I’ve been giving some thought to whether sanctions work against despotic regimes after reading this article from Reason: Cyclones and Sanctions – Burma’s poverty is not inevitable.

The evidence of sanctions seems to indicate that they are not very successful in causing regime change or even impacting the behaviour of a regime. US sanctions against Cuba, North Korea and Iraq seemed to have little impact on influencing the political situation in those countries. It may be that because the sanctions weren’t universal they proved not to be effective. If anything these sanctions may have entrenched these authoritarian governments.

China is one undemocratic country that has enjoyed massive amounts of foreign trade, the opposite of sanctions. It hasn’t led to democracy or a massive improvement on human rights but I would speculate that things certainly have not become worse (sinceĀ Tiananmen Square).

So when addressing the question of what should be done about Burma, I’d lean towards the thinking that sanctions are not going to be very constructive to improving the well being of the Burmese people.