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Dr. Anne Bradley Argues that Economic Freedom is Part of Fighting Terrorism

On Thursday, January 26, 2018, Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley gave a lecture to The Institute of World Politics about economic freedom and how economic freedom can help in the effort against terrorism.

Dr. Bradley began by discussing the importance of economics as a part of the larger counterterrorism and national security conversation. She also emphasized that it is important to be intellectually honest and to change policy ideas when things are not working.

Dr. Bradley told the story of when Boris Yeltsin, the first President of the Russian Federation after the fall of the Soviet Union, met with U.S. President George H.W. Bush in Texas. President Yeltsin wanted to see an American grocery store, and when he did he remarked “if the Russian people knew of this, for sure they would revolt.” She stated that this led him to be an activist and emphasized the importance of economic freedom.

Dr. Bradley explained how it is not enough to use security measures to crush the bad guys and that we need to understand the underlying motivations of why people make the conscious choice to join or finance a terrorist group. Furthermore, she argued that terrorists are rational actors in the sense that they undertake cost-benefit analysis and make decisions to maximize profit. As part of this analysis, Dr. Bradley explained how the planners of the September 11 terrorist attacks used rational thinking to make the attack more efficient. Dr. Bradley also pointed out that it is highly improbable to completely wipe out terrorism, as it has been part of society since the beginning.

Dr. Bradley also touched upon the debate of economic freedom vs. political freedom. She argued that economic freedom is a part of political freedom. Strong markets lead to more democratic and less oppressive political systems. She backed up her analysis by referencing the Economic Freedom of the World Report and demonstrating how the most economic free countries tended to have more democratic and open political systems.  

In talking about the future of terrorism, Dr. Bradley argued that terrorism is emergent and comes from the damaging institutions and society that people are surrounded by. Thus, she claimed that by using the theory of economic freedom, one can remove the lure of joining terrorism by developing the areas where people feel disenfranchised, thus removing the recruiting potential at the source. Another way to deter terrorism, is to take advantage of terrorists’ rational thinking and simply make terrorism a much more expensive action. This will make less people be willing to risk so much for much less benefit.

In conclusion, Dr. Bradley explained that the urge to embrace economic and thus political freedom must come from within a country and its people. She also explained that trade and the exchange of ideas is a way to encourage economic freedom in areas infested with terrorism.

Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley is an adjunct professor at IWP, where she teaches a course on Economics for Foreign Policy Makers. She is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, where she develops and commissions research toward a systematic biblical theology of economic freedom. She is a visiting professor at Georgetown University and has previously taught at George Mason University and at Charles University, Prague. Dr. Rathbone Bradley received her Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University in 2006 during which time she was a James M. Buchanan Scholar.