|01-24-2007, 11:47 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
The Living Reality of Military-Economic Fascism
The Living Reality of Military-Economic Fascism
By Robert Higgs
Posted on 1/20/2007
"The business of buying weapons that takes place in the Pentagon is a corrupt business — ethically and morally corrupt from top to bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few, if any, checks and balances. Most people in power like this system of doing business and do not want it changed." – Colonel James G. Burton (1993, 232)
In countries such as the United States, whose economies are commonly, though inaccurately, described as "capitalist" or "free-market," war and preparation for war systematically corrupt both parties to the state-private transactions by which the government obtains the bulk of its military goods and services.
On one side, business interests seek to bend the state's decisions in their favor by corrupting official decision-makers with outright and de facto bribes. The former include cash, gifts in kind, loans, entertainment, transportation, lodging, prostitutes' services, inside information about personal investment opportunities, overly generous speaking fees, and promises of future employment or "consulting" patronage for officials or their family members, whereas the latter include campaign contributions (sometimes legal, sometimes illegal), sponsorship of political fund-raising events, and donations to charities or other causes favored by the relevant government officials.
Reports of this sort of corruption appear from time to time in the press under the rubric of "military scandal" (see, for example, Biddle 1985, Wines 1989, Hinds 1992, "National Briefing" 2003, Pasztor and Karp 2004, Colarusso 2004, Calbreath and Kammer 2005, Wood 2005, Babcock 2006, Ross 2006, and "Defense Contractor Guilty in Bribe Case" 2006). On the other, much more important side, the state corrupts business people by effectively turning them into co-conspirators in and beneficiaries of its most fundamental activity — plundering the general public.
Participants in the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC) are routinely blamed for "mismanagement," not infrequently they are accused of "waste, fraud, and abuse," and from time to time a few of them are indicted for criminal offenses (Higgs 1988, 1990, xx-xxiii, 2004; Fitzgerald 1989; Kovacic 1990a, 1990b).
All of these unsavory actions, however, are typically viewed as aberrations — misfeasances to be rectified or malfeasances to be punished while retaining the basic system of state-private cooperation in the production of military goods and services (for an explicit example of the "aberration" claim, see Fitzgerald 1989, 197–98). I maintain, in contrast, that these offenses and even more serious ones are not simply unfortunate blemishes on a basically sound arrangement, but superficial expressions of a thoroughgoing, intrinsic rottenness in the entire setup.
It is regrettable in any event for people to suffer under the weight of a state and its military apparatus, but the present arrangement — a system of military-economic fascism as instantiated in the United States by the MICC — is worse than full-fledged military-economic socialism. In the latter, the people are oppressed, because they are taxed, conscripted, and regimented, but they are not co-opted and corrupted by joining forces with their rapacious rulers; a clear line separates them from the predators on the "dark side."
With military-economic fascism, however, the line becomes blurred, and a substantial number of people actively hop back and forth across it: advisory committees, such as the Defense Science Board and the Defense Policy Board and university administrators meet regularly with Pentagon officials (see Borger 2003 for a report of an especially remarkable meeting), and the revolving door spins furiously — according to a September 2002 report, "[t]hirty-two major Bush appointees are former executives, consultants, or major shareholders of top weapons contractors" (Ciarrocca 2002, 2; see also Hamburger 2003, Doward 2003, Stubbing 1986, 90, 96, and Kotz 1988, 230), and a much greater number cross the line at lower levels.
Moreover, military-economic fascism, by empowering and enriching wealthy, intelligent, and influential members of the public, removes them from the ranks of potential opponents and resisters of the state and thereby helps to perpetuate the state's existence and its intrinsic class exploitation of people outside the state. Thus, military-economic fascism simultaneously strengthens the state and weakens civil society, even as it creates the illusion of a vibrant private sector patriotically engaged in supplying goods and services to the heroic military establishment (the Boeing Company's slickly produced television ads, among others, splendidly illustrate this propagandistically encouraged illusion).
(Cont'd on site)