March, 2015


Public Interest, Public Choice, and the Expansion of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
  • Abigail Hall

    Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Tampa
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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” have become a core component of the US military arsenal following September 11, 2001. In much of the literature and public discourse regarding drones, it is assumed that drone policy is created within the broader “public interest.” That is, those who construct drone policy set aside private incentives and other motives to construct policy solely to achieve the goals of US citizens and maximize some larger social welfare function. This paper identifies the conjectures associated with this public interest ideal and examines their accuracy. I find a general disconnect between the evidence and the public interest assumption. In several cases, the evidence directly contradicts the assumption of public interest. In light of these findings I offer an alternative analytical framework, the “public choice” framework to adjudicate between observed realities and stated goals.

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