Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 27, 2014

in Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, War

… is from page 172 of the must-read lead article in the current issue of The Independent Review by my colleague Chris Coyne and GMU Econ student Abigail Hall, “Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Control“; this is an essay that deserves the close attention of everyone – and especially that of hawkish conservatives (link added):

Those who have developed a comparative advantage in innovating and implementing state-produced social control via foreign interventions will benefit in the form of higher wages by employing their unique human capital domestically.  Specialists in state-produced social control are able to suggest and implement new techniques and organizational forms of state social control on the domestic population based on their experiences of doing the same to distant populations.  The result is that domestic activities, whether in the public sector or the private sector, are influenced by the experiences and skills gained during the coercive foreign intervention.  As this process unfolds, the distinction between the state-produced social control used abroad and state-produced social control used domestically becomes blurred.

In some cases, the skills in state-produced social control are explicit, meaning the person becomes known for being an expert in a certain type of social control – for example, monitoring and surveillance, military strategy and tactics, and so on – and is rewarded for effectively implementing and administering those techniques and methods at home.  Specialists in state-produced social control may be employed within an existing government agency or may be involved in the creation of an entirely new state agency or group within a government agency.  Alternatively, they may be hired by or may found a private firm that receives government contracts associated with the production of social control.

In other cases, the skills acquired through coercive foreign interventions are implicit, meaning they shape the person’s view of government-produced social control.  Per Herbert Simon’s insight, one cannot help but be shaped by the organizational context within which one is embedded.  In this scenario, activities that previously would have been thought of as unacceptable, extreme, or outright repugnant become normalized and natural.  The way things were done abroad becomes standard operating procedure for how government activities are carried out.  Domestic citizens begin to be treated as foreign populations were treated.  Whether the skills accumulated through coercive foreign interventions are explicit or implicit, the result is that advances in state-produced social control developed abroad are imported back to the intervening country.

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