A Behavioral Economic Approach to Nuclear Disarmament Advocacy
Nuclear disarmament advocates have provided a strong moral voice for the total disarmament of nuclear weapons, but if they are to remain credible participants in the disarmament process, they must redouble their efforts to assist in the difficult technical and political obstacles that stand in the way of a world without nuclear weapons. This Note first outlines impediments to disarmament towards which advocates could helpfully direct their attention, such as: conventional force imbalances; developing “proliferation-safe” civil nuclear technologies; enforcing nonproliferation obligations; and verifying nuclear disarmament. Second, it explains how tools from behavioral economics and negotiation theory could inform a more influential disarmament advocacy. Among other things, it suggests an iterative approach to disarmament to combat loss aversion and reference dependence. To fight time discounting, this Note urges support for ex ante agreement on UN Security Council action in response to violations of the nonproliferation regime. Finally, it recommends using a fairness norm based on process rather than distribution in formal disarmament negotiations.