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How Warfare Influences The Economy Essay, Research Paper

Throughout American History, there has always been a directUcorrolation between the level of internal and external violenceUin our society, and the relative strength of our economy. NoUprocess illustrates this better than that by which warUstrengthens our economy. We live in a society which thrivesUon wartime, one in which external conflict only makes us strongerUeconomically. One of the best examples of this aggresive economics byUwhich America thrives are the conditions by which AmericaUrecovered from the Great Depression. On October 29, 1929,Ufollowing a decade of inflation and overproduction, the bullUstock market crashed spiraling America and the Europe into theUworst financial disaster of modern times. Under the leadershipUof Franklin Delano Roosevelt, A series of social and economicUprograms called collectively “The New Deal” were instituted.U These programs, although effective in easing unemployment aUlittle, and marginally improving the GNP did little to quellUthe spiraling inflation, and collapsed economy of the 1930’s.U In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II began.U Although not yet directly involved, America immediately switchedUto a wartime economy and industry to prepare for war. AlmostUovernight the Great Depression ended. With increases in weaponsUproduction, and the consequential demand for employment inUmillitary-related fields the inflation and unemployment whichUhad so characterized the 1930’s disappeared. By 1941 whenUAmerica entered the war, unemployment was virtually unheardUof, nearly every able-bodied man was employed in the armedUUforces, and most women moved to take over traditional men’sUjobs to help the war effort. Two Years of War produced forUthe American economy what nearly a decade of social reform couldUnot… It ended the Great Depression. Although perhaps the most prominent incidence of warfareUbenefitting the American economy, World War II was far fromUan isolated economic incident. One of the earliest examplesUwe have of war benefitting the American economy occured duringUthe war of 1812. During the late 18th, and early 19th century,UAmerica was still a fledgeling nation. Under the economicUleadership of then secretary of treasury Alexander Hamilton,UAmerica created a centralized economy revolving around nationalUrather than state government. However, the fledgeling AmericanUeconomy was ailing when compared to the strong economies ofUEuropean powers such as England. The newly created union lackedUthe industrial strength to produce a truly independent economy,Uand America was largely dependant upon British manufacturedUimports. The War of 1812 changed all that. In 1812 the US enteredUa war with Great Britain. This meant that the US could no longerUrely on manufactured imports from Britain, and it forced theUUS to industrialize so far as to produce weapons and ships forUthe largely naval war. Following the War of 1812, the US hadUan industrialized economy which it would never have had to createUhad it not been for war with England. The US no longer hadUto rely on British imports, and became more economically selfUsufficient than it had yet been. In the end the war of 1812UUprovided the greatest boon to the economy of the first halfUof the 19th century. Another example of a war in which the United State’s economyUbenefitted indirectly occurred during the American Civil War.U this war was unique in the economic impact it had on America.U Prior to the war, the South of America had a strong agriculturalUeconomy. “The cotton gin was king”, and Southern agriculturalUexports led to a strong economy. So strong even that slavery,Uand institution whad had been key to the Southern economy duringUearlier periods, was dwindling in its necessity. The NorthUalso had a strong economy based on industrial output, and whenUthe two inevitably moved towards war in 1860, the NorthernUeconomy was immediately strengthened. Upon outward observation, the most obvious result of aUcivil war should be the weakening of the economy of the countryUfighting this war. The American Civil War however, wasUdifferent. During the war, following the trends of all AmericanU wars, the economies of both the North and South were immediatelyU strengthened. Both saw a rise in employment as all able-bodiedUmen volunteered to serve, and both saw an increased demand forUwartime-economy good such as weapons and ships. However,Ufollowing the war when the South was literally in ruins, mostUof its agricultural base having been utterly destroyed, theUNations economy as a whole was stronger than it had been beforeUthe war. The north had experienced such an economic boon fromUthe war that it actually outweighed the losses the South hadUrecieved during the war. The average GNP was actually up forUUthe nation as a whole. And during Reconstruction the South’sUeconomy was restored to nearly pre-wartime prosperity. ThisUmore than any other example displays the incredible extent toUwhich our economy thrives on war. Even when we are fightingUourselves, our economy benefits. The only exception to this rule of war vs economyUrelationship occurred during World War I. During World WarUI, when America became involved, it recieved all the standardUwar boons it had become accustomed to. An immediate increaseUto industrial output, a virtual dissappearance of unemployment,Uand a boon to the nations stock market. However, followingUWorld War I a rising demand for consumer goods not producedUduring the war drove up the prices for these goods. InflationUrose, and of course in 1929 the stock market crashed. Why didUWorld War I have a negative effect on the American economy,Uwhen nearly every other millitary action in our history hasUhad a positive one? The answer may be found when we look at World War I andUWorld War II not as separate wars, but as one long conflictUinterrupted by a two-decade cease-fire. The economies of mostUwesternized nations collapsed following World War I becauseUthose nations were not yet ready for peacetime. As sad as itUmay seem although the United States could handle the fightingUof World War I, it could not thrive upon the peace that followedUbecause it was too abruptly taken out of war. During the 1920’sUthe United States was still largely in wartime economy withUthe absence of a war. Agricultural goods were overproduced,UUwhile consumer goods were forced to take a back-seat. WorldUWar II remedied this situation by giving America enough timeUto revert to a peacetime economy. If we view the years betweenU1914, and 1945 as one long skirmish with an interlude of peace,Uwe see the standard wartime economic pattern produced. TheUUnited States economy was much stronger following World WarUII than it had been prior to World War I. Whether or not we admit it, we are a society that thrivesUon violence. During war we thrive and during long periods ofUpeace, we decline. This above all else may be a testament toUwhy in the late twentieth century our frequency of warUinvolvement is higher than it has ever been before. War isUa drug to us, it provides an immediate boon to our economy,Ubut in the long run is only destructive and jeopardizing toUour nations political and social security. Our nation cannotUsurvive indefinately upon this path we have chosen for it. USooner or later, our reliance on violence as a means to improveUourselves will backfire.


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