March 17, 2014

Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Control

  • Christopher Coyne

    Associate Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Abigail R. Hall

    Associate Professor of Economics at Bellarmine University
Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

This paper analyzes how foreign interventions can result in a broadening of government powers and a concurrent reduction of citizens’ liberties and freedoms domestically. We develop an analytical framework to examine the effects of coercive foreign interventions on the scope of domestic government activities. Facing limited or altogether absent constraints abroad, coercive foreign interventions serve as a testing ground for domestically-constrained governments to experiment with new technologies and methods of social control over foreign populations. We identify several mechanisms through which these innovations in state-produced social control can boomerang back to the intervening country. We apply the logic of the “boomerang effect” to two episodes in the U.S.: (1) the origins of domestic surveillance, and (2) the rise of SWAT teams and the militarization of domestic police.

Read full paper at