Chris Coyne's new book is very clearly written and very accessible to the non-specialist, not to mention that it offers an excellent political economy analysis of post-war reconstruction. Coyne uses tools from across economics and political science to argue why attempts at such reconstruction are normally likely to fail. He makes particularly good use of ideas from Austrian economics (Hayekian knowledge problems and the Misesian dynamic of interventionism), public choice theory, game theory, and the new institutional economics.
His last chapter provides an alternative vision of US foreign policy, where free trade in goods, services, and ideas (unilaterally if necessary) is the path to economic growth and democratization, rather than military intervention, occupation, and/or reconstruction. As Coyne puts it, we need to model our commitment to liberal goals by using liberal means to get there. If we really do value societies of free trade and peace, how credible is that commitment if we continually try to enforce it at the point of a gun? Such attempts are both empirically bound to fail and ethically problematic.
Coyne's last chapter points to a new vision of US foreign policy and should stimulate further work by other scholars in the classical liberal tradition.
A highly readable look at an urgent topic of current concern.