A while back I wondered what Chris Coyne would say in response to Daron Acemoglu’s paper showing institutional improvement in areas the French Revolution spread to. Oddly enough, I found Yglesias citing the Austrian-anarchist’s essay on recent books from the more left-anarchist’s James Scott and applying those ideas to modern counter-insurgency. His paper (with Adam Pellillo, who I’ve never heard of before) has a footnote referencing Acemoglu’s paper. Since it’s short, I’ll just quote the whole thing here:
In a recent article, Acemoglu et al. (2009) argue against this position. They contend that the impact of the French Revolution on European institutions proves that good institutions can be imposed from outside. Specifically, after 1792, French forces invaded numerous countries and imposed a civil code while abolishing guilds and the remnants of feudalism. They argue that the countries invaded performed better economically than those that didn’t. This, however, misses the point. The use of the guillotine is a means of raising the cost of enforcement. Demand curves do indeed slope downward and if you raise the cost of certain behaviors high enough people will respond. Stated simply, if the gun is big enough outsiders can get insiders to behave differently. Putting aside the issue of ethics, this is an extremely costly means of changing behaviors.
So I guess Coyne would agree with Daniel Klein that drug prohibition reduces drug use and gun laws reduce gun possession.