Friday, November 16, 2007

Christopher Coyne

Christopher J. Coyne is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, West Virginia University, a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, and an Associate Editor for the Review of Austrian Economics.

He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including Cato Journal, Constitutional Political Economy, Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Kyklos, and Review of Political Economy. His new book, from Stanford University Press, is After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy.

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
For review, I am reading Adrian Vermeule’s Mechanisms of Democracy: Institutional Design Writ Small. The central question that Vermeule seeks to answer is: what institutional arrangements should a well-functioning constitutional democracy have? Existing studies mainly focus on “meta-level” institutions such as the separation of powers, federalism, the rule of law, and so on. Vermeule’s book complements this existing literature by exploring institutional design “writ small.” He focuses on the small-scale mechanisms, within the broader “meta-institutions,” which promote and sustain democratic values.

I am almost finished with Dani Rodrick’s One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth. Rodrick’s book is an important contribution to the development economics literature. Especially important is Rodrick’s focus on institutions, local conditions and constraints, and the error of assuming that there is a standard reform template for all developing countries.

Michael Mandelbaum’s, Democracy’s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World’s Most Popular Form of Government, is well-written and fun to read. Mandelbaum traces the origins of democracy and explores the mechanisms facilitating or preventing the spread of democratic institutions. Of particular interest is the connection drawn between free markets and political freedom. As Mandelbaum notes, “Free markets, the evidence of modern history strongly suggests, makes for free men and women.”

Finally, I recently finished John Mueller’s Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them. This is one of the best books I have read on the war on terror. I found Mueller’s discussion of the “terrorism industry” to be especially interesting. According to Mueller, the terrorism industry consists of various individuals and groups – politicians, experts, media, academics and government bureaucracy – who profit from sustaining and expanding the war on terror. As a result, the terrorism industry artificially inflates the threat of international terrorism to further the narrow interests of its members. Even if you don’t agree with all of Mueller’s conclusions, this book will make you rethink many of the common assumptions underpinning the ongoing war on terror.
Read Chapter One from After War and learn more about the book at the Stanford University Press website.

Learn more about Coyne's research at his website.

--Marshal Zeringue