David R. Henderson  

My Berkeley Talk

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On Wednesday evening, I gave a talk at UC Berkeley to a group called the Students for Liberty, UC Berkeley. I've talked to a number of college audiences, but it has been a while since I've spoken to a campus libertarian group. I had a blast and the main purpose of this post is to tell any other speakers that if they want to give a talk to a good group of libertarians who are big-tent libertarians and who also attract non-libertarians, then you should consider speaking to this group.

The talk went well, the discussion was active, even some of the libertarians criticized some of my points but in a civil way, one conservative posed a good gotcha question about violent Muslims, and the Indian food before the talk was great.

I led off by reminiscing about giving an anti-draft speech on the Sproul steps in the fall of 1979, when Senator Sam Nunn was pushing to re-introduce the draft. I forgot to mention that I had given a talk at Berkeley in October 2002 in which I had made the case against going to war on Iraq. It was at an Independent Institute event with Dan Ellsberg, Barton Bernstein, Edwin B. Firmage, and Jonathan Marshall.

I think I surprised many of them by pointing out that the main costs of the two current wars borne by Americans (as opposed to Iraqis and Afghanis) are borne by high-income people.

It was fun to be at a campus that is still buzzing with life after 9:00 p.m. I really like these chances to be around people in their late teens and early 20s. Afterwards, they invited all of the people at the event (there were about 40) back to the apartment of one of the libertarians. Mainly libertarians showed up but I liked the outreach. I told them that they were the most normal libertarians (that's good) I had ever met.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (4 to date)
John Goodman writes:


You are one of the most "normal" libertarian economists I know. And that's good.

David R. Henderson writes:

@John Goodman,
Aw, shucks. Seriously, thanks John.

Mike S. writes:

Professor Henderson,

Thanks for another great post. I have two comments.

Could you make a case for the benefits of the current wars? Surely there must be some. e.g., a lower probability of another 9/11-style attack multiplied by the cost of the damage.

Also, aren't some of what we categorize as the costs of war more accurately "transfers." For example, hazardous duty pay for soldiers is included in wartime supplemental funding and is, therefore, a cost of war. But, that money is going to American families to use as they see fit. Sounds more like a transfer than a cost.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Mike S,
On your point about benefits, one of the points I made in the talk, which is based mainly on work by Robert Pape, is that U.S. intervention in that part of the world makes us less safe. A better option is to withdraw militarily and focus on catching the bad guys, period.
On payment for risk, that payment is not a transfer if the risk is real. It's compensation for a real cost. Even if the risk is subjective, it's compensation for a perceived cost.

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