Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Incentives in Iraq

I'm tired of hearing about the war. It has been discussed to death over the last five years, with the Left saying that we shouldn't have done it in the first place, and the Right saying that we HAD to do it (and that either Unforseen Circumstances have made it go poorly, or that the Administration made some "unfortunate" decisions along the way).

So I was disappointed when I saw that Russ Roberts was talking with Christopher Coyne about Iraq, and war in general, on the latest EconTalk podcast (my second-favorite podcast these days).

I'm glad I gave it a listen; it's not the same, tired discussion I've heard before.

I learned a lot about previous US attempts to use war to bring about democracy overseas (Japan and Germany after WWII were successes, Germany after WWI and Somalia and Haiti were miserable failures). Professor Roberts has a very nice way of being politely skeptical and really probing ideas without having the discussion turn into an argument.

Unfortunately, there weren't any brilliant ideas for how to make Iraq a productive, modern, liberal democracy any time soon. It seems that the best we can do is to get out of the way and let the citizens of Iraq work it out for themselves. You cannot use command-and-control to dictate that a group of people Shall Now Be Free, any more than you can use command-and-control to dictate that a group of people Shall Now Be Economically Productive (as every try at economic Communism has discovered).

(Photo from the Library of Congress archives via Flickr, another link well worth visiting).

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