If war is just about money, these cases struggle to prove that. It's overly simplistic to say, "Money explains everything."
Why do we go to war?
Nations go to war for many reasons. Money usually is a major reason, but it’s often not the only reason or even the main reason.
There are other factors, such as:
Is war good for business?
“Never mind!” cry the cynics! “War is still good for business!”
Oh, wait, they say it’s great only for the winner’s economy? Oh, OK. Let's see:
Sounds like that really helped those winners out, doesn’t it?
Oh, wait, they say it’s just good for the victor’s economy who is untouched by war. America was spending 90% of its federal budget on its war effort and going massively in debt during WWII (compared to 20% today).
What do you think would have been a better use of that money: building things that go boom and then disappear after one use, or building something that lasts and can be used for many years?
A war is an extremely inefficient way to stimulate an economy. If wars helped economies, then Africa would have the world’s leading economies.
The truth is that wars do not help the economy; they devastate economies.
All this kills the economy and business. It's much more efficient to spend that money and resources on butter (and other useful items) than on guns.
But don't some people benefit?
Some may say, “The US spent $685 billion on the military in 2010! How the hell is that a ‘little sector’?” Just put that $0.68 trillion into the perspective of America’s $15 trillion GDP and you’ll see that military spending is just 4.5% of the US economy—hardly a dominant sector.
Therefore, given that the vast majority of lobbyists and campaign donors are not involved with the military, politicians would be fools to embark on a war, since most politicians are usually re-elected only if the economy is going well. Franklin Roosevelt knew this, which is one reason he wanted to stay neutral during WWII.
The 2011 lobbyist spending by sector in the USA reveals that 4.2% of the money spent on lobbyists is devoted to the military sector. That's inline with the 4.5% of the GDP. That clearly shows that the military lobby isn't an overwhelming force on Capitol Hill.
All the other industries in that pie chart would much rather have the government spend $100 billion on their industry than on the military industry. That's why they fight hard everyday to seduce as many politicians as possible. They want to divert money away from the military and put it in their industry instead.
Who really wins the most?
It doesn't pay to go to war. It’s far better to sell stuff to the idiots who are killing each other than to be one of the idiots in the fight. That’s why Argentina, during WWII, became one of the richest countries in the world: it sold goods to the countries that were spending their national wealth to kill people.
Nations go to war for the same reason that one person murders another. Money is frequently a motivator, but not always. Often, after the dust settles, the murderer regrets what he did. "Gosh, that was stupid and unprofitable," he says. Nations do the same because they are reflections of humanity.
Therefore, next time someone tells you that “war is good for business and helps the economy,” tell them to read this article and say:
This article is an excerpt of The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.
After I wrote this article, I found a more detailed article about this topic for those who want to learn more.
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