Monday, August 23, 2010

Journal of Libertarian Studies

This journal, founded in 1977 by Murray Rothbard and housed by the Mises Institute is really a wonderful source of background in liberty and civil society.

The current issue has an accessible article by Tom Woods (the instructor for the online Mises Course in the New Deal which begins Sept. 6) on the Warfare State and the opportunity cost of the military. The entire article is worth a read, the excerpt below might tempt you to a full read:

Murray Weidenbaum made a similar point when he wrote that to convey the
true costs of the military establishment in a meaningful way it was necessary to
go beyond billions of dollars spent and consider also the

thousands of men and women pulled away (voluntarily or otherwise)
from civilian pursuits, millions of man-years of industrial effort, millions
of barrels of oil pumped from the earth, and thousands of square
yards of planet space filled with equipment and debris. In short, the
real cost of military activities should be measured in human and natural
resources and in the stocks of productive capital absorbed in producing,
transporting, and maintaining weapons and other military
equipment. It is in the sense of alternative opportunities lost that military
spending should be considered—the numbers of people
employed by the military, the goods and services it purchases from the
private sector, the real estate it ties up, and the technology devoted to
it. Not only do we lose the opportunity for civilian use of goods and
services, but we also lose the potential economic growth that these
resources might have brought about. (1974, pp. 28–29).

The scale of the resources siphoned off from the civilian sector
becomes more vivid in light of specific examples of military programs,
equipment, and personnel. To train a single combat pilot, for instance,
costs between $5 million and $7 million (Dunnigan 2003, p. 164). Over
a period of two years, the average U.S. motorist uses about as much fuel
as does a single F-16 training jet in less than an hour. The Abrams tank
uses up 3.8 gallons of fuel in order to travel a single mile. Between 2
and 11 percent of the world’s use of 14 important minerals, from copper
to aluminum to zinc, is consumed by the military, as is about 6 percent
of its consumption of petroleum (Biswas 2000, p. 306). The
Pentagon’s energy use in a single year could power all U.S. mass transit
systems for nearly 14 years (Sidel 2000, p. 441).
Still other statistics illuminate the scope of the resources consumed
by the military. “Since 1951,” Melman noted, “the budget of the
Department of Defense each year exceeds the net profits of all U.S. corporations.
So, in finance capital terms, that means that the management
of that budget controls the largest single block of finance capital
resources” (1989). According to the U.S. Department of Defense, during
the three decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars)
$7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of
Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plant and equipment,
and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the
amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital
stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock (1988, pp.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the shout out to Murray Weidenbaum. I was his research asst. in grad school, and his understanding of the costs of regulation and the warfare state was really fundamental. Nicely posted.

    Mike Munger