Border Militarization and Austrian Capital Theory
I recently appeared on a couple of different podcasts to discuss U.S. Border Militarization and Foreign Policy: A Symbiotic Relationship, a paper that Chris Coyne and I recently published in the Economics of Peace and Security Journal. Caleb Brown interviewed me about the paper on the Cato Daily Podcast. This was a short nine-minute discussion in which I articulated some of our core arguments about the process of border militarization and the dangers it poses to civil liberties. Aaron Ross Powell also interviewed me on his new podcast, (Re)imagining Liberty. That episode is nearly an hour long, so we spend a lot more time unpacking how border militarization works and what we can learn from that process.
In both podcast discussions, I discuss the role of physical capital and human capital in border militarization. These are crucial to the argument that Chris and I make in our paper, and we think about them in a distinctively Austrian way. That is, we emphasize that capital goods are heterogeneous and have multispecific uses. As we explain in our paper:
Because capital is heterogeneous, it is more useful for some projects than for others. Indeed, there are some projects that it cannot be used for.
As Peter Boettke explains:
When government officials engage in foreign intervention, they invest in a set of capital goods, but their decision to do so is not guided by price signals, profit-and-loss feedback, or economic calculation. If capital were homogeneous, this might not be so troubling. We would have good reason to worry about the capital destroyed during war, but the capital goods created to make war could easily be redirected towards productive uses in peacetime. In our world, however, capital is heterogeneous and multispecific. The coercion-enabling capital created during wartime can be used for new projects, but these are more likely to be violent, coercive projects like police militarization and border militarization than projects that directly satisfy consumer demand.