Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quote of the Day: Modern mercantile-totalitarian edition

From Edward Mead Earle's chapter "Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton, Friedrich List: The Economic Foundations of Military Power" in the 1984 edition of The Makers of Modern Strategy:
When the guiding principle of statecraft is mercantilism or totalitarianism, the power of the state becomes an end in itself, and all considerations of national economy and individual welfare are subordinated to the single purpose of developing the potentialities of the nation to prepare for war and to wage war.
Now read this from a contemporary Maker of Modern Strategy:
Really I just wanted to say that I think it's pretty freakin' weird to be talking about early childhood education, parenting guidance, mental and nutrition services, and so on as matters of national security. I mean, there's a case to be made for doing more of all of that, though reasonable people will disagree about how good that case is. [...] But really, is the best way to argue in favor of what would necessarily be a vast expansion of the role of the federal government and of reasonably invasive social programs an appeal to military readiness? If you're a believer in that stuff, shouldn't it be enough that we have a lot of people who are poor, who are hungry, who are unhealthy, diabetic, fat, undereducated, unambitious, badly parented, perhaps criminally neglected, angry at school, unable to learn, and so on and so on and so on? Do you really need to pitch those programs by citing security requirements (particularly when we already have a reasonably large standing military and spend a significant amount of money on Defense personnel accounts)?
Ok, just kidding: that was me. (See what I did there?)

It would be an exaggeration, of course, to suggest that all considerations of national economy and individual welfare are currently being subordinated to security here in decidedly un-totalitarian America. But surely you'll not have missed a trend toward the militarization of our political discourse, of which this consideration of teen health as a national security matter is just one example?

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