Bounty Hunting in Pakistan

Gary Brooks Faulkner, an American citizen who told police he was
searching for Osama Bin Laden, has been arrested in northwest Pakistan
armed with a gun, a sword, and Christian literature.

More here.  Clearly, this guy is a bit of a nut.  Nevertheless, bounties have been quite successful at capturing terrorists.  I'd like to see the $25 million bounty on Bin Laden raised to say $500 million.  We could have avoided several wars at that price.

Previous MR posts on bounty hunting here.


But many people in US politics wanted the wars.

Not to defend the guy, but rather to compare/contrast with official US stance, but wasn't our policy in the region essentially the same? Give a bunch of American citizens guns and pointy objects and tell them to look for Bin Laden?

Do things become less nutty when more people do them? This might be taking the argument of "The Wisdom of Crowds" a bit too far. Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't have been looking for Bin Laden, but it's hard to think this guy is too nutty without thinking that the US military doing the same thing (while spending billions) isn't nutty.

>We could have avoided several wars at that price.


You think if we caught OBL on 9/12/01, the worldwide jihadis would have thrown up their hands and said, "It was a good run while it lasted. Might as well take up beet farming now." ??

Generally the US abandons americans caught committing crimes overseas unless they are in the employ of the US government.

"But many people in US politics wanted the wars."

But if we'd captured Osama, the people wouldn't have given them the wars, or at least it would have been harder. So, if the people know that rewards are effective at capturings we will vote in better politicians. I think Alex is right.

$500 million seems too high to me. What is Osama's value over replacement terrorist? Graveyards are full of indispensable men. Do you subscribe to some kind of Great Man theory of terrorism?

If the war was worth fighting at all, it was to damage the entire organization, not just bin Laden. But a bounty can't really get to that.

Furthermore, who is more motivated by $500 million than by $25 million? They're both inconceivably large amounts of money for an individual. Marginal utility of money is near zero at that point anyway.

*Organizations* might have a reason to care about $500M vs $25M -- but what organizations can sell us bin Laden that we wouldn't later regret paying? (This goes back to Osama not really being worth that much in the first place.)

Finally, as others have pointed out, getting bin Laden earlier probably wouldn't have prevented the wars and now that they have started, getting him now wouldn't stop them.

JSK: Nobody, as far as I know, ever proposed that "Saddam was hiding Osama". So to accuse someone of "still believing ... that bit" is a bit odd.

Alex: I don't think we could have avoided any wars at that price - because the wars weren't really about The Master Criminal Behind It All... because he wasn't actually behind it all, any more than Stalin was behind the Soviet Union.

The Taliban and Al Quaeda movements would have survived without bin Laden as a leader, and Iraq would have continued to sponsor terrorism abroad (despite no operational links with al Quaeda, support of attacks on Israel and operation of a training camp for foreign terrorists was no secret).

The swamp needed draining (and the process is not done yet), and there was no way to do it on the cheap.

Clearly, this guy is a bit of a nut.

Yes, but he's one of OUR nuts!!!

Wouldn't the incentives be maximized if the current $25M or whatever bounty were to be,very publicly, reduced?

@Doc Merlin:

Sure, but is a bounty hunter in the employ of the US Government or not? The bounty was indeed sponsored by the government. Or you could call him a contractor. Further if he was committing a crime under the statutes of a foreign land by going bounty hunting then this would become a US-sanctioned crime.

Doc Merlin:

Yeah, I definitely accept that there is a distinction between what he's doing and what the military is doing, and that there is a distinction between gov and non-gov action. But the general sentiment is that this guy is crazy nuts, not merely "unlicensed," and that's what I was trying to get at.

'paid them each $5 million to get Osama, $2 million cash up front, plus $3 million when they provide evidence that Osama has been killed or captured.'

Two million up front, eh? I'm sure some of them would have retired immediately (or, uh, gone under really deep cover to hunt Bin Laden... 'you'll hear from me when I have a lead...'). Anyway I'm skeptical of the existence of actual, professional, highly skilled non-government-affiliated bounty hunters who could act internationally. Offering a general bounty and waiting to see if someone pops out of the woodwork seems more sensible.

Bounties are very probably sticky downwards. Can you imagine a politician advocating that bin Laden's current bounty be reduced (barring perhaps solid evidence that this would somehow increase the probability of him being caught?) It'd be very easy for a fear-mongerer to accuse this politician of "downplaying 9/11" or being "soft on terror". Raise it too high and you risk it being excessive if the facts change to indicate it should theoretically be lower.

Anyone who could qualify for the $25M reward would immediately have been arrested and waterboarded to get a confession to having master minded 911.

If you wouldn't kill a stranger for $10,000, would you do so for $10 million? Would you even consider doing so for $10 million.

Same mentality applies on the other side. People who feel morally obligated to shelter Bin Laden or other AQ members won't change their minds for greater sums of money. $25 million is more than enough for them and their families to escape to the West and bask in its luxurious decadence for the rest of their terrestrial lives. After which of course, comes the eternity of hellfire. (Just kidding about the last part.)

It is NOT immoral to kill someone who murdered one of your family members, but it does create an investment-averse environment. If execution of justice is in the hands of individuals, you end up with blood feuds. (Yes, like the Hatfields & the Mccoys.) The fundamental social contract is that a government reduces the cost of prosecuting injustice (and of defending against a claim of injustice) by providing a justice system.

Two problem of course--the agency problem and the rounding problem.

Those wielding government power are genetically disposed to look out for their own interests rather than those of the group as a whole. Moreover, factions are genetically disposed to rent seek. So you get wars of succession--until you decide that its cheaper to have elections.

You also have genuine differences in the definition of justice. Does justice consist solely of enforcing property and contract rights? (Including rights to one's body.) Which contracts should a government refuse to enforce? (Can I sell my 13-year-old daughter into slavery? How about a 3-year-old?)

If a man's family is starving, after they have sold what goods they can, is he justified in taking what he needs to feed his family? I say yes while at the same time I consider government welfare to be rent-seeking--that is, theft by proxy. (Private welfare organizations covered at LOT of ground into the early twentieth century)

Back to our specific problem. If a man is in the process of attacking me or my family with the apparent intent to kill, I claim the right to stop him without regard to his safety. Interestingly, Talmud (Jewish religious legal teachings written around the end of the Roman Empire) states that if a man is coming to kill you, that you should arise early in the morning and ambush and kill him.

So what if he is coming, not to kill you, but to make you a slave? What about the Amistad ( case? What if he is coming to kill you if you do not convert to his religion? It is okay to get your friends involved?

There is nothing immoral about forcing the enemy to fight on the battlefield of your choosing. So long as they pursue a mission of violence against the House of War, they have none of my sympathy.

Tres bon article merci

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