Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Empire: Public Goods and Bads

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Theodore Roosevelt used the US military to create what he called “civilized societies.” A growing literature focuses on the economic benefits of empires, benefits sometimes referred to as “global public goods”. Some authors, such as Mitchener and Weidenmier (2005) and Ferguson and Schularick (2006), neglect the associated public bads. This paper highlights the potential public bads. We formulate the leading public bads. We explore the public bads in the context explored by Mitchener and Weidenmier, namely, the Roosevelt Corollary and Latin America. Our discussion also moves to the broader plane, suggesting that the Roosevelt Corollary set a precedent for subsequent US military interventions around the world. We use the ratings of political institutions issued by the well-known Polity IV index to further support a skeptical view of imperial public good provision.