SIEPR Tackles International Security

On November 2, economists and security experts, including a Treasury undersecretary, went to the Bechtel Conference Center for a high-level talk, discussing a wide range of issues ranging from computer hacking to biological warfare.

John Shoven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research—the university think-tank celebrating its 25th anniversary that sponsored the event—opened the conference, entitled “The Economics of War, Peace, and Security.” He soon passed the baton to Ward Hanson, director of the SIEPR Policy Forum, who said the goal was to achieve a “consensus for progress.”

The audience consisted of about 50 to 70 attendees seated around a dozen roundtables. The all-day conference was comprised of ten presentations.

Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, sought to move the discussion “from the theoretical to the practical.” He described efforts to make nuclear proliferation difficult for North Korea and Iran, saying that many international companies and banks have agreed not to do business with Tehran because of its nuclear program and hostile pronouncements concerning Israel.

Abe Sofaer, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued that the US should “work to restore [the] utility” of multilateral institutions. Stephen Krasner, former director of policy planning at the State Department, described the problems of international development, stating that any reform of the US government is “a huge challenge…with no good options.”

John Taylor, author of the Econ 1 textbook used by Stanford students and former Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs, spoke of the role of economics in “confronting threats” (terrorism, North Korea, etc.), “supporting peace” (Afghan reconstruction), and “building prosperity” (development reform). “We really have to focus on these economic issues much more than we have,” Taylor said.

Other speakers presented research findings or policy recommendations on odious debt accumulated by countries with bad regimes, medical costs of the war in Iraq, cyber-security threats, catastrophic pandemics, and tracking the illicit weapons trade.

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