I wrote IS THE UNITED STATES MILITARY A SOCIALIST INSTITUTION? years ago, but the post still gets a fair number of hits and the topic has come up in an email debate. So here is a bit more on it.
As the title suggests, that old post argues the military is not socialist institution. However, some people argue that the military provides an economic service. That is not really true. Who wants to be blasted into tiny little pieces? Not many people. Who wants to pay to blast people into tiny little pieces? Well, in some countries the people in charge don’t ask that question. Therefore, we reluctantly have to build our own military forces to defend ourselves.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
(from Address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower “The Chance for Peace” delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16,1953.
Eisenhower knew war as a grim necessity. He knew military forces as instruments of war. He had ordered too many men into battle to see it as anything else (What Does Day Mean?).
Government itself is a grim necessity. Consider James Madison’s often repeated words.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51
Both the military and the government are grim necessities. In fact, the military is just part of the government. Consider the first definition of government and an example word usage dictionary.com.
the political direction and control exercised over the actions of the members, citizens, or inhabitants of communities, societies, and states; direction of the affairs of a state, community, etc.; political administration:
Government is necessary to the existence of civilized society.
Without military and police forces, there is no way for any governing body to exercise political direction and control. As George Washington found out during his administration, it is isn’t even possible to collect taxes (see THE MORALITY OF TAXING AND SPENDING).
Government exists because we are sinners. Too many of us are unwilling to leave others in peace. We need the threat of punishment to behave ourselves. Unfortunately, the people who hold the reins of power are also sinners. Therefore, each citizen must hold those who govern accountable.
Eisenhower feared the growth of the military industrial complex, but time has shown that he feared the wrong thing. We Americans have a horror of diverting the results of our hard work into the waste that is war. Unfortunately, we are suckers for social programs.
When socialists propose to increase the size of government, what they propose to do is make a grim necessity more dangerous and more difficult to control. For while it may seem wonderful to give politicians the power to solve the problems of poverty, healthcare for the needy, pensions for the elderly, and so forth, giving conniving human beings so much power is foolhardy. Don’t we all know that power corrupts? Well, that knowledge doesn’t seem to be evident from the way we vote.