Government Contractors and the Perpetuation of War


F-35 JSFLockheed Martin has been working on its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet since October 26th, 2001. Like Bell Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor personnel aircraft, the F-35 has had a long and infamous development phase over the past 12 years. Its first flight was in 2006, and it has been seeing consistent training sorties with both the US and Canadian Air Force’s for a few years now (I’ve personally see the F-35 flying out of Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah).

The main concerns about the F-35 is that it’s a jack-of-all, master-of-none. In other words, it’s designed to be everything to everybody and sacrifices any amount of superiority in any one category to truly be effective at anything.

But let’s forget this small nuance of this piece of military technology. After all, it’s been well discussed that government (and its compatriots doing business for it) have an innately difficult time calculating not only the true cost of their pursuits, but also how to best meet them. That breakdown in price and demand calculation can be and has been expounded upon extensively by the likes of Hans-Herman Hoppe, Ludwig von Mises, Robert Higgs, and others in the Austrian circles.

What tickles me about the latest news with the F-35 is how deep the consequences of these inabilities to calculate go. As per that linked NPR report, the current estimated costs per unit range from $130 to $160 million depending on the application of the machine. And the entire project could cost over a trillion dollars by the time it’s all said and told.

But that’s not really what I’m getting at with all of this; it’s merely a precursor to the larger issue. Which is how these types of arrangements perpetuate global violence and war on behalf of the nations (read:  governments) that enter into them.

As the NPR journalist says, “If the military orders fewer planes it will pay more for less copies.” Simple supply and demand. Considering that the estimated target for units sold by Lockheed is some 3,000 planes, this results in an extremely large number of these machines being produced and solicited around the world. For Lockheed to make the venture profitable for itself (and thus sustain their enterprise and well-being), it must maximize the number of units sold in order to outweigh the costs of production by as much as possible. This is very elementary.

So when it’s said that “as long as the militaries of the world keep buying the planes, the cost should come down to about $65 million”, it should be no surprise that the “militaries of the world” will want to gobble up as many JSF’s as is governmentally possible.

And this is how the military industrial complex (both the government/military itself, and the consulting/contracting firms it deals with) exacerbates and perpetuates the problems of armed violence around the world. If the chief reason to justify getting involved in a multi-billion or -trillion dollar project which is designed to produce destructive weaponry that kill people is the fact that it’ll “cost too much” for all parties involved to cancel said project, then the entirety of it lends itself very much to the frivolous purchasing of these devices.

Not only this, but the egotistical, megalomaniacal commanders of these new war machines will be all the more trigger happy to “get their money’s worth” in an active battlezone. It becomes increasingly easier to convince their Commander-in-Chief to sign an executive order and bomb a new country for ill-conceived reasons when the costs of such a program need to produce “fruits”.

No wonder the online community has been trashing the F-35 and all that it entails. I’ve read blogs and articles condemning the project for years now, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be stopping any time soon. This is a quagmire, and one that not only stops with sucking in cash, but extends to suck in the future lives of untold thousands around the world with its destructive ways.

All this begs tough questions, though:  how would the free market respond? Would this arrangement actually be profitable and sustainable if not for the virtually limitless government expenditures raised through tax money (ie, via violent coercion and not market forces), deficit spending (ie, credit), and a fiat currency (ie, printing money out of thin air)? How would a company modeled on designing, producing, and selling machines of war which cost such an exorbitant amount be able to financially justify its existence in a truly free market? Alternatively, how does a company selling death garner enough demand by private individuals or even groups without the tools of modern governments?

I’m left with a short and simple conclusion:  it can’t.

Now imagine a world like this.

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