Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is War Good for the Economy?

"Basic economics answers a resounding 'no,'" says David R. Henderson taking apart one of the most common fallacies those in power want us to believe — War Makes Us Poor. Referenced is Frédéric Bastiat and his parable, which Henry Hazlitt retells here — The Broken Window Fallacy.

Of course, this comes from a free market perspective. War may be bad for free economies, but it may be quite good for socialist and corporatist economies in their various forms, something peace-minded folks on the left might reflect upon. "War is the health of the state," wrote Randolph Bourne.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

This is one of the reasons why conservatives have often opposed war as a policy -- not the only reason, but an important one. Wars are disruptive on a massive scale, and even the victors wind up poorer for it in the long run. And wars to build empires are the most costly of all -- and eventually leave their imperial proponents bankrupt. The early Federalists understood this -- both Washington and Adams and Hamilton -- and they opposed war as a general policy. It was only the Jeffersonians, with their mad Francophilia and hatred of England, who drove us into our first aggressive war -- the War of 1812, with disastrous consequences for the country. Likewise it was the successors of the Jeffersonians -- the Democrats of the pre-Civil War era -- who drove us into war against Mexico, a war opposed by the successors of the Federalists, the Whigs. And one Whig in particular who opposed that war was Congressman Abraham Lincoln.

5:35 AM  
Blogger S.M. Stirling said...

Winning wars is expensive. Losing them is far more expensive, usually.

And war is the "unilateral" form of communication; if someone else wants to be at war with you, then you're by-God at war, like it or not. The only question then is who's going to win.

As for "war being the health of the State", I direct you to the findings of forensic archaeology.

It turns out that human beings, along with wolves and chimps, have a pattern whereby the primary cause of death for adults is intraspecific violence. That is, the primary cause of death for male human beings was other human beings. (And for a substantial minority of female human beings.)

This only changed with the rise of the State. States have bigger wars than pre-State societies, but they're separated by periods of peace. Pre-State society is a constant churning of low-level but cumulatively extremely lethal violence, punctuated by wholesale massacre.

11:25 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Gentleman in Spokane, a persuasive argument for the Federalist cause, but weren't the Anti-Federalists effectively routed by 1812?

Mr. Stirling, true enough, but beside the point. That war existed before the State means as little as the fact that homosexual rape existed before it was enshrined in the American penal system.

10:43 PM  

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