When I reached the bottom of page two (web version) of this essay, where the authors carefully detail the relative value of peace (domestic infrastructure) jobs compared to war (military) jobs, the obvious comment sprang to mind: wages may be lower in domestic construction, but no one deliberately is blown up, shot, mangled or traumatized in the process.
The limited scope of the article raises more questions than it answers, which is a good thing, and adds to the discussion of what a war really costs. What it doesn't cover is the loss of human strength to society (suffering aside). War robs us of our young and strong. GDP encompasses the medical care, therapy, training etc. that go to soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan, but it doesn't account for the lost productivity of all those young men and women who die or are mentally and physically damaged.
Nor does it take into account the fact that war spending is a dead end. When a society invests in infrastructure, education and healthcare, that spending is productive; it promotes growth, productivity and further social goods across a spectrum of industries. When a society spends that money on weapons and warfare, that's it. The end product is not an investment and contributes nothing to further growth, except in those specific industries where the goods are produced. As for the resultant consumer spending, wages are wages wherever they come from, and will be spent pretty much the same way, but society as a whole forfeits opportunities.
Nations as they're presently configured need to spend on defense. But when a nation puts defense spending ahead of the nurturing of its own future generations, as the United States is presently doing, that nation is doomed to swift decline. And we will, for moral and practical reasons, be spending away our children's futures in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come, no matter who wins the White House. Progressives need to make sure, however, that the American people and the next President understand the real costs of war, so we can make real choices about our future.
Carmel Valley , CA
Mar 19 2008 - 10:27am