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On Economic Sanctions

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


Dana Milbank’s “Koch Industries’ valentine to Vladimir Putin” (March 30) is a parade of unwarranted assumptions and leftists’ boogeymen camouflaged as well-grounded conclusions.

Consider, for example, his implication that people who now express skepticism of economic sanctions against Russia are greedy scoundrels or mercenary rogues. It’s possible, of course, that such people are mistaken. But the fact is that powerful and sober arguments have for decades been offered by serious scholars against the effectiveness of such sanctions. It’s simply not clear that sanctions work as intended, or that they won’t backfire or concentrate the bulk of their harms on innocent citizens of sanctioned countries.

How sad that a Post columnist apparently is unaware of these arguments. Even sadder is this columnist’s assumption that expression of dissent from a popular policy is evidence of moral depravity rather than of legitimate intellectual disagreement borne of the enormous complexity of economic processes and international relations.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030