The Nuclear Ratchet: Crisis, Leviathan, and Atomic Weapons

Originally published in SSRN

The ratchet effect model developed by Higgs (1987) provides a framework for understanding growth in the scale and scope of government. We apply and expand this model to explain the adoption, accumulation, and drawdown of nuclear weapons arsenals in the United States. We analyze how the two separate, but intertwined crises of World War II and the subsequent Cold War led to the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons and the subsequent diminution of nuclear stockpiles. We explore the nonuse of nuclear weapons following World War II, highlighting the importance of ideology as one constraint on government.

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