Permanent War Economy

So the war in the Middle East continues and every day we get bizarrely skewed reporting from the media. We shouldn’t be surprised. Our economic system, like the American system is heavily dependent on a state of permanent war. Chomsky has some interesting thing to say about the Pentagon Keynesian system. Post World War Two the government made a decision about whether to follow a course of social or military spending and the reason for pursuing the later was ‘just for straight power reasons’ because ‘military spending doesn’t redistribute wealth, it’s not democratizing, it doesn’t create popular constituencies or encourage people to get involved in decision making’. He makes the point that to argue for military spending to be turned into social spending doesn’t make any sense. Instead we have to totally restructure society and ‘create both a culture and an institutional structure in which public funds can be used for social needs, for human needs’. This of course threatens the very basis of the society as we know it. It argues that we can’t escape the war economy without establishing a truly democratic system of organization.

It’s not an argument that you hear as much as you should and to some extent it’s harder to deal with because you can only create a new social structure if everyone wants to create it together. It is however worth the reminder that the system we live within was deliberately designed to make us a passive and powerless population. As Chomsky says ‘any state, has a primary enemy: it’s own population’ and it is the effort to ‘keep the population quiescent, and obedient and passive‘ that means that governments use arms races or the threat of terrorism or war to ‘create global tension and a mood of fear‘ which allows ‘people to abandon their rights’ to the government in order to survive.

If you want to read Chomsky’s concise criticisms and analysis of American political, social and economic policies for yourself – I’d recommend Understanding Power The Indispensable Chomsky which is a collection of Chomsky’s comments from teach-ins and public talks held between 1989 and 1999. It’s edited by Peter R Mitchell and John Schoeffel and I’ve taken some quotes from the section entitled ‘The Permanent War Economy’, pages 70-74.

If you’d rather be out on the streets protesting, you could of course join the protest in Manchester on the 20th of September.

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