Author’s note: I once had a blog that I used to make uneducated and largely misinformed political statements. This was my favorite post from that endeavor, original date: November 16, 2007.
Opportunity, as they say in economics, has its costs. A simple economic principle I studied in college was the production possibility frontier, which states that a government, given a fixed amount of resources, can produce or purchase a fixed amount of good A, good B, or a combination of both. This principle is more commonly illustrated with the Guns-vs-Butter model: given a fixed set of resources, a government can choose to produce (or purchase) guns at the expense of butter, butter at the expense of guns, or an even distribution of both products.
The most basic concept in the Guns vs Butter principle is “there are consequences for every action.” The cruel fact of the matter is that, if a nation spends a disproportionate amount of its funds to empower its military and strengthen its defenses, then its people will have less food to eat. On the converse, if a nation spends too little on its national defenses, then it will not be able to protect its borders or ward off attackers. The latter can most readily be observed in modern-day North Korea: by far the smallest nation on Earth to possess nuclear weaponry, yet 62% of that nation’s children suffer from illnesses related to undernourishment.
The Guns-vs-butter economic principle has been well-tested in society since early in the 20th century. First referenced by William Jennings Bryan to explain why America should avoid wars in defense of foreign nations during the run-up to Word War II. At the same time, Hitler used the principle in pre-Nazi Germany to motivate citizens to “sacrifice a full stomach for a full arsenal.” Perhaps the most famous invocation of this theory was by Margaret Thatcher to describe the struggles of the Soviet government during the later stages of the Cold War.
In the 1990’s, George H. W. Bush (the first Bush in the White House) coined the term “Peace dividend” to describe the benefits a nation can experience when it reduces its defense spending in favor of civilian-centric goods and services. This forces me to ask myself the question, “where the hell was George W. when his daddy was giving these speeches?” My answer is always: like all good Texan Christians, he was probably out draft dodging and doing cocaine with strippers. Clearly, wasteful defense spending and needless war efforts have always been seen as effective methods for bankrupting nations.
As American spending on the combined wars in the Middle East grows past 1.5 trillion USD, even the most pro-war individual must question the cause for the economic troubles we are facing as a nation. Had our government wisely invested the same 1.5 trillion dollars on America, many of the economic, social, and security issues we face today could be potentially solved already. Perhaps the bridge in Minneapolis would still be standing. Perhaps immigration would be straightened out and our borders secured. Perhaps bills like SCHIP would be passed. Perhaps America would be 50% less dependent on oil. Perhaps we wouldn’t be saying “perhaps.