Friday, November 11, 2011

Costs of War

Today is Veteran's Day, a national holiday that used to be called Armistice Day, a day celebrating the end of World War I. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day and the focus turned toward honoring all those who fought in all wars for the United States.

On days such as this, I think it important to remember that wars do come with a tremendous cost. Former CIA analyst Michael Scheurer reminds us, for instance, that our interventionist foreign policy bring with it serious costs as well as perceived benefits. Robert Higgs also recently noted that so-called monetary waste in war expenses winds up in someone's pocket. For those who would like a definitive word on the economics of war, I recommend Chapter XXXIV from Ludwig von Mises's Human Action.

In some of his most urgent prose, Mises finishes this chapter with the following:

How far we are today from the rules of international law developed in the age of limited warfare! Modern war is merciless, it does not spare pregnant women or infants; it is indiscriminate killing and destroying. It does not respect the rights of neutrals. Millions are killed, enslaved, or expelled from the dwelling places in which their ancestors lived for centuries. Nobody can foretell what will happen in the next chapter of this endless struggle.
This has little to do with the atomic bomb. The root of the evil is not the construction of new, more dreadful weapons. It is the spirit of conquest. It is probable that scientists will discover some methods of defense against the atomic bomb. But this will not alter things, it will merely prolong for a shorttime the process of the complete destruction of civilization.

Modern civilization is a product of the philosophy of laissez faire. It cannot be preserved under the ideology of government omnipotence. Statolatry owes much to the doctrines of Hegel. However, one may pass over many of hegel’s inexcusable faults, for Hegel also coined the phrase “the futility of victory” (die Ohnmacht des Sieges).3 To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable. The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.

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