The Economics of War

by Chris Sturr | March 24, 2009

We get deluged with press releases, most of which we ignore (since the senders usually assume that we are a mainstream business or personal finance magazine). Recently we received some press releases from the site Antiwar.com, which humbly describes itself as “the oldest and most important antiwar Website.” (It turns out that there is also an Antiwar.org, but it redirects to Antiwar.com.) The press releases were about the 6th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War (March 19th). I thought about re-posting an op-ed by their executive director, Alexia Gilmore, in the San Jose Mercury News, but I thought it might be better to find out whether they had some economic analysis of the war that we could share with our blog readers. What their communications guy sent me was this article by a David R. Henderson of the Hoover Institution. The gist of the article is that what Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek showed about how command economies are doomed to failure can also be applied to centrally planned foreign policy; the article makes the analogy between “acentrally planning an economy and centrally deciding to intervene in another country’s affairs.”

Now, Antiwar.com makes a big deal about being a “big tent” organization; one press release says, “The site includes content from well-known authors around the world and across the political spectrum, from Daniel Ellsberg to Pat Buchanan,” while Antiwar Radio features “interesting and noted guests such as Rep. Ron Paul, Noam Chomsky, and many more.” And that’s fine. I don’t even mind reading about von Mises and Hayek on occasion. But the several articles by this Hoover Institution guy on Antiwar.com have impressive graphics granting him the title of “THE WARTIME ECONOMIST,” and one gets the impression that he is almost the official economist of Antiwar.com. And there is not much sign of any left economic critiques of militarism on the site.

Anyhow, this inspired me to finally do what I’ve been intending to do for a while, which is to put together a special web page with the articles we’ve run in Dollars & Sense on war and militarism in recent years. I even made a nifty “guns and butter” graphic to go with it. We have a couple of new articles on militarism in the works—stay tuned.

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