STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Does the US Need a Big New War?
By Staff News & Analysis - April 17, 2013

America needs a new war or capitalism dies Commentary: Low defense spending is killing jobs … America needs a new war? For the economy to survive? Job market to revive? Capitalism thrive? Maybe. Here's why: Forbes reported that GDP data "fell for the first time in three and a half years in the fourth quarter … declining by an annualized 0.1%" while "economists had expected GDP to increase 1%. A dramatic 15% drop in government spending dragged on economic activity. Defense outlays were cut the most, falling by 22.2%, the largest decrease in defense since the Vietnam War's end in 1972." – MarketWatch

Dominant Social Theme: War is the health of the state, and everything else.

Free-Market Analysis: We cannot figure out if this is satire or a cynical but blunt analysis of what is ailing the United States. Maybe it is a little of both. But in either case, we disagree with the logic of the argument, which is a variant of the broken-window fallacy. The idea is that if you break things, you will have to fix them, and in doing so will create an industrial boom.

This perspective is also complicated by historical revisionism that claims World War II was responsible for the lifting of the Great Depression, at least in the US. Other countries obviously didn't fare so well.

We have stated in the past that we believe massive war footing probably DID do something to break the worst excesses of the Great Depression in that young men without jobs were herded into encampments, trained and fed. That this is a kind of variant of slave labor does not escape us, either. One way of dealing with an employment problem – to be sure – is to force people to work.

In any event, it was the War that triggered the US's great industrial boom but what came after? For one thing, the US was perhaps the only extant, undestroyed industrial power after the War. For another, taxes and regulations began to wane after the War, creating the conditions for a real recovery.

The article glosses over these issues, focusing simply on the idea that a war itself is what "capitalists" will eventually demand if current environmental and economic problems are not resolved. Here is more:

Wars stimulate the economy and we are a warrior nation: Didn't WWII get us out of the Great Depression? And the Iraq/Afghan Wars, longest in history, sure stimulated the economy … the Pentagon war machine doubled from $260 billion in 2000 to roughly $550 billion last year … GDP increased 50% from $10 trillion to $15 trillion … and federal debt tripled to over $15 trillion from under $5 trillion back when our leaders believed "debt didn't matter."

But most of all, wars are great for capitalists: Forbes list of world billionaires skyrocketed from 322 in 2000 to 1,426 recently. Yes the adjusted household income of the rest of Americans flatlined the past generation.

But still, life's great for capitalism and for 1,426 capitalists across America and worldwide, a tribute to the "disaster capitalism" doctrines of Nobel economist Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand's free-market capitalism dogma.

However, with the Afghan and Iraq Wars winding down, capitalism needs an economic stimulus: a new war. It's so American: Neocons believe a new war would boost GDP. They must be praying North Korea's Lil' Kim will do something impulsive. Give us an excuse.

Yet Washington politicians are conflicted. Some want to shrink government, cut debt and are cheering the "dramatic 15% drop in government spending." On the other hand, the "largest decrease in defense since the Vietnam War's end in 1972" is unnerving neocons, warhawks and politicians heavily dependent on defense contractors, lobbyists and voters at military bases in their districts.

So what's next? If American capitalism needs a new war to survive … if we're slowing down the Afghan and Iraq war theaters … if North Korea's just saber-rattling … if China has too much to lose … if new wars are fought by drones from video screens in one of the Pentagon's 70 drone bases … but if all the military-industrial complex capitalists who get rich off wars are still itching to attack … then who will trigger a new war for America's "disaster capitalists?"

The article then goes on to list "unpredictable flash points where new global wars can ignite." In doing so, the article quotes Worldwatch and seems to warn us that if we do not resolve these "flashpoints" ourselves, neocons will utilize them to wage war.

Either deal with the world's many environmental and population problems or get ready to see them taken advantage of by warmongers. Here's more:

The coming capitalist wars reminds me of fighting depicted in the brutal "Hunger Games" movie. A perfect metaphor. With over one billion of seven billion people in the world living on two dollars a day … with accelerating food and commodity prices pushing more humans and emerging nations over the edge … with rising real food shortages, real hunger, real malnutrition, real starvation, real poverty … with the living standards of developed nations demanding an ever-increasing share of ever-scarcer resources … we see Worldwatch's 11 vital signs as hot spots and black swans that can easily ignite rebellions, revolutions and full-scale wars in the near future:

And here are ten "hotspots" – apparently derived from a Worldwatch report:

1. Population explosion — planet can't feed 3 billion more people

2. Factory farming — chemicals, water shortage, health risks, diseases

3. Food production — skyrocketing demand, speculative pricing

4. Rain forest, timber lands — lost to urbanization and agriculture

5. Meat products — huge gas emissions impacting climate and ozone

5. Meat products — huge gas emissions impacting climate and ozone

6. Organic foods — unintended consequences and high costs

7. Starvation and obesity — both rise to global health pandemic

8. Oil and alternative energy — increasing demand vs. finite supply

9. Natural gas — fracking and shale gas damage to the environment

10. Nuclear power — meltdowns, terrorists and spent-fuel storage

The article urges to check out the Worldwatch site, subscribe to the newsletter, etc. And it closes by quoting a New Yorker cartoon on the effects of militant capitalism.

Until we wake up to the coming wars, we're just happy capitalists trapped in the mind-set of Robert Mankoff's brilliant New Yorker cartoon: "While the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors," says the head of a too-greedy-to-fail bank, "we believe that the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit." Go capitalism!

There is a good deal of truth to this cartoon and yet, as we have pointed out, in a larger sense the article provides us with a variety of somewhat questionable dominant social themes. In fact, as stated above, we do not believe that war necessarily lifts economies out of recession or depression.

And we do not even agree, necessarily, with the 10 Black Swan events that the article mentions as prime provocations for igniting war. We would argue that most of the events foreseen in the article can be alleviated by the expansion of free markets and freedom itself.

Allow people to solve their own problems and there is less chance those problems will spark war. In fact, to sound an optimistic note, because of the advances in weaponry, we don't think a full-out world war is truly possible in this day and age. A lot of this talk is saber rattling.

Where the article seems accurate is in its description of what certain globalist factions would LIKE to accomplish. But lacking the will and the way, it is just as likely, perhaps, that the current version of "capitalism" will collapse into a kind of uncontrollable chaos.

In this era of the Internet Reformation, we would propose that it is possible that humankind's current challenges may end up being resolved (at least partially) by additional freedom rather than more fighting.

After Thoughts

That would certainly be progress.

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