David R. Henderson  

My 2003 Bet

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I mentioned on my post yesterday that I had made a bet in 2003 about an outcome in the MIddle East in 2008 and that I won my bet, although the other bettor didn't pay up. Interestingly, none of the commenters asked what the bet was about. We made it in September 2003. Here was what she bet:

At least 3 countries in the Middle East that were not democracies at the time of our bet would become democracies by September 2008.

The context was the discussion of the Iraq war. The U.S. government had invaded in March of that year and in a session at the Mont Pelerin meetings where I was on a panel, a member of the audience (the aforementioned woman) said that the invasion was a good thing because it would lead to "lots of" countries in the Middle East moving to democracy. I suggested that we translate "lots of" into "three or more" because surely no one would seriously bet on, say, five or more. I think her optimism reflected the unrealistic optimism at the time about the result of the U.S. invasion. I had never shared that optimism. If you think unintended consequences apply to domestic economic policy, where, at least, some of the results of the policies are visible to people who live here and some of the victims get to vote, think about how bad the unintended consequences can be when the victims aren't people who are visible and they don't get to vote in our elections. I made this point in my article, "The Economics of War and Foreign Policy: What's Missing?" Defense and Security Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 1, March 2007.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
david writes:

Next time you'd need to explicitly specify a source for the statistic or classification, too, as Caplan often does; if you squint really hard there are always some given definitions of "democracy" that will work. It's a squishy word.

For instance: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. All are in the Greater Middle East. Musharraf resigned in August 2008 and succeeded by Zardari in September.

Not that I disagree with your case; this only works if you twist the word "democracy" as far as it will allow. But I think you should define your bets more carefully :p

razib writes:

. All are in the Greater Middle East.

'greater middle east'? is this a real term? i've encountered plenty of dumb normal people who think that south asia is in the middle east, all us 'brown folk' look the same to them, so so worries about that. but is there a term in the scholarly literature 'greater middle east'?

Robert writes:

I considered asking, but then assumed that if you hadn't said in the original post, you for some reason didn't want to.

david writes:

@razib - No, the Bush administration came up with it.

Cfountain72 writes:

Congrats David. Yes there was a lot of the Neocon Kool-aid being consumed during that sad period in American history.
Peace be with you.

[Broken link fixed.--Econlib Ed.]

MikeDC writes:

* Well, I don't see how Iraq can't count.
* Lebanon had the "Cedar Revolution" in 2005 which sort of, finally led to elections in 2008.
* The Palestinian National Authority had its first semblance of democratic elections in 2005 and 2006 after 10 years or so of single party semi-statehood and deferred elections.

So that's three, and I'd say I don't think you should say you won this bet. Overall, the bet seems poorly specified more than anything.

Blackadder writes:

According to Freedom House, two Middle Eastern countries went from being ranked Not Free to being ranked Partially Free between 2003 and 2008 (Lebanon and Yemen). Iraq got a Not Free ranking in 2008 because of the sectarian violence and the continued large scale presence of U.S. troops. So by that standard David would have won his bet, but just barely.

richard writes:

I get your point but you actually lost the bet. Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine. I guess you can weasel out on Palestine except i believe most countries recognize Palestine as a state.

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