By Steven Clyde
There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making. Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?
– General Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)
The second lesson of economics—after scarcity is recognized as the first—is cost. There are costs in relation to everything we do.
For example, if I spend $10 on a new hat, I am giving up everything else I could have purchased: a quality burger and fries, a cheap watch, a CD, two $5 scratch-offs, etc. But considering the first lesson of politics is to ignore the first lesson of economics, it is no surprise that the second lesson of economics is treated as non-existent.
On January 17th, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his farewell speech, which was a warning we still ignore to this day:
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United State corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
General Smedley Butler, who at the time of his death was the most decorated Marine in the military, took part in missions throughout countries such as Cuba, the Philippines, China, Nicaragua, etc. In his 34 years of service not only did he witness massive amounts of waste, but he took note of the deception that arose out of the military-industrial complex. During the early 1930’s Butler gave a speech across the country titled “War is a Racket,” which he later went on to publish as a small book in 1935.