Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Steve Kuhn, Richard Hanania will be presenting his new book, Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy, in Austin, Texas next week, with special guest Razib Khan.
Free and open to the public!
Location: Dreamland Dripping Springs, on the big outdoor stage
Time: January 19, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
6:30-7:00 – Richard Hanania presents his new book
7:00-7:30 – Caplan interviews Hanania about the book
7:30-8:30 – Ask Me Anything with Hanania, Khan, and Caplan
If you’re unfamiliar with Hanania’s work, I’ve blogged it here, here, here, and here. His work on wokeism has probably won the most attention, but he got his scholarly start in International Relations, and his new book is a major advance in the field. Public Choice Theory and the Illusion of Grand Strategy is not just a critique of the dogmatic “realist” school of international relations. It strongly argues that most countries’ foreign policies are simply incoherent because (a) each interest group (military, defense contractors, human rights groups, bureaucrats, foreign allies) focuses on its own narrow set of issues, and (b) politicians who adjudicate conflicts between these interest groups myopically focus on the next election.
Though Hanania puts “public choice” in the title, I’d say that it is really a book about behavioral political economy. His voters are deeply irrational, his politicians have lots of slack, and a strong-willed leader occasionally destroys a country on a whim. My favorite part is probably his discussion of sanctions, where Hanania argues that (a) sanctions hardly ever work, (b) leaders rarely even try to make sanctions work, (c) sanctions kill lots of innocents, but (d) sanctions prevail because politicians fear war but still want to “do something.” In a word, sanctions are yet another deadly expression of Action Bias – the urge to “do something” even if you know nothing good to do.
More on Hanania’s later this month. For now, I hope to see y’all at Dreamland on Wednesday!