Fear, Threat Inflation, and Public Choice
In Foreign Affairs, Micah Zenko and Michael A. Cohen argue that despite the constant fear-mongering and threat inflation in America, we are actually very secure and face very few, very minor external threats. And one of the reasons we have a system that fuels unnecessary alarm and paranoia?
Warnings about a dangerous world also benefit powerful bureaucratic interests. The specter of looming dangers sustains and justifies the massive budgets of the military and the intelligence agencies, along with the national security infrastructure that exists outside government — defense contractors, lobbying groups, think tanks, and academic departments.
Ah yes, the public choice of U.S. warfare. This is why most Americans are terrified of Iran, China, and North Korea, despite the near-impossibility that any of them could pose an actual military threat to America. It’s why they’re concerned about terrorist attacks but not about heart disease. It pushes the military budget to $1 trillion, more than the rest of the world combined. Indeed, the dangers we do face are largely the result of the excessive warfarism produced by all this threat inflation. I was surprised such a frank admission made it into Foreign Affairs, to be honest.