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“War ALWAYS Causes Recession”

I believe Washington is arguing that the U.S. simply has no credibility left to start a war for any good reason, nor is a war a cure for a recession. Thus a war is not a good idea. Not to say that economic reasons are moral and ethical justifications for starting wars, regardless. – Ilene

"War ALWAYS Causes Recession"

Courtesy of Washington’s Blog

Vintage image of soldiers with captives in desert

PhD economist Marc Faber predicts that the U.S. will launch a war to distract people from the bad economy.

China’s largest media outlets – Sohu.com – wrote in October 2008 that the Rand corporation, a leading U.S. military advisor, lobbied the Pentagon for a war to be started with a major foreign power in an attempt to stimulate the American economy:

According to French media, well-known U.S. think tank RAND Corporation … has submitted [to the Pentagon] an evaluation report assessing the wage a war to shift the feasibility of the current economic crisis…

Continued deepening of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis and economic downturn, developed to a certain extent, is likely to trigger a war in order to achieve the purpose of the crisis passed.

(Google’s translation services are crude approximations, but Yihan Dai confirmed the translation of the original).

Is Faber right? Is the Sohu.com report accurate?

I don’t know.

However, "military Keynesianism" – using military spending to stimulate the economy – has been U.S. policy for half a century. And the economist who coined that term said that such a policy always and "inexorably" leads to "an actual war" in order to justify all of the military spending.

Therefore, any studies which disprove the efficacy of war as an economic stimulus -see this and this – are important for balance.

In addition, contrary to popular belief, some writers say that the reason that WWII actually stimulated the U.S. economy was not because of America fighting the war. Specifically, they argue that America’s ramped-up production of armaments for the British before the U.S. entered the war was the thing which stimulated our economy.

To try to sort some of this out, I spoke with a PhD professor of economics with a background in international conflict in July 2008 to find out whether war is really good for the economy.

I asked if conventional wisdom that war is good for the economy is true, especially given that all of the spending on the war in Iraq seems to have weakened America’s economy (or at least, greatly increased its debt).

The economist explained the seeming paradox:

"War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy."

Given that America has been fighting both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars longer than it fought WWII, the exception obviously doesn’t apply.

Can America go beat up some poorly-armed country to get a quick war?

It is more unlikely than many assume. Given that the entire world knows that the U.S. started the Iraq war based on false pretenses, that America has now carved up Iraq’s oil for giant American oil companies, I don’t believe that anyone will believe America’s self-proclaimed reasons for another war.

In addition, given that most of the world believes that America’s wars are for imperialist reasons, even a war against a small, poorly-armed and resource-poor country would likely be considered a proxy war. In other words, other heavily-armed countries might very well fight the U.S. through local proxies, dragging the war out for years, just as the U.S. did with Russia in Afghanistan.

The bottom line is that anyone advocating for war to help our economy is mistaken.

 


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