The Handbook on the Political Economy of War
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The Handbook on the Political Economy of War

Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers

By defining political economy and war in the broadest sense, this unique Handbook brings together a wide range of interdisciplinary scholars from economics, political science, sociology, and policy studies to address a multitude of important topics. These include an analysis of why wars begin, how wars are waged, what happens after war has ceased, and the various alternatives to war. Other sections explore civil war and revolution, the arms trade, economic and political systems, and post-conflict reconstruction and nation building. Policymakers as well as academics and students of political science, economics, public policy and sociology will find this volume to be an engaging and enlightening read.
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Chapter 17: A Public Choice Perspective on Defense and Alliance Policy

Bernhard Klingen


Bernhard Klingen 17.1 INTRODUCTION Public choice analyses of defense and alliance policy are fairly scant. More than 20 years ago Hartley (1987, p. 399) “recognised that the analytical and empirical work is still in its infancy.” This has not changed significantly since that time. However the neglect stands in sharp contrast to the share a public choice approach could have in explaining defense and alliance policy. Defense as well as alliance policy have some distinct specifics. Informational asymmetries are exceptionally strong, ties between government, bureaucracy, industry and the military are tight, and the production of defense goods is hardly market-based. Moreover there are complex interstate dynamics, and international organizations play an important role. In this environment the political actors’ scope for diverting the political outcome from public interest is extremely large. This is where the public choice approach comes in. Therefore this chapter will review the political economy literature on defense and alliance policies as well as theories which could usefully be applied to them. Furthermore the specific features of these policy fields will be elaborated, and suggestions for future research will be proposed. 17.2 THE ACTORS Public choice theory focuses explicitly on the political actors. Most important are the voter, the politician,1 the public servant2 and the lobbyist. Just like for any other policy field the relevant actors are assumed to maximize their utility from defense and alliance policy by trying to affect the political process. 17.2.1 The (Median) Voter The (median) voter has a vital interest in...

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