David R. Henderson  

Me on Stossel: The Video

Ferguson on Murray... The Present Value of a Sheepsk...

Here's a link that takes you to the video of my appearance on John Stossel's show last night.

Three comments:
1. One thing that surprised me, when I researched to prep for the "debate," is how small a percent of Israel's GDP U.S. foreign aid to Israel is. It's under 1.5 percent. As I noted, it's hard to believe that without this aid, Israel would disappear.
2. The Colonel's last comment was that Iran, by which I assume he meant the Iranian government, has killed Americans. I didn't know what he was referring to and I didn't want to ask because that would use up scarce time and I might not get to say anything more myself. So I said something like the following, which got cut: "Colonel, Israel's government has killed Americans. Have you ever heard of the USS Liberty?"
3. In the "Green Room" beforehand, Colonel Hunt and I hit it off. You will never guess what two guys talked about: shoes. I commented that I liked his shoes because they looked comfortable and I wrote down the brand because I'm always looking for comfortable dress shoes.
Now having watched the segment twice, I see how unanalytic and emotive he is. He didn't really make an argument.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (32 to date)
Ken B writes:

He didn't make any arguments well but he did allude to one and you dismissed it too easily. You stated flat out that the fear of retaliation will prevent Iran, or factions within the regime, from using nuclear weapons. This is not entirely clear when we are dealing with religious fanatics. You owe a better answer than, ain't gonna happen.

ThomasL writes:

What kind of shoes were they?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ken B,
You noticed how much time I had, right? I can make the argument, but not in the time I had.

joeftansey writes:

You are impressively sharp under pressure/constraints. Kudos.

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks so much for your gracious compliment.

Ken B writes:

Well you are the one who said he made no argument after all! But you are unconstrained here. The question I think is, is a regime like Iran's less likely to be deterred than the soviets were, and can that also be said of factions within the regime?

Methinks writes:

@David Henderson

It just wasn't a fair fight!

@Ken B
The question I think is, is a regime like Iran's less likely to be deterred than the soviets were, and can that also be said of factions within the regime?

Okay, fair enough. Why would Iran be any more likely to use nukes than a regime that taught its population virtually from birth to sacrifice life for some elusive Communist future?

Ken B writes:

Methinks: Russia was ruled by a nomenklatura quite rational about its own interests, certainly by the time they got the bomb. As well the ideology taught capitalism could be waited out. It was, by the nuclear age, no longer particularly messianic. Its leaders believed in no occluded imams, and it announced no desire to kill all the Jews. These are relevant differences. Plus we had no option with Russia except to surrender. The whole point with Iran is David wants to forego any attempt to head them off at the pass. That is probably right, but it's no slam-dunk.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ken B,
I don’t think that the Iranian government has announced a desire to kill all Jews. And I do think that the Iranian government is as “deterrable” as the Soviets. There’s virtually no evidence that goes the other way.

Jim writes:

Good showing David.

I am more a fortress America guy than anything else.

But regardless of the tripe coming out of Iran, the real danger is whose hands those nukes could fall into. The issue remains of concern in Russia as well.

Ken B writes:

First, I amend. Not all the Jews, just the Israelis. Ahmadinejad has said, and in various ways, "Israel must be wiped off the map". That requires killing quite a few Jews. The case for wanting to kill all the Jews is much stronger with hamas, which Iran subvents. But a settled hatred for one nation with a settled desire to destroy it suffices for my purpose.

As for deterrable, I have several points.
1. Since it might be possible to stop Iran getting the bomb I think the burden is on the advocates of letting deterrence work to show deterrence will work.
2. The entire history of monotheism suggests many religious governments and persons are hard to deter. All sides ignored ample deterrence in the 30 years war.
3. Ahmadinejad's apparent belief in the occluded imam and his imminent return is not reassuring either. Religious hatred, openly expressed IS evidence of undeterrability.
4. Jim makes more directly a point I made about factions. It is quite plausible to me that some factions of the Iranian government would supply hamas with the bomb. Can you reassure us?
5. Thomas schelling has made a pretty good case that there is a taboo in the first world against any use of nuclear weapons. It is not remotely clear that applies in the muslim world or particularly Iran. If this were Belgium getting th bomb, or Canada, there would be less concern for this very reason.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ken B,
There’s still a lot of controversy about what Ahmadinejad said, but one quite plausible interpretation is that he wants to eliminate the Zionist regime. In other words, by this interpretation, he is against Zionism. In any case, though, according to my Hoover colleague, Bruce Buena de Mesquita, Ahmadinejad is about the 18th most powerful person in Iran.
Re “burden,” I confess I’ve never understood this asymmetric criterion: insisting that one side must make its argument while the other doesn’t have to.
I think I can reassure you that the Iranian government, if it ever got the bomb, would not be suicidal enough to give it to someone else who could then turn around and threaten them.
Also, I don’t see why religious hatred is evidence of undeterrability.
One thing I don’t understand, Ken: why do you single out Iran? It hasn’t attacked another country, except in self-defense, in a couple of centuries. And after 9/11, the Iranian government helped the U.S. government: I can’t find the reference quickly on line but it was widely noted at the time.

HispanicPundit writes:

I am a former warmonger who has slowly been coming over to the Ron Paul foreign policy side. You and Bryan Caplan especially, have been helping tremendously. Keep up the good work!

Robert Fellner writes:

I strongly recommend Allen Edmonds for high quality, comfortable dress shoes!

No I am not a spam bot, just feel this is the most valuable comment I can add to this discussion. :-)

[Maaan, are you ever lucky that I watched the video and rescued this comment from the black hole of spam!--Econlib Ed.]

Methinks writes:

Ken B,

The Iranians are the least religious population in the ME. The 300 mullahs are far more similar to the Soviet nomenklatura than to Osama Bin Laden - not that either the nomenklatura or the cadre of mullahs had/have any chance of getting close to the button.

The Iranians could supply dirty bombs, but the Soviets could have also - it's not as if the Soviets sat quietly behind the Iron Curtain waiting out capitalism and it's not as if the Soviet regime held human life as precious. For that matter, so could the United States. Or France.

I don't agree with David Henderson about what Ahmedinejad said. Hatred of Jews (all Jews) is as common as air in the Middle East - as is the reflexive insistence that it's only the Zionists they hate. Jews are handy scapegoats to blame for the gross inadequacies of Middle Eastern regimes. So what? Talk is cheap, ensuring your own destruction by attacking Israel is quite a bit more expensive.

In the end, if Iran wants the bomb, it'll get it. Ultimately, there is nothing the U.S. can do about it. IMO, the real question is are resources better spent responding to what happens or spent in a fruitless attempt to stop the inevitable? That's the trade-off.

Ken B writes:

Methinks: If you look at my postings you will see I talk about the REGIME and factions within the regime. It is the nature of the regime and their advertised values and beliefs that make them more worrisome than Canada.

I agree with you about endemic Jew hatred. David misses this entirely. I also think you are probably right about inevitability. As we haved debated before though, respites have value! I don't advocate bombing Iran but I want a better case than an airy dismissal (and I might support sabotage if the case is persuasive.)

David: Why do you say I single out Iran? I don't want Turkey, Indonesia, Chile, or indeed Monaco to get the bomb. I have stated pretty clearly why I think Iran is a higher risk than Monaco, and it is the country on the cusp today -- Chile isn't.

Here is my suggestion. We pray to Thor. What? You don't think will work? Could it be you think there is a burden on me to provide evidence prayer to Thor works? I hope you will forgive this little sarcastic jest at your expense, so let me make the burden point clearer. Deterrence has a spotty record. It worked with the soviets, it has failed at other times. It fails when people's motivations are more intense, more irrational, or place a positive value on consequences you expect to be negative. That spells religion, martyr, zealot. Those words seems applicable to the Iranian regime and their chosen face, Ajad. (It is also why I mention religion and undeterrability. It affects levels of motivation, and what does or does not count as a negative consequence. You have addressed not one word to this point.) Can you give a more specific argument why it will work with Iran? You haven't so far.

As for Ajad, I understand the real power is the mullahs. Ajad is their chosen advertisement and he brims with hatred and aggression. I refer to him not as "the decider" but the chosen representative of the true deciders, as a representation of the regime's values.

[Off topic, Gore Vidal once said a brilliant thing. He said Presidents are the men we elect to do the commercials. Wrong in the sense he emeant it, but brilliant in the sense he did not mean.]

Ken B writes:

As for aid to Israel, I assume that number is govt aid, not private giving. If the govt cut that aid I expect private giving would compensate.

CC writes:

Nice job, David. You seem very comfortable on tv!

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ken B,
Deterrence has a spotty record. It worked with the soviets, it has failed at other times.
I’m talking about nuclear deterrence. It has always worked.
As for aid to Israel, I assume that number is govt aid, not private giving. If the govt cut that aid I expect private giving would compensate.
Correct on both.
Thanks. I love being on TV.

Ken B writes:

That's rather artificial isn't it? Perhaps I can impose an artifical restriction of my own. I am talking about deterring theocracies. That hasn't always worked. Deterrence is about incentives and rationality not just the kind of weapon.

You have not addressed ny argument that incentives can be perceived differently by the militant, the millenarian, or the mullah.

CM writes:

I thought David articulated the argument as well as any I've seen within the limited capacity provided and on a mainstream media outlet. I've never seen Col. Hunt fumble as much as he did in his discussion with Stossel and Dr. Henderson. When Ron Paul commented in the NH debate that he would most likely spend his Saturday night reading an economics textbook, he confirmed what many of us are awakening to thanks to the work of people like David--the need for analysis of our current national discussion through an economic lens! Keep fighting the good fight and we will grow in support of you, David.

Seth writes:

Something I don't think Paul gets enough credit for is his consistency with wanting to follow the Constitution.

While most of this discussion and others seems to be around 'what should we would do...' and 'what happens if we do...,' I believe Paul has been consistent on saying that what we should do is follow the Constitution, like "Congress declares war, not the President."

If 'we'd' like to empower Congress to authorize uses of the military beyond declared war, repelling invasions and insurrections and to 'Execute to the Laws of Union', then we should use Article V to amend the constitution and add that power.

Jonathon Hunt writes:

Bravo David for keeping your cool and being very sharp during that debate; it's rare to find someone who can make solid points by mouth instead of taking their time writing it on paper!

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, CM, Seth, and Jonathon.

justin writes:

I’m talking about nuclear deterrence. It has always worked.

Has non-interventionism always worked?

Ken B writes:

I think I can guess David's answer, as he is pretty extreme on the issue, opposing as far as I can tell fighting WWII. However you should look up his 2008 talk at FFF on YouTube (sopa crime alert!). He does an excellent job pitching non-intervention even at its most extreme (and remember, I'm not on his side here).

Which praise aside, I don't think he has made a case here on this issue.

Ken B writes:

David wrote:

I think I can reassure you that the Iranian government, if it ever got the bomb, would not be suicidal enough to give it to someone else who could then turn around and threaten them. ... I don’t see why religious hatred is evidence of undeterrability.

Not everyone agrees in this particular case. Bernard Lewis for example. http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2006/08/bernard_lewis_thinks_mad_may_n.html

I would trust David's judgment over Lewis's on the effect of marginal tax rate changes. I think I trust Lewis's more than David's on the middle east. It's wrong to simply dismiss this worry.

Justin writes:

Thanks for the pointer. The talk was very informative and I enjoyed his remarks esp. w.r.t. the effects of war on liberty. He also discusses the many negative aspects of war in general, but when he spoke about WWI/WWII I didn't pickup on any alternatives to entering the wars.

I'm curious what DavidH thinks the appropriate response would be when, *despite* a policy of non-intervention, the Japanese destroy almost your entire Pacific fleet. Do you just keep on producing more refrigerators than your enemy? Restrict yourself to "defensive" measures only (whatever that means)? Is it even remotely possible that the best defensive measure requires putting pressure on your enemy (say, using the bomb)?

David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, Ken B and Justin.
I read the url for Lewis that you referenced, Ken B, and didn’t find it persuasive.
Justin, your premise re Japan is incorrect. The U.S. government did have a policy of intervention. It was trying to cut off the oil supply to Japan to push Japan to get out of China. Without that intervention, I think there’s no way the Japanese government would have attacked Pearl Harbor.

Ken B writes:

Justin: Yes I thought his talk laid out the case that we should be as non-interventionist as possible as often as possible. Maybe a lot more so than we are. Alas that 'possible' is sometimes unclear. Situations arise, inaction has consequences too, and an appeal to a general argument just isn't enough.

Ken B writes:

Funny, I was quite persuaded by the link that Bernard Lewis is persuaded there is an issue.

You offered me your reassurance; that is an appeal to authourity, and I think I presented evidence that a different authourity, perhaps a particularly well-informed one, thinks "But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind." I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on that. Your certainty does not disturb me; President Paul's would.

Ken B writes:

Oops, spelling melt down. Like many with a libertarian streak, I have a problem with "authourity."

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