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House Refuses To Authorize Libyan War, Then Refuses To Defund Libyan War

That's the headline on an article by Doug Mataconis yesterday. The House of Representatives voted yesterday not to authorize the use of the U.S. military in Libya and then, an hour later, voted to keep paying for it.

My Congressman, Sam Farr, fresh back from the vote, was on a flight I took last night from San Francisco to Monterey. We exchanged pleasantries. Had I known his vote--No to authorizing the use of the military and Yes to cutting off funds--I would have thanked him.

How does this relate to economics? Hint: Look at the category I filed it under.

HT to John Fast.

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CATEGORIES: Revealed Preference

COMMENTS (7 to date)
Floccina writes:
I Don't Want It, But I Insist on Paying for It

The above should have read:

I Don't Want It, But I Insist that You Paying for It

"You" being the tax payers.

David Boaz writes:

Ron Paul argued that the defunding measure actually authorized the war, and possibly other members agreed with his reasoning here:

Mr. Speaker I rise to oppose this legislation, which masquerades as a limitation of funds for the president's war on Libya but is in fact an authorization for that very war. According to HR 2278, the US military cannot be involved in NATO's actions in Libya, with four important exceptions. If this passes, for the first time the president would be authorized to use US Armed Forces to engage in search and rescue; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; aerial refueling; and operational planning against Libya. Currently, absent an authorization or declaration of war, these activities are illegal. So instead of ending the war against Libya, this bill would legalize nearly everything the president is currently doing there.

That the war in Libya can be ended by expanding it and providing the president a legal excuse to continue makes no sense. If this bill fails, the entirety of what the president is doing in Libya would remain illegal.

John Hall writes:

Apparently they same thing back in the Kosovo bombing and used the limited vote authorizing funding as a justification for the bombing.

David R. Henderson writes:

Good catch.
@David Boaz,
Even more important catch. Thank you.

Cfountain72 writes:

Once again, thank God for real patriots like Ron Paul. Sad that voting against it is somehow being viewed as supporting this 'Odyssey.'

Gabriel rossman writes:

I'm thinking that "revealed preferences" isn't as accurate as "commitment trap." That is the marginal congressman's opinion seems to be that this was a mistake but it would be even more deleterious to withdraw once we're engaged.

Facing such a dilemma, the Congress's statement of disapproval seems to be saying "but don't try that again," but this isn't really credible. Which of course suggests yet more headings of "principle agent," "time inconsistency," and "cheap talk."

Hence you can make an argument for defunding despite any impact on ongoing operations, which we could place under the heading of "deterrence" (where the relevant deterrence is not the USA versus a tin horn dictator but Article I versus Article II).

That is, I think "revealed preference" is just about the last heading I would give this act of Congress and I say so because I view this as game theory, not price theory.

ChacoKevy writes:

While this blog has many reasons to revel in the departure of Sen. Dodd, we in the Peace Corps community are also happy as it means Congressman Farr now is the standard bearer for the Peace Corps in public service.

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