BLOCKING PROGRESS: The damaging side effects of economic sanctions



Dr. Nima Sanandaji | Institute of Economic Affairs

Economic sanctions have become an increasingly popular tool in foreign affairs since the end of the Cold War. The concept of economic sanctions is not new. In fact, 2,400 years ago Athens declared a trade embargo on theneighbouring city state of Megara, strangling the city’s trade. Powers withnaval dominance, such as the British Empire, used trade blockades during times of war. However, while sanctions were a known policy tool, they were seldom systematically used until modern times (Cashen 2017). During thetwentieth century sanctions become more prevalent, and in the twenty-first century their position as a popular foreign policy tool has solidified.

This paper argues that this reliance on sanctions is a mistake. Sanctions generally do not achieve the underlying objectives, while they create substantial costs for the world economy. In addition, sanctions reduce economic and civil liberties, and by disrupting global value chains undermine peaceful relations.

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