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Monday, April 29, 2013

 

"Army Says No To More Tanks, But Congress Insists"

"'When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them,' Kennedy said."

I read an article on NPR a few days ago titled "Army Says No To More Tanks, But Congress Insists" that I thought was very relevant to our discussion about Mises' "Liberal Foreign Policy" a few weeks ago.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=179606996

We discussed how it is possible that our spending on an overseas military may yield a net-zero use of the productive resources that need to be shifted from the domestic, private sector to the military. However, much of the time the use of the resources proves to be worse. In this case, legislators trying to achieve protectionist economic goals are pushing for more Abrams tank production while the Army itself is saying they do not want them. 

According to Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, "If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way." According to the article--and I'm not sure I needed it to tell me this after the first few paragraphs-- is that the reasons are entirely political. The article states that the two champions of more tanks are legislators from Ohio, the location of the plants that make them. These Congressmen, and others in support, will first and foremost say that national defense is a key goal of their platform. However, when they are confronted with the fact that the Army itself does not want them, they shift their statements to include rhetoric often associated with most interventionist economic policies. They cite the fact that the Abram's tank production requires a large network of contractors throughout the country, all of which will inevitably have to make employment cuts. These "highly specialized" jobs cannot be lost, as the skill set will disappear and ""When we start to lose this base of people, what are we going to do? Buy our tanks from China?" (Verhoff). 

As we are nearing the end of the semester, I'm sure I don't have to explain how these kinds of statements are ludicrous. Any public debate where people begin to talk about specific outcomes via government is usually inconsistent with a government for liberty. As I mentioned earlier, this is a very good example of how it is difficult to shift factors of production to an overseas military and have it be equal to the production if it were being used domestically (but at least our tanks are not being produced only to be destroyed in large numbers). However, it is also a perfectly adequate example of any other interventionist policy. With the statements from the Army, it practically forces the legislators to lay out their true intentions on the table. They may or may not believe that what they are doing actually is consistent with liberty and free trade, but they certainly know it will get them the votes and money of the contractors and workers that it benefits. The fact of the matter is that this type of policy is only prolonging shifts in production that are going to inevitably occur. One man in the article even claimed that these jobs are not nearly as specialized as they are made out to be, and are easily replaceable if we need more production of tanks in the future. It does not make sense to me how voters still buy into this kind of political rhetoric when the true situation is so cut-and-dry; when the 'consumers' of the tanks (albeit artificial), which are the reason for production in the first place, even say they have no interest in acquiring more. 

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