David R. Henderson  

An Economist's Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy

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Saturday, May 14, 3:00 - 4:30 pm, An Economist's Case for a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy.

David Henderson applies economic analysis, combined with history, to make the case that the United States should have stayed out of every war it has been in since 1783. On the economic side, he focuses particularly on government's information problem, perverse government incentives, and unintended consequences. On the history side, he focuses on World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Middle East, and the global war on terror.
David Henderson is a Professor of Economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, a Research Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and a Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, Canada.

This program is sponsored by the Monterey Peace and Justice Center, the Peace Coalition of Monterey County, and the Libertarians for Peace.

Monterey Peace and Justice Center, 1364 Fremont Blvd., Seaside, California.

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Ben H. writes:

I hope a video will be posted, this sounds interesting!

Jon Murphy writes:

I agree with Ben! I'd really like to hear your case for staying out of World War 2. That would be most interesting to me because it seems everyone (including myself) sees that as a justifiable war.

Lars Schumacher writes:

I completely agree. Or maybe post the audio in an mp3 file?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ben H., Jon Murphy, and Lars Schumacher,
You can hear a shorter version of the talk and read the transcript of that shorter version here.

john hare writes:

I read the transcript. It's really tough to make such a major point in a limited time. IMO, you made a better case for politicians being short sighted and historically ignorant than for nonintervention. I think you made a better case for nonintervention than that we could have avoided all wars since the revolution. The case for wars being the ratchet was clear.

Tom Jackson writes:

Is Libertarans for Peace a local outfit or a national group? Tried to find a website but could not find one.

David R. Henderson writes:

@john hare,
Thanks. Yes, it’s hard to do in 30 minutes. My talk today is almost 50 minutes long and I bulk up the WWII part, which is the hardest case to make, substantially.
@Tom Jackson,
Libertarians for Peace is a loosely knit national organization. Our local chapter is far more active than most. Here’s the web site of the national group. Here’s a report by my co-chair, Lawrence Samuels, on an earlier demonstration.

john hare writes:

Dr Henderson,

I may disagree with you that all wars could have been avoided. I'm fairly certain that avoiding all of the wars would have led to a worse outcome in world history.

The Barbary Coast intervention/war of ~1800-1817 was an alternative to endless extortion and real provocation by the Barbary states. While it could have been avoided, I believe at this time that fighting/intervention led to a better outcome than the status quo.

I am not sufficiently familiar with the history of war of 1812 to discuss it.

The Mexican war of 1845 could certainly have been avoided. IMO, the result of a larger, stronger United States was better for the world in the long run.

The civil war could have been avoided at the cost of splitting the country, and setting up a precedent for further fragmentation of the country. IMO this could have led to more conflicts of smaller Scale among a large number of sovereign entities on the continent. It is my opinion that a large, wealthy, and relatively free United States has been good for the world. It may not have happened without that bloody conflict.

The various Indian wars had plenty of misfires and wrong. Much of it could have been avoided with better integrity (trail of Tears etc) though I believe many of the tribes made it necessary to choose between expansion and conflict. Avoiding all conflict could have severely restricted the settlement of the country to the point of holding to little more than the original colonies.

The Spanish/American war could have been avoided. I haven't an opinion on long term desirability of that, though I may be inclined to agree with you looking at the individual pieces.

World War 1 could have been avoided by us and some of the alternate histories would have been much better for the world.

I don't know enough about the 'Banana wars' of the 20s and 30s to comment. I'm probably with you on them.

I have read considerably on the causes of our entry into World War 2, and think it depends of when you draw the line as to whether we could avoid getting into it. After Pearl Harbor it was a done deal. Before then there were numerous stopping points given a bit less belligerency on the part of FDR. The various embargoes and ineffective sanctions on the Japanese seem a bit schizo and counterproductive in retrospect. Given the nature of the Japanese empire at that point in history, a military build up of US forces, especially naval, seems inevitable at that time. On the European side, I would say you made your points.

The Korean war seems inevitable for us if you think we had a reasonable case for guaranteeing South Korean independence.

Vietnam could have been avoided at so many points starting with bringing the French back in 1945, that it just seems nuts that it was allowed to escalate as it did. The Vietnamese were more nationalist than communist in 1945 and could have been an Asian Yugoslavia politically with fairly minor effort.

Grenada, Panama and so on, I don't know.

Justifying Desert Storm/Shield depends on your notions of national interest. Avoiding it could have been done with advance warnings to Hussein that invasion would cause war, or by not backing any local governments in the first place.

The latest mid east interventions are a mess.

I think your thesis rests on having diplomats and politicians that actually look further down the road than most of them historically do. It also requires a bit of reading of tea leaves in understanding all of the effects of current actions on future events. It is much easier to second guess history than to future guess it.

Sometimes strength allows one to avoid conflict. I do construction work and many of the people I have worked around over the last several decades are not your finest upstanding citizens. That I am over 200 pounds and reasonably fit has prevented many of the problems experienced by others, no fights in 40 years. That some people carry weapons in their vehicles means that belligerent people do not start crap as you are leaving.

Sunday morning ramblings. Thanks for your work. Agree or disagree, your posts help me clarify my own opinions.

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