December 3, 2012


The Military-Industrial Complex's Waning Political Influence (CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, November 29, 2012, US News)

In a recent paper, economists Christopher Coyne and Thomas Duncan paint a dire picture of the harmful effects of the permanent war economy. Most studies focus on total military spending (measured in either real or nominal dollars) to show the enormous growth in such outlays over the past 15 years. A few studies focus on the size of the Pentagon's budget relative to total federal spending, or to the economy as a whole, and claim that such costs are, in fact, quite modest.

But Coyne and Duncan, who are both affiliated with George Mason University's outstanding economics department, take a different approach. The true costs of the military-industrial complex, they explain, "have so far been understated, as they do not take into account the full forgone opportunities of the resources drawn into the war economy." A dollar spent on planes and ships cannot also be spent on roads and bridges. What's more, the existence of a permanent war economy, the specific condition which President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his famous farewell address, has shifted some entrepreneurial behavior away from private enterprise, and toward the necessarily less efficient public sector. "The result," Coyne and Duncan declaim, "is a bloated corporate state and a less dynamic private economy, the vibrancy of which is at the heart of increased standards of living." [...]

There is now broad, bipartisan agreement that military spending should come down. A poll taken earlier this year (.pdf, Q56) found that 52 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of independents, are opposed to any increase in taxes in order to maintain U.S. military superiority "over rising powers like China." A just completed Rasmussen survey found strong support for across-the-board spending cuts, and reported that voters "are notably less enthusiastic if the defense budget is exempted."

Posted by at December 3, 2012 12:44 AM

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