Drone-free Virginia?

While the debate over the use of drones overseas plays out in Washington, some groups in the U.S. are pushing for action on the local level. On Monday, the city of Charlotteville, VA became the first municipality in the country to pass legislation restricting the use of drones:

The resolution means that Charlottesville will be a no-drone zone and the use of drones for surveillance and other uses will not be allowed.

The law is based on model legislation prepared by the Rutherford Institute, a libertarian group based in the city. According to the Institute's website, the law places a 2-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city limits and "urges the Virginia General Assembly to prevent police agencies from utilizing drones outfitted with anti-personnel devices such as tasers and tear gas and prohibit the government from using data recorded via police spy drones in criminal prosecutions."

They didn't have long to wait. On Tuesday, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that would bar state and local agencies from using drones for two years. Governor and rising GOP star Bob McDonell, who has supported the use of drones by law enforcement in the past, has not yet decided whether he will sign the bill.

The obvious comparison here is to the "nuclear-free zone" ordinances passed by many left-leaning cities, including my old town of Oberlin, Ohio during the 1980s. The success of these was pretty mixed -- Berkeley's law, for instance, has done nothing to stop the nuclear research going on at the university in the city but has been criticized by some for putting onerous restrictions the city government's purchasing decisions.

Unlike nukes, of course, it's not hard to imagine applications for drones at a local level. The Virgina laws may be a prelude of political disputes to come. And in a state with stark political divisions, drone concerns also appear to be remarkably bipartisan.

Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images


Introducing the 2013 Gelber Award finalists: first up, Daron Acemoglu

Each year, Foreign Policy partners with the the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to present the Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world's best non-fiction book in English on foreign affairs that seeks to deepen public debate on significant international issues. It was founded in 1989 in memory of Canadian diplomat Lionel Gelber (1907-1989). A prize of $15,000 is awarded to the winner.

The five jurors, including our own Daniel Drezner, have selected a longlist of 12 books. A shortlist of five titles will be announced on Feb. 19 and the winner will be announced on March 25. The winner will be invited to accept their award and deliver a free public lecture on Monday, April 15th at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Here's the full longlist:

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be featuring one interview per day with the authors of the books. The interviews are conducted by Rob Steiner, former Wall Street Journal correspondent and director of fellowships in international journalism at the Munk School.

First up is MIT economist and frequent FP contributor Daron Acemoglu. Here's the prize citation for Why Nations Fail:


"Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson brings a classically liberal perspective to the diverging fates of societies of similar potential over time. Ranging broadly in historic circumstance to illustrate their argument against the 'extractive state,' the authors bring fresh information and new analytical tools to bear on the dynamics of national development. The regressive role of colonial regimes competes with local values and ideologies for the black ribbon in this stimulating thesis."

Listen to the interview here.