Thoughts on economics and liberty

A much cheaper way to combat terrorism

Andrea Millen Rich has added up The Cost of Getting Bin Laden:

  • a total of 4,452 American soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq
  • a total of 1,566 U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan
  • the direct taxpayer cost of both wars had eclipsed $1.1 trillion
  • hundreds of billions have also been spent on homeland security and intelligence gathering efforts (the federal government revealed that it was spending more than $80 billion a year on intelligence gathering—more than twice the pre-9/11 amount. Tthe proposed budget for homeland security efforts in the coming fiscal year will top $71 billion)
  • the government has trampled the First, Fourth, Fifth Sixth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments—all in the name of safeguarding our nation from itself.
  • callous invasions of their privacy via intrusive pat-downs and obscene full-body scans at the country’s airports

Hans-Hermann Hoppe argued in The Myth of National Defense (ed. Hoppe, Von Mises Institute) that government monopoly over defence is ineffective and expensive. As illustration, even though US defence budgets are quite large, they have proved ineffective in protecting US interests. The US defence and policy machine keeps asking for more money but delivers ever less security. Hoppe believes that the World Trade towers attacks could have been prevented merely by allowing pilots carry a pistol costing $50. The $400 billion defence budget couldn’t prevent 9/11. 

Hoppe's argument is interesting but, as I show in DOF, it doesn't lead to the conclusions he arrives at. However, there is something that a state (e.g. USA) can do at a low cost to dramatically increased security – through persuasion and winning people's minds. 

Thus, the other day (4 May 2010) I wrote on Facebook that "They are often extremely naive and even stupid, these Americans. I also think their doctrine of national self-interest has been a BAD doctrine. The national self-interest is best served in the longer term through supporting GOOD, not evil. Each time they support a dictator, they harm America in the long run." 

This holds good for the British as well. When they supported Jinnah's demand for partition on religous grounds, they mixed religion and politics, went against their own liberal tradition, and created the monster of Pakistan that is now almost uncontrollable, and has become the hub centre for terrorism across the entire world.

For years I've been advocating abolition of foreign aid and its replacement with EQUAL AND HONEST relationships across all nations. That means looking at long-term self-interest, not just the short-term. This means focusing on (a) promotion of liberty and good governance across the world, and (b) calling a spade a spade (e.g. not supporting dictators). It also means NEVER giving charity unless there is desperate need.

As I wrote in my FF article on foreign aid:
  • Aid strengthens totalitarian dictators and increases genocides and global terrorism.
  • Genuine well-wishers of the poor should therefore stop all charitable work and become equal partners and friends of the poor. They can, as part of this role, teach poor nations about freedom and good governance. Taking this approach is not only ethical, cheaper, and far more effective, it will also ultimately protect the West from terrorism.
  • it is crucial that Western nations do not directly teach poorer nations; for that could be interpreted as racist arrogance. Freedom must be promoted through poor nations’ own nationals.

There is no doubt in my mind that many effective and cheap methods exist to promote freedom and good governance. They will work invariably better than hard, brutal actions that the West often undertakes without thinking through the long term consequences. If nothing else, these cheaper (but slower) approaches should be part of a mix of strategies. [Note, I'm not against hard brutal actions in principle. They may have a place as well, but should not be seen to be the primary method of engagement]

Currently the fist rules, the handshake is missing. There is no genuine goodwill. That can't work.

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5 thoughts on “A much cheaper way to combat terrorism
  1. Vijay Mohan

    Dear Sanjeev,
    What do you think about the Model of SIngapore .. Where Freedom of Speech and Free Media is invisible in front of almost a dictatorship in the name of Democracy.
    Still Growth in economy is inevitable . Society is ethical and morals are high.
    State does so many roles … the results shows that in same category State sector is better than private sector. e.g.. Education .
    State is doing Gambling business in Marina bay and is making lots of money … Reduction in taxes as a result..
    To me , its the limited  size of the country that this model is working..
    Also .. FInland ..Sweden… other Welfare states are working so Well ..
    Any Comment
    Thanks !

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Vijay, These are not sustainable models. Sweden is already sinking under the weight of taxation. Singapore can only do so much by copying others. Innovation needs freedom. Good economic policy and technically sound governance can do wonders, of course – that’s what is also happening in China.

    I would not recommend these models for India. We want sustainable growth.


  3. Vishal Deshmukh

    Dear Sanjeev sir,
          What do you mean by " through persuasion and winning people's minds"? I mean how can a state achieve increased security and tackle terrorism by this? can you please elaborate….

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Plain speaking, Vishal. I mean plain speaking. Not beating about the bush and looking to the short-term. Not mincing words where necessary.

    In other words, if leaders of the Islamic world claim that Islam is peaceful, then demanding that they arrest and excommunicate terrorists. And not supporting dictatorships.

    Insisting that there will be no arms supply to these nations without commensurate increase in liberties of their people. Insisting on democracy and religious freedom. Demanding that Madrassas which do not abide by a minimum standard of education be de-licenced.

    Talking to citizens of the Islamic world – through moderate Islamic leaders – to show the people that a better life is possible. Teaching liberty. Sending books. Translating the works of ISLAMIC scholars who promote liberty.

    Not having double standards in which the people of the Islamic world (including women) can be treated as second class citizens by their rulers, \

    Not tolerating intolerance.

    In other words, engaging in a serious conversation. That’s what I mean by persuasion. That’s how you win minds.

    Not by sending in thousands of troops to support dictators.

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