Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Economics of political assassination

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-08-27

Just in time for APEC and the huge costs for protecting heads-of-state comes "Politicians are overprotected and isolated from the citizens", from VoxEU, which does some very interesting cost/benefit analyses and concludes that politicians spend too much our of tax dollars on their own protection: (bolding is mine)

Economic logic suggests that politicians are overprotected and therefore too isolated from citizens; the social cost of a political assassination is much lower than its private cost to the politicians, and the private cost of protection is lower than the social cost.  Moreover, authoritarian rulers are more overprotected and isolated than democratic politicians since assassinating them has more impact on policy.

The nature of democracies is such that death (for whatever reason) of a leader is relatively non-disruptive, and costs societies little.  Australia, for example, did not fall in a heap when Harold Holt drowned.  Even in wartime, the deaths of Roosevelt (USA) and Curtin (Australian) were non-disruptive.

Political decision makers have no incentive to choose the position on a trade-off that is best for society.  They would prefer to choose what is best for them.

Politicians in power have no incentives to reduce social (costs) and to approach the social optimum.  The only possibility of rectifying the situation is at a constitutional level. Rules can be established, prohibiting the excessive protection of politicians.  (…)  While the prospects of immediate action must be considered low, the considerations outlined may at least place the problem on the agenda of scientific discourse.

Yes, … scientific.

Read the paper, consider the analyses.  If our dear leaders think they are worth the squillions they spend on their own security, then it seems they put themselves in the category of autocratic dictators.

Perhaps it would be better to get the actuaries in and figure out if the costs of APEC are worthwhile.  As I’ve said in an earlier post, the costs of APEC security probably exceed the costs of most terrorist attacks unless the attack wiped out half of Sydney, and the dear leaders should have simply convened at a secure location such as the holiday resorts run by the Australian government in Nauru or Christmas Island.

And the next APEC in the US should be held at Guantanamo.


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