Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Restructuring the Weapons Industry


Public anxiety over the economy has generated a variety of proposals for what to do: raise taxes, lower taxes, increase public spending, decrease public spending, raise trade barriers, negotiate more freed trade treaties, and on and on.  On top of that, the public is convinced that the size of the public debt and continued deficit spending are about to sink us into the swamp of Greece and Spain.  The issues are poorly understood but deeply held beliefs about them are unshakable.  

I want to suggest that something else is afoot, or at least I hope it is.  It is a dramatic restructuring of the American economy to position it as a major competitor in a global economy in which America is one player among others, but not the singular driving force that can command the fortunes of others.  That will require a coordinated public private partnership that rules out the romantic ideal of free enterprise unhindered by government regulation and interference.  

The problem is that any one change in public policy affecting the economy will have a multitude of effects, often effects that will stagger the way business is done.  Take, for instance, military spending.  We can no longer afford to pretend that global peace depends on American military might flexing its muscle in every corner of the world.  It is sad that there is warlike violence in so many countries, that human rights and simple justice are trampled in many places for so many reasons.  Nevertheless, America cannot, and does not have the moral right to, intervene to impose Pax Americana.  From a more selfish perspective, continuing to try will destroy our economy in the end.  Other nations must work out their own problems.  We may not like the way they do it, but it’s their life not ours.  It amazes me that so many conservative types who demand limited government for themselves are lightning quick to demand that America impose it’s will on others, by force if necessary.  

So what happens when we begin to resize our military establishment?  I think we can safely disregard the hysterical paranoia about weakening our national defense.  That’s a lot of nonsense.  However, backstage from troops and equipment is an enormous weapons industry that employs many hundreds of thousands of workers earning high wages.  Those industries will have to figure out some other product line for their highly skilled people to produce, or go out of business, and considering how slow, bureaucratic, and hide bound they are, it seems unlikely that they can easily adapt to a new more entrepreneurial way of doing things. 

Consider a small example: if you build tanks, then tanks are what you want to keep building.  A recent report (The Week, October 5, 2012) noted that the army has said that it needs no more tanks.  It has enough, in fact it has 3,000 sitting in reserve, but tank building is what they do in Ohio, so congress mandated construction of 42 new tanks not because they are needed but to keep jobs filled.  That is make work corporate welfare at its wasteful best. That one small example is replicated many times over on a much larger scale throughout the weapons industry, and is echoed in the public angst that comes with proposed base closures.  

Somehow all that talent must be reoriented to non-weaponry, but making it happen gets very complicated.  There is nothing easy about it.  The weapons industry is irrevocably embedded in the fabric of our national government, so whatever is done must be a function of public-private partnership.  It seems to me that a slow decade long transformation is the way to go.  It would give the greater economy time to adjust.  I wish it was as easy as just saying that, but we all know that industrial lobbying and congressional ineptitude will fight any change at all.  That’s too bad because history suggests that the possibilities are enormous.  No one can be certain what they are, but we know that products from micro-wave ovens to the innards of our communication devices were given birth in the weapons industry.  I have no doubt that there is more ahead like that if we can make the turn. 

If we fail to make the turn, we will simply become the weapons factory for the world with our economy dependent on a continued cycle of armed violence in a great many places.   How immoral would that be? 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is a largely unspoken problem in the ungoing wordy rhetorid of this presidential campaign season Since the tim that Franklin Roosevelt,after many tries, fianlly managed to end the chtonic unrmploymrn of the Great Depression into which I was born his speech entitled "We must become the Arsenal of Democracy" signaled the birth of whaat became the real solution, making arms for at firs, Britain, besieged by a reaemed Germany, which had begun solving thaat same problem by aggtessive and onstant war, as Churchill saw early on when he said "Those young German men are marching and calling for weapons" and then in his much later speech, in 1946 in Missouri, "An Iron Curtain has descended on Europe" so that a world already exhaustee by World Waar II would have to kekep on with expensive weaponry in another cause, and could not have the luxury of peace and its resulting high unemployment yet.And now that cost of peade is noteven being mentioned by the candidates of either party-"the elephant in the room" thaat no one swants to ademit seeing. Dr B The Roman poet,Juvenal, in the Second Century said, "Now we are unable either to bear our vice or their remedies." Nec vitia nostra nec remedia eorum tolerare possumus. The Roman Empire was locked into a cycle of wars, high taxes, and mobs on state doles of "bread and circuses". As the Chinese proverb says"He that rides the tiger cannot dismount". Dr. B

Jeff Tilley said...

Dear Sir: You wrote ... "I want to suggest that something else is afoot, or at least I hope it is. It is a dramatic restructuring of the American economy to position it as a major competitor in a global economy in which America is one player among others, but not the singular driving force that can command the fortunes of others. That will require a coordinated public private partnership that rules out the romantic ideal of free enterprise unhindered by government regulation and interference". I am flummoxed by your thinking here. You seem to advocate for America to step away from its leadership role on the world stage. True, whether either of us or both of us are for or against such, it seems that God alone will order the footsteps of this nation's future. As such, I would encourage all Christians to be at the ready for use by Him in evangelizing the rest of the planet. Now, as to your proclamation that you are a "progressive Christian" ... please assist one not so well-informed as to the definition. I'd be happy to give you the definition of my own self-proclaimed moniker: Conservative Evangelical Christian. Best regards, Jeff