Is Military Spending Consumption or Investment?

Borrowing money to consume, like my student overdraft spent on alcohol is a bad idea generally. Borrowing money to invest, my Professional and Career Development loan for my Masters Fees is a good idea generally.

Liam Fox is complaining that Britain’s weak economy, high public debt and large deficit and national security dilemmas. Fraser Nelson agrees:

As Fox has said before, Britain is already spending more in debt interest than we are defending our country… Fox makes a very good point: that an indebted Britain is a weakened Britain.

Fox complains that the First and Second World Wars effectively bankrupted the United Kingdom from a national defence perspective. With debt soaring in the 20s and 30s before peaking at around 250% Britain had to withdraw from the world stage because debt had neutered her ability to project power across the waves.

Apparently that was a bad thing!

There are two ways to look at military adventurism, one as an investment which pays a return. The other is as onanistic consumption. Elites often benefit from military expansionism, they get plush titles, lucrative contracts and rarely have to do much fighting, but in the long run do the people benefit?

For some, Britain’s overseas adventurism in Suez and Malaya could be seen as economically advantageous to the average Brit. State ownership of canals in deserts is not normally my idea of effective industrial policy, but that’s the right for you, nothing if not consistently bonkers.

More relevant I suppose is the quasi-Marxist position that gun totting conservatives adopt when they in argue the British Empire made Britain rich. Of course nothing could be further from the truth and the average Brit probably saw no benefit from Empire.

Britain got rich because of hard graft, innovations in textile production, luck, cheap coal, cheap imports and the political settlement following the Glorious Revolution. Empire played effectively no role in any of that regardless of Niall Fergusson’s protestations.

Most of the time, the military can better be seen as a consumption good on a par with my university boozing. Britain has not had trouble defending her borders in the last millenium apart from when confronted with continent spanning empires, and even then, Britain has been able to protect herself adequately.

Scaremongering that implies terrible military procurement and mesopotamian adventurism are vital to mine or your wellbeing is best ignored as the gibberish it is.

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