I would assume most humans are in principle opposed to war, so why do we, specifically Americans, constantly find ourselves embroiled in war? The answer is simple…the American economic system. America’s system of industrial capitalism functions first and foremost to keep the economy moving forward, which in turn keeps millions employed, while making the businessman and politicians who support these wars extremely wealthy. Without war and the need for higher production yields, our capitalist system could no longer produce the ever-higher profit’s corporations need in order to sustain our “American way of life.” Our entire economic system is dependent upon selling products and services at an ever increasing level. Even a natural disaster or newly developed technology cannot sustain the levels needed for profits at these levels, only waging an aggressive and protracted military conflict will allow these levels to remain unabated.
Throughout human history, war serves not only as an extension of politics, but as a continuation of exploitative commerce that benefits both the governments who enter into them, and the businesses that feed into them. War is commerce; where commercial transactions take on many forms, whether as money, conquered territory, raw materials, gained market shares or even gold. Take for instance, our own American wars. The Revolutionary War is portrayed as our struggle for social independence from Britain. In fact, this battle was really about not wanting to pay exorbitant taxes to a foreign power in order to maintain their empire. The Mexican-American War was a land grab for the benefit of slaveholders in the southwest and added tax revenue. The Spanish-American War was an even bigger land grab for those seeking to create an overseas American empire to compete with the likes of the British and French. World War I was sold as making the world “safe for democracy”, but the biggest winners were American business interests. World War II was necessary to halt the spread of Fascism, Nazism and Imperial Japan’s Pacific dominance, but ended with the U.S. emerging as the world’s dominant power. America was the new imperial stand-in for a dissolved and bankrupted British Empire. The conflicts in Korea and Vietnam were sold to the public as “the containment” of communism, but both ended in embarrassing stalemates with the military-industrial complex gaining the greatest benefits. Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and even the Middle East conflicts are most assuredly about the control of oil, natural resources, and continuing U.S dominance overseas.
America’s ability for high productivity, beginning with Ford’s assembly lines in the early twentieth-century, caused enormous increases in domestic output. As other businesses caught on to these innovative techniques, America’s productivity rose exponentially. The upside to this was countless new jobs and tax revenue for local and state governments, but as Ford’s cars began to flood the market, many consumers could not afford to buy them. Other mass produced industrial products also began to flood the market, resulting in chronic overproduction and lagging demand. This enormous market surplus, coupled with high inflation led to the economic crisis known as the Great Depression. After the stock market crash of October 1929, warehouses were full of unsold commodities, so companies began to lay-off workers causing a severe spike in unemployment. As the public’s purchasing power substantially shrank, the Great Depression deepened. President Roosevelt rolled out countless government spending programs, including his famous “New Deal”, which bought little economic relief. It was not until economic demand rose during America’s entry into World War II, that we finally saw the end of the Great Depression.
Between 1940 and 1945, the U.S government spent more than $185 billion ($3+ trillion in today’s dollars) on military expenditures. American business was cleaning up on both sides of the war. U.S industry was raking in cash supplying massive quantities of equipment to England and the Soviet Union via Roosevelt’s “Lend-Lease” program. Even after the Pearl Harbor attack, subsidiaries of American corporations such as Ford, Boeing and IBM produced planes, tanks and other military equipment for Nazi Germany. The federal government resolved the disequilibrium between supply and demand when they jump-started economic demand by means of mass military spending.
What are your thoughts and questions? Is American financially addicted to war?