis of our cases identifies potential scope conditions, clarifies the role of different signaling mechanisms, and suggests other explanations for the peaceful behavior of countries with open capital markets.

The paper (gated) is available here.

Share