Republican president, Richard Nixon, once famously said “I am now a Keynesian in economics”, usually misquoted in the apocryphal version that goes “we are all Keynesians now”. Since Nixon’s time, the mantra has subsequently been replaced by that of “we are all Thatcherites now” to reflect the hearty embracement of monetarism; and by “we are all Austrians now” to reflect the adoption of Austrian school non-interventionist laissez faire neoliberal economics. Whatever the case, on the right of politics, Keynesianism is supposed to be dead and buried as a macroeconomic theory.
However, while the right claims to having moved on from Keynesianism, and to have rejected centrally driven stimulus, to have openly embraced smaller government with reduced expenditure, along with non-interventionalism, and claim to strive for government surpluses — at heart they all know that, whatever faddish ideological facade they choose to hide behind, their old mantra of “we are all Keynesians nows” remains immeasurably more true true today than it ever has been.
However, the difference is that it is not the usual civilian Keynesianism they embrace, one of peacetime public works leading to public infrastructure building for the common social good. Instead, they all unfailingly believe in military Keynesianism. These people know perfectly well that there is no more certain way of injecting taxpayer funded infrastructure stimulus into the economy to the great profit of industrialists.
In fact, it is thought that the Keynesian infrastructure stimulus that lifted the world out of the Great Depression was World War II, which necessitated an unheard of expansion of industrial capacity. Clearly, a repeat of this is considered iminently desirable, since the paltry civilian infrastructure stimulus arising from public projects such as the woefully inadequate New Deal were nowhere near sufficient.
Even more than in God, the modern political right steadfastly holds onto an unshakable Faith in War. God is only of utility to confer His sanctimonious blessing to war, and its “creative destruction”. And the God of War is a Keynesian!
It is indeed a divine blessing to the modern industrialist that high-tech weaponry is expensive. Just a single guided missile costs a huge amount of money. The best thing about modern weaponry is that if you are smart enough, you produce your own. That means, for many countries, this acts as an immense Keynesian infrastructure stimulus to one’s own economy — one worth billions, or even trillions of dollars. Best of all, everything goes into your own country to give vast impetus to the perpetuation of its industrial and technological infrastructure. You would never trust China enough to outsource arms production to them just to save money.
That is why Ronald Reagan was the ultimate Keynesian at heart. Touted today as a small government liberal, he actually shamelessly expanded government spending, greatly increasing federal influence, size, and power. The pinnacle of Reagan’s Keynesian stimulus was the over $200 billion USD spent on the magnificent Star Wars programme. That injected an immense amount of stimulus into the American information technology sector. The technology patents it generated raked in a huge amount of money for the nation, greatly bolstering its GDP. It is little surprise that dominant IT companies like Microsoft and Apple remain, to this very day, American. The fact that ICBMs still cannot be reliably shot down by a guided missile is not of the slightest relevance whatsoever.
Even if you are a smaller country like, for example, Australia, with Tony Abbott clinging desperately to American coattails, there is still a growing military manufacturing base. There is also a good chance of being rewarded with the spoils of war in the form of bilateral trade agreements with America, as an exchange for military support.
Not only that, but the media management and public affairs side of things (it used to be called propaganda, but that word not being kosher today, it is referred to in doublespeak by another euphemism) is an enormous Hollywood styled circus show. Wars are often launched today on prime time television. There are cameras at the ready on the front-line, all meticulously managed to put an endlessly positive spin on things. Such sophisticated multimedia circus shows cost a fortune to stage. The fact that it helps Rupert Murdoch to sell newspapers is an added bonus of Keynesian demand side stimulus.
Even better still, in the case of the US in the Middle East, they get to hire out a nice little playground to experiment with emerging military technology in the forms of military drones, along with any number of other cutting edge innovations. That results in a huge stimulus to the American high-tech robotics and armaments industry. Just as the US got to test nuclear technology in the playground of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the playgrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan provide a testing zone to toy with emerging military technologies.
No other nation has found a way of acquiring vast military testing grounds towards the infinite play of testing their emerging military technologies, as America has. Only live testing can help to ensure that American military technology remains truly cutting edge. The only way to really achieve that ultimate goal is to continually test cutting edge technology out in a live setting.
As a result, it is certainly only a matter of time before America will be in a position to wage war entirely using swarms of high-tech unmanned robotic drones. That way politicians will no longer have to put up with the irritating spectre of the coffins of the war dead being paraded through the streets accompanied by grieving family and anti-war protesters. Once the objective of removing such nuisance obstacles has been achieved, it will infinitely increase the public’s enthusiasm for the media-circus entertainment of war. Since the enemy has no vote in America, they do not count. All that matters is that war deaths and conscription be systematically eliminated as a source of organised anti-war antagonism at home.
It should be further remembered that the word “profiteering” arose during wartime. Industrialists greatly profiteer from the skyrocketing increase in demand, as munitions factories go into production 24 hours a day. War represents an enormous industrial infrastructure stimulus of a sort that would be impossible to gain bipartisan support for in peacetime:
Only an abject fool would conceive of a world in which “war” would be waged against illness, poverty, and inequality for the betterment of all humanity. Most of the major technological advances of the 20th century, from blood transfusions to jet engines and nuclear power, were inventions of war. Even the internet is originally a military invention. Yet we must ask ourselves if humanity will ever learn that progress can be made in a civilian and non-military manner by waging “war” on the social ills of the world. Sadly, it seems not to be the case. In letting the world become this way, we are all unwitting partisans to this process — turkeys voting for Christmas.
Instead, those employed in the munitions industry earn huge pay-rises due to shortages in skilled labour. During the world wars, much resentment was directed against such workers spending money freely and enjoying themselves.
Fishmonger: Head and shoulders four shillings a pound
Munition worker: Ah said nowt about head and shoulders. How much is salmon?
Fishmonger: It’s ten pounds weight and five shillings a pound.
Munition worker: Wrap it up. (Aside to lady customer) Fourteen quid a week takes a bit o’ gettin’ through
War functions as an alternative way of providing social welfare to the unemployed. In other words, right wingers have no qualms about the government employing more and more working class people as long they do so as part of military service. Right wingers don’t even complain when military personnel on active duty earn extra income. It all functions as a the perfect right-wing Keynesian way of reducing unemployment.
Recruiters for the military actively prey on those who are underemployed. It is effectively a form of social welfare — and of, literally, killing the most vulnerable and desperate of the working class on the battlefield, while top hatted industrialists bask in the lap of luxury, endlessly profiteering off the spoils of war. Whatever extra money soldiers earn on active duty remain but a pittance compared to the earnings won by profiteering industrialists, so it is considered money well spent.
Astonishingly, right-wingers have few qualms about paying for medical expenses of military personnel, even for chronic medical problems acquired in the course of duty. They even happily pay pensions to spouses of the war dead, along with other social perks such as lifelong medical care. The welfare state is considered a wonderful thing as long as it is in the service of war.
Faced with war, right wingers even heartily embrace feminism:
As long as these women keep munitions factories running 24 hours while volunteering to line the profiteering industrialists’ pockets with gold, feminism is welcomed with open arms and boundless enthusiasm.
This is not the only “progressive” benefit of war. Thomas Picketty has shown that the period of the two world wars greatly reduced the power of capital, ushering a post-war golden era of unparalleled prosperity and equality. However, since then capital has made a resurgence and has now reached the same level as it stood at before the two world wars, and is projected to surpass it:
Piketty suggests social means of reducing the power of capital to reduce income inequality to avert a situation where inequality reaches levels akin to the feudal era. The likelihood that such social change will ever be adapted is close to zero. However, there is another way around it, one that will gain bipartisan support from the right — to have another world war.
The fortunate result of such a massive endeavour as war is that small government is hardly possible when you are spending trillions of dollars to expand the military while developing expensive cutting edge technologies. So much for all the talk of small government liberalism. Nor does even the most vocal free market liberal ever campaign for the armed forces to be sold off to the private sector, so military expenditure ends up mostly in the government sector. It is hardly possible to reduce government expenditure when waging war, but that is precisely the outcomes that is desired.
And, what is more, right wingers are always pressing to infinitely escalate such expenditure. The more the merrier, and don’t spare the horses. In fact, it all sounds rather familiar in a frightful way:
Dr Joseph Goebbels, PhD, speaking in his impeccably cultivated High German, was always a far more eloquent orator than Hitler ever was, with his embarrassing Austrian beer hall twang and shrill voice.
During his great Total War speech, Goebbels says:
What would England and America do if the great misfortune would befall the European continent by falling into the arms of Bolshevism? Will Europe be persuaded that such a development would be stopped by London at the borders of the Channel? I have already pointed out that Bolshevism already has their Communist parties as the basis of the foreign legions of all democratic nations.
Was wollten England und Amerika tun, wenn der europäische Kontinent im gröbsten Unglücksfall dem Bolschewismus in die Arme fiele? Will man Europa von London aus vielleicht einreden, dass eine solche Entwicklung an der Kanalgrenze Halt machen würde? Ich habe schon einmal darauf hingewiesen, dass der Bolschewismus seine Fremdenlegionen auf dem Boden aller demokratischen Staaten bereits in den kommunistischen Parteien stehen hat.
My own English translation from the original Urtext
Goebbels begins with the dramatic rhetorical question: Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg? — Do you will the Total War? The words that end Goebbels’s Total War speech, too, are astonishingly well delivered in a thundering crescendo of spine-tingling power — words that still speak powerfully to the very heart and soul of every mainstream right-winger today, as it culminates:
Nun, Volk, steh auf und Sturm brich los!
Now, arise shall the People — as the Storm breaks loose!
Remember this was not a speech about inciting genocide (something kept hidden from the German people), but about a Total War to wipe out the communist threat from the counter-attacking Red Army, and the Western allies of communism. The electrified crowd rises to its feet, and chants “Hail, Victory!” — over and over again in a state of orgiastic delirium.
There is a good reason National Socialists are represented today as Charlie Chaplin comic book figures, goose-stepping in bizarre costumes, and that is so that people can delude themselves into believing that National Socialism remains at heart totally Other to them, when in reality the nearest “Nazi” to be found is the one staring back at oneself in the mirror: one that hates social welfare, civilian infrastructure building, and peacetime economic stimulus, and instead embraces the military Keynesianism of Total War.
That being the tragic path the world has been set along — soon the Storm will indeed break loose.