December, 2015

Lobotomizing the Defense Brain

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Find the article at SpringerLink. 

2014 Presidential Address, Society for the Development of Austrian Economics.

Economists model national defense as a pure public good optimally provided by a benevolent and omnipotent “defense brain” to maximize social welfare. I critically consider five assumptions associated with this view: (1) that defense and security is a pure public good that must be provided by a national government, (2) that state-provided defense is always a “good” and never a “bad”, (3) that the state can provide defense in the optimal quantity and quality, (4) that state expenditures on defense are neutral with respect to private economic activity, and (5) that state-provided defense activities are neutral with respect to domestic political institutions. I discuss an alternative framework—the “individualistic view”—for analyzing defense provision and suggest it is superior for understanding reality.