Independent Institute Research Fellow and defense expert Winslow T. Wheeler has this op-ed in The Hill, The Defense Budget: Ignorance Is Not Bliss, in which he notes the ability of the federal government’s protection monopoly to propagandize its need for more socialist redistribution of wealth from America’s actual workers and producers to the much-entrenched military contractors. With the Establishment’s “hyperventilated rhetoric,” Congress has approved of plenty of boondoggles for the contractors and for the over-paid bureaucrats of DOD. But one thing has changed, says Wheeler, and that is the overly-statist-influenced public’s dwindling “aggressive ignorance” about the bloated defense budget, despite efforts of the bureaucrats’ intensive campaign for more, more, more. But while more people are becoming better informed about the huge defense budget, the Pentagon does not seem to be subject to an audit.
Besides being a research fellow at the Independent Institute, Wheeler is Director of Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information (now part of the Project on Government Oversight*) in Washington. The climax of his years as a Congressional staffer was his 2002 article under the pseudonym “Spartacus,” titled, Mr. Smith Is Dead: No One Stands in the Way as Congress Lards Post-September 11 Defense Bills with Pork, after which he was asked by Republican staffers of the Senate Budget Committee to resign. No surprise there. At least 99% of members of Congress don’t like their self-centered hoggishness and gluttony for feeding at the public trough exposed. Shoot the messenger.
Wheeler wrote the book, Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security in 2004.
But as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has noted, and several times, with democracy the temporary rulers have no incentive to actually serve the needs of the taxpaying public, and tend toward short-sightedness when it comes to their use (or misuse) of public assets. The public trough is “everybody’s,” so let’s get as much of it while we can. And this applies to all three branches of government, “the House, the Senate, and the President,” as Sen. Chuckles Schumer would say.
Especially the President and his executive branch. The wars of the last 60 years have been the executive’s wars, and have not had formal Congressional approval. But as with the elder President Bush’s first Iraq War of the early 90′s, which really got the ball rolling as far as starting the U.S. government’s campaign of provoking the Muslims in foreign lands to be against the U.S. (as a bogyman replacement for the commies who went down in flames at that time), the younger Bush’s wars were in the name of “political capital” for his reelection bid. Saddam was the bogeyman for both Bushes, and now Gadaffy will be the one for Obama’s “political capital.”
In an interview with the Global Beat, a Boston University publication, Winslow Wheeler was asked if it really mattered that the Bush Administration “exaggerated” (i.e. “lied”) about Iraq’s alleged threat of weapons of mass destruction, and he replied that it does matter, but that Congress will not substantively investigate the matter. He also noted how unprofessional the Press has been throughout this post-9/11 “War on Terrorism”:
But the press in this country has been demonstrating in the last decade or so that it has forgotten how to be professional. The press is atrocious on defense and national security issues. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, I pretty much gave up on most American newspapers. There were some journalists who did good work, but I pretty much found the European press to be far more informative about Iraq than the American press. Case one is the Jessica Lynch story. The American press bought the DOD story hook-line-and-sinker. It took the BBC to research it, and the U.K. press to come out with the expose. The American press still hasn’t figured out what to do with it. It is pitiful. I am not optimistic that anybody in this country is going to get to the bottom of it and do some work that will change public opinion about it.
And on the Bush Administration’s case for Iraqi WMD:
If the president had wanted to make that case, he should have. But that is not the case that the president made. The case he made was that Saddam was a threat to us, and that the threat was weapons of mass destruction. That is the case he made. I am not particularly interested in a president who presents a disingenuous case for going to war. Even if you support president Bush, why should you believe him? It has all sorts of consequences. The people who wanted to go to war with Iraq are saying that it is not a big deal, and that (Saddam Hussein) was horrible to his own people, and that justifies the war. Well, that is not what they were telling us. We could see that he was a son-of-a-bitch, but that is not what they built the war on. They built the war on weapons of mass destruction.
GLOBAL BEAT: So the issue is credibility?
Winslow T. Wheeler: It is one of ethics. If you don’t have ethics, you have no credibility.
On the credibility of the nation’s unnecessarily and misguidedly centralized “national defense” monopoly, the Washington Post‘s series last year showed that the DOD has no credibility. (I’ve linked to it here before, but am always glad to do it again, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)
What really has no credibility, and that I will continue to write about in this space, is the system we have, that of monopolized and centralized territorial protection. It doesn’t work. People just don’t realize that our so-called national defense in Washington is a socialist scheme. Economically, the means of production of defense are seized by the federal government, and it is “socialist” because it is a system of public-(or, more accurately, State-) ownership of the means of production in security. Socialism just doesn’t work in any endeavor of life – zilch. For efficient service in anything, there needs to be private ownership (and control) of the means of production, including the labor, and there needs to be competition in the free market of such services for genuine incentives to exist.
Socializing and monopolizing territorial protection and security has time and again motivated the monopolists to use the monopolized military apparatus as a means of provoking the inhabitants of foreign lands, thus constantly creating new reasons for the bureaucrats and parasites to feed off the productivity of the society’s workers.
Related articles for further reading:
The Production of Security, by Gustave de Molinari, contrasting the counter-productive communistic monopolization of security vs. the efficiency and peace that competitiveness encourages in the free production of security.
Foreign Aggression by Linda and Morris Tannehill, (from their book, The Market for Liberty), describing the free market, private (i.e. honest, without socialist enslavement) alternatives in territorial protection.
Iraqi Sanctions and American Intentions, by James Bovard, on the 1991 example of how the monopolists in territorial security lose control of their judgment and engage in egregiously evil behavior, such as, in this instance, the U.S. military’s intentional destruction of civilian Iraqi water and sewage infrastructure for the purpose of “undermining civilian morale.” In my opinion, only utter idiots (and truly bad people) would engage in such treatments of other human beings, the idiots we find in a centralized bureaucracy such as DOD.
Entering the Soviet Era in America by Tom Engelhardt compares the current self-destruction of the American empire with the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and discusses the “boundless military ambitions” of the Establishment led by GWB and his “Global War on Terror” and the “creeping giganticism” of the executive branch’s military and Pentagon expansion especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy by Murray Rothbard, on how America’s national banking cartel and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street is what really funds these useless, counter-productive wars overseas whose only real purpose is to line the pockets of not only those parasitic defense contractors, but the financial elites as well.
The Living Reality of Military Economic Fascism, by Robert Higgs, with more on that revolving door between “private” business and government.
The Private Production of Defense (pdf), by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Hoppe suggests that the privatized alternative to State-monopolized “defense” would include insurance and responds to skeptics of such an unconventional, unusual idea.
It is all the more curious, incidentally, that while laissez-faireists should by the logic of their position, be ardent believers in a single, unified world government, so that no one will live in a state of “anarchy” in relation to anyone else, they almost never are. And once one concedes that a single world government is not necessary, then where does one logically stop at the permissibility of separate states? If Canada and the United States can be separate nations without being denounced as being in a state of impermissible “anarchy,” why may not the South secede from the United States? New York State from the Union? New York City from the state? Why may not Manhattan secede? Each neighborhood? Each block? Each house? Each person? But, of course, if each person may secede from government, we have virtually arrived at the purely free society, where defense is supplied along with all other services by the free market and where the invasive State has ceased to exist.
* Updated in May, 2013 to reflect a 2012 merger.