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May 6, 2008 11:25 am

War as the Health of the Civilian State

Ninety years ago, Randolph Bourne aptly characterized war as “the health of the state.” Robert Higgs not only agrees but also challenges those on the right as well as the left who assume an automatic trade-off between guns and butter.

In a online roundtable for Reason Magazine on the coming recession, Higgs writes:

: Hardly anyone was surprised that real military spending (measured in accordance with the government’s own narrow definition) increased by almost 60 percent between 2000 and 2007, compared to real GDP growth of 18 percent during that time. Note, however, that the government’s real nondefense outlays increased concurrently by more than 24 percent—an increase one-third greater than that of GDP. When people let down their guard in “supporting the troops,” they permit the government to make greater headway in its ceaseless quest to enlarge spending in a wide range of areas, many of them strictly civilian in nature.

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