Warfare as a Form of Welfare

Many proponents of state welfare also claim to oppose war. This isn’t surprising since proponents of state welfare try to position themselves as compassionate and caring. What they fail to understand is that warfare is also a form of welfare:

Approximately 1.4 million Americans work as members of the armed forces, and another 1.6 million workers labor in the civilian “defense” industry. These Americans are welfare clients of the “workfare” variety.

As an economic factor, they might just as well be digging holes and filling them back in (in fact, as a US Marine infantryman, I did quite a bit of exactly that!). The vast bulk of the work they do serves no “legitimate” function with respect to actual defense of the United States from attack or invasion, and in fact more likely increases the risks of such.

Some high double-digit percentage — I think 75% is a reasonable and conservative estimate — of “defense” spending is not about “defense” in any meaningful sense of the word. It’s about keeping those 3 million workers on the clock, and keeping their politically connected employers in profit.

Setting aside the apparently arbitrary percentage selected by the author the point of this article is clear, warfare employs some 3 million individuals. Every tank, ship, and missile requires manpower to design, build and, employ. Somebody must drive the tank, entire crews are needed to operate a ship, and missiles don’t fire themselves (yet). On top of building and operating military equipment there is also a massive number of support personell from janitors to secretaries to cooks.

Were the wars ended many of these 3 million people may find themselves without work. Facing a sudden surplus of labor it may take some time before those people are able to find employment again. By maintaining the warfare aspect of the warfare-welfare state some 3 million people find themselves being paid through tax victimization to be unproductive. Furthermore this form of welfare is self-perpetuating:

If that was the end of it, it would be pretty bad — one out of every five dollars earned by American workers siphoned off on an incredibly inefficient welfare program. But that’s not the end of it at all. The existence of the welfare program is a major incentive for going to war early and often.

If there is no war then the warfare-based welfare program must be either downsized or eliminated. Therefore a warfare-based welfare program encourages going to war because it allows those employed by warfare to continue to be employed and because nobody likes to have trillions of dollars of equipment lying around unused. Claiming to be in support of welfare but opposed to warfare, at least in the United States, is oxymoronic. Warfare is welfare.