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22. The Arms Industry Toilet

The arms industry is quite often cited as a productive part of society, creating jobs, employment and exports. This is a giant hoax and as we shall see, weapons manufacture is far worse than just a useless means to create employment.
But first, have you noticed that for some forty years, the two most successful post-war economic success stories were those two countries who were forbidden to spend on arms or standing armies after the Second World War? Can it be an accident that when you do not throw a large chunk of the nation's wealth down the toilet, the rest of the economy does a lot better? Can Japan and Germany's post-war success stories have any better economic basis than this simple factor?*

*Various other factors were at play for some years, including the Marshall Plan and generous aid/investment. However, long after such factors ceased to be involved, these two economies continued to outperform their heavily armed ex-enemies.

Since the war, the victors (America, the former Soviet Union, Britain, and France) have poured huge sums into the arms industry and procured positions as suppliers of military hardware to the nations of the world. At the same time they maintain huge standing armies and a hopelessly inefficient and costly nuclear power establishment, built primarily to support their nuclear weapons programmes.

The fundamental difference between the arms industry and the majority of other commercial enterprises is that the value of military product is NEGATIVE. This is an important concept. Large sums of society's money are spent manufacturing weapon products that we hope NEVER TO USE. Assuming the weapons are not put to use, then further enormous sums are wasted looking after them, updating them, destroying old stocks and maintaining a force of people ready and willing to use them if ever ordered to do so. And even though one country might seem to profit from selling these items to another, our global society as a whole is dragged down by the weight of their uselessness and literally torn apart if they are put to use. For, if and when these products are ever used, an even greater cost becomes apparent. When weapon products are actually used they tend to dramatically decrease the value of the products we already possess, including our lives.

The contrast with products such as the tractor, piano or sewing machine could not be greater, since these items allow us to increase the value of our lives and the world through creating food, music or clothes. We (you and me) don't buy the weaponry - it seems to be traded between a fairly exclusive club, with the end product always funded by money taken from our pockets in one country or another. Money we have justly earned with our tractor, piano and sewing machine is being flushed down a toilet and will take us with it, if the product it paid for is ever used.
"A thousand years scarce serve to form a state, An hour may lay it in the dust."

Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-28)
Undoubtedly, whilst our world is run by a collection of coercively based states, we need to have what protection we can from the Hitlers, LBJ's, Pol Pots and countless others who assume leadership of nations, and with it the power to do great damage to some of us. The irony is, of course, that the biggest attraction to most would-be despots is that they can, from a position of nothing, take control of an existing state structure, complete with a tax collecting base and a population used to being under control. It might have taken centuries for this structure to develop but it can take just a few months or years for some charismatic despot to gain control. The great challenge facing us now is how do we get to the condition where there is not a large powerful state waiting to be taken over. It should not be so difficult in that condition to stop future despots or fanatics from taking over and building new coercive structures to run society. There is a suggestion later on how such a condition of statelessness might be preserved once achieved.

We are told by the world's faltering great powers that their armaments buy us peace and a safe climate in which to develop our society. Yet from the examples that history has given us, it does not appear that a strong and successful arms industry and military establishment are signs of a healthy society that can endure and improve for future generations. Most of the great empires that fell did so soon after reaching their peak of strength. Yet this "who's got the biggest dick" attitude to arms acquisition is typical for the rulers of virtually any modern state. The negative economic effect of vast expenditure on arms in any society is likely to show itself as an accelerated inner decay and shift to disorder, as money that could otherwise be used productively by society is worse than wasted. It also provides for the regular re-introduction to society of those who have been trained to use guns to kill fellow human beings. When considering the total cost to us, we must include the education of those who devise new ways to kill and of the engineers who turn these ideas to production, nor forget the islands and areas of our planet that have been destroyed forever or rendered uninhabitable for millennia. We must count the loss of many precious resources of the planet and the lost productive capacity of all those producing the weaponry as well as those killed by it. Consider also the vast expanse of desert in America's Nevada where obsolete warplanes are parked wing to wing as far as the eye can see, and the mountains in nearby New Mexico that have been hollowed out to store out-dated nuclear warheads. Society simply cannot continue to suffer this expense which is meant to give us security from other countries, who buy arms so that their society is secure from us. We need security but with two world wars this century, dozens of major wars and countless smaller conflicts going on all over the globe* it is apparent that our traditional approach is tragically flawed.

*We might also include the War on Drugs that helps sustain the USA military after the near evaporation of their main "enemy" - the Soviet Union.

So don't buy the argument that the weapons industry creates employment, is good for the economy, or any of that. It would almost certainly be better for our overall economy to take the vast amounts of government money spent on arms purchases, pile it into an enormous set fire to it. In order to do this, or just leave the money in society in the first place, we will first need to find more innovative ways to stop the Germans, Finns or Libyans from taking over the Houses of Parliament and government of this country.* Peace will ultimately come from co-operation, freedom and an absence of the obsession with where red lines are drawn on the map; not from our possession of more and more lethal and dangerous weaponry. What could be more obvious?

* I do not wish to be flippant here and realise that some readers may insert their own neighbouring countries and have more justifiable fears.
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From the book "Uncommon Sense - The State is Out of Date"
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