The Problems with Scorecards: How (and How Not) to Measure the Cost-Effectiveness of Economic Sanctions

This Article looks “beneath the bridge” of sanctions law and policy to investigate these foundational questions. Part I will look briefly behind the currently prevailing estimate for the direct economic cost of high foreign policy export sanctions for the U.S. economy. It will demonstrate that the most widely reported aggregate cost estimate of $15-20 billion per year and 200,000 U.S. jobs lost is unsubstantiated. Moreover, the evidence is clear that environmental trade sanctions, i.e., import restrictions deployed for environmental purposes, have cost U.S. companies and workers virtually nothing. Trade sanctions may impose very significant costs on individual companies, and these costs may raise issues of fairness and the appropriateness of compensation. But there is no evidence to support the notion that the current regime of economic sanctions poses any significant threat to the U.S. economy as a whole.