Monday, September 5, 2011

Homeland Security, The Knowledge Problem & Constitution Week

Below are excerpts from two economists (David Henderson and Sam Clovis) on faculty at the Naval Post Graduate School. Note, Henderson will be speakingat WKU this year during Constitution Week

September 12, 2011
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Grise Hall 235

 (special thanks to the BB&T Center For the Study of Capitalism at WKU).

"Central economic planning can't work, explained Hayek, because no small number of people at the top, however brilliant or informed, can aggregate all the trillions of pieces of data needed to plan an economy well. The main information that matters in real time is what Hayek called "knowledge of particular circumstances of time and place" and this information is necessarily decentralized: it exists only fleetingly in the minds of millions of people.....Hayek's argument applies whether the good being produced is food, steel, or internal security. In fact, in her testimony before the 9/11Commission, Dr. Rice explained the problems with centralization eloquently;

                  You have thousands of pieces of information . . . and you have to depend to a certain degree on the intelligence agencies to tell you what is actually relevant,
                 what is actually based on sound sources, what is speculative.

The lesson of September 11 is not that government should plan better and not that a Republican president plans better or worse than a Democrat president. The lesson of 9/11 is that central planning doesn't work and that government should not get in the way of our planning. "  LINK

In addition to the  'knowledge problem' discussed above, Sobel and Leeson have identified several other issues with the top down approaches in homeland security regarding incentives, the tragedy of the anticommons, and type II error policy bias. Absent market prices, how do we deal with these issues? Attempts to address these problems, to some extent, can be found in scholarship related to homeland security and federalism:

"an agency that forms partnerships with state and local governments instead of coercive top-down regulation-heavy regimes is an appropriate response on the part of the national government to deal with the particular needs of all the other governments in this country. Further, this agency should work at giving state and local governments as much flexibility as possible in dealing with own-source challenges. By facilitating cooperative networks of communities/jurisdictions a far more realistic and pragmatic approach to all hazards preparedness is a logical outcome. The national government should provide the organization around which such networking might take place." –Homeland Security Affairs VI, no. 2 (May 2010) – Sam Clovis