It’s been over 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. Ever since those horrible attacks, the United States government has been waging a “war on terror” both at home and abroad.
The war on terror has fundamentally reshaped our lives. The TSA’s invasive searches have become a prerequisite for air travel. Millions of Americans have had their phone records and other metadata intercepted by the National Security Agency. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, the U.S. government has spent over $8 trillion on the war on terror. They also find disturbing human costs, including over 900,000 deaths in the war on terror.
The war on terror has been going on for most of my life. Many college students today have been living with the war on terror for their entire lives.
These students might wonder whether economics has anything relevant to say about the world they live in, especially if they’re just taught a set of abstract models. But economics is not just a set of abstract models on a blackboard. Economics is a way of thinking. As Peter Boettke says, the economic way of thinking is a set of eyeglasses that help us clearly see the world around us. In Manufacturing Militarism, Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall use economics to explain the war on terror.
More specifically, Coyne and Hall use economics to explain the role of government propaganda in the war on terror. They quote philosopher Jason Stanley’s definition of propaganda as having “three key characteristics:”
First, propaganda is purposefully biased or false. Its purpose is to deter people from having access to truthful information. Second, propaganda is used to promote a political cause. Third, propaganda is bad from the perspective of those targeted by the propagandist’s message because it limits their ability to make an informed judgment.
Read more: The War That Never Ends