Chapter XX

COSTS OF WAR


The first price to be paid for war is the moral depression it creates. This appears in the soldier freed from restraint of family, business, and society; he is out in the world in strange parts, a morally free man. The mission for which he is trained is to kill, rob, pillage, destroy, with ruthlessness as the background. A very small part of his time is given to practicing these arts in battle. Most of his time is between battles. It is then that he takes into civil and noncombat life practices for which he has been trained. The soldier is the heroic figure in time of war. He is emulated by the civilian. His habits pass into civil life even in his absence. Social vices multiply under his influence. Political and economic corruption, defrauding the Government by military men in high places, and by civilians in big business, and a general lowering of moral standards characterize every war. In the United States each war makes hundreds of new millionaires. If there is anything that a decent people should regard as disgraceful, it is that its wars yield unusual profits to the exploiters of the Government and of the people, while one-third of the population remain inadequately fed, housed, and clothed, and 2,000,000 children are without schools. War debauches society, and by the time society has recovered from the degradation of one war another comes to repeat the process.

What did the winners of World War I win besides stopping Germany? Great Britain won poverty for her lower classes, unemployment and demoralization. The upper classes won fortunes which they lost later in World War II. The people of India and Africa won colonial slavery. The United States won speakeasies during the twenties, failure of 10,000 banks, starvation during the thirties, and World War II in the forties. France won discouragement among her people, hatreds, triumph of a master class of financiers, and corruption throughout its government, army, and navy so that it offered little resistance to the nazis when they came. Big business and the French Government welcomed the nazis. Italy was on the winning side in 1918 and was made ready for fascism. The wealthy business class in all these countries used their wealth to help finance Mussolini and Hitler, without which help fascism and nazism could not have arisen.

Between the years 1939 and 1945 the United Nations at fabulous cost bombed, burned, and destroyed across the face of Europe. Having won the war, in 1947 the United States alone began to repair the damage it had shared in committing. This meant providing some twelve billion dollars for the damaged countries. War is doubly expensive. When the after costs are added, it becomes thrice expensive. An additional expense resides in the fact that nations that spend the most money on armaments in preparation for war are usually the nations which in the end suffer most as the result of war.

Cost of war is expressed in profligacy. Ships by the hundreds, built to wrong specifications in World War I and II, were permitted to rust to pieces. Thousands of aircraft were converted into junk. Aircraft engines in the United States during World War II were converted into scrap without taking them out of their packing cases. Engines that cost the Government $12,000 a piece were sold to private companies at $200.

Before World War II had started, Australia, then unable to balance its budget, planned to spend $4,000,000 to defend itself against Japan. Belgium appropriated $157,000,000 to make its fortifications stronger. Brazil, whose Government bonds were selling at 25 and whose people were hungry, proposed to exchange export products for twenty-eight warships. The head of the British Navy praised President Roosevelt for ordering more warships, which would compel Great Britain to build up to treaty strength. France, unable to pay its debts, loaned $60,000,000 to help Japan fight China. Germany, hopelessly in debt, was starting on a billion dollar armament program. Japan, impoverished by four wars instigated by its military clique, was proceeding to build up its navy to match that of the United States. Peaceful Switzerland was spending $6,000,000 on defense against Germany. The United States, with an unbalanced budget, was entering upon an unheard of spending program for armaments.

The nations engaged in World War II spent over one trillion dollars ($1,117,000,000,000) on the War. It is estimated that the costs of destruction amounted to $2,887,000,000,000. This means a total monetary costs of four trillion dollars. (C. Hartley Grattan in Harpers Magazine, April, 1949.) This exceeds the total value of all physical property, including land, in the entire world. World War II will have cost the United States $700,000,000,000 by 1972. War costs of the United States since 1789 are over 80 percent of all Federal expenditures. Fifteen billion dollars were allocated for defense for 1949 and $14,000,000,000 for 1951. About $31,000,000,000 are appropriated for 1951 to pay the cost of past wars and provide protection against future wars. This is about three-fourths of the proposed national budget for last year. The sum allocated to defense is increased by $4,000,000,000 appropriated to foreign countries. Up to 1947, wars have cost the United States $414,000,000,000. The total value of property and wealth is $300,000,000,000. World War II at its end had cost the United States $320,000,000,000. To these figures must be added interest on public debt and pensions. Pensions from 1789 to 1945 amounted to $27,000,000,000. World War II veterans will get $40,000,000,000 during the next 25 years. During the war, cost per soldier was $6,900 a year. Peacetime cost per soldier is $7,000. A peacetime army is quite as expensive as a wartime army. These costs are reflected in taxes. The total tax bill in the United States in 1911 was $2,697,000,000; in 1930 it was $10,292,000,000; and in 1945 it was $51,432,000,000. If this rate of increase continues for fifty years more, the tax collector would take every bit of wealth in the country.

While the United States Government is spending 75 percent of its income on war, its one and outstanding great expenditure, the largest expenditure of the Government of Sweden is on its Department of Social Welfare. The United States has no such department. The President of the United States in his first message to Congress in 1945 said that war veterans were then an annual national cost of $7,100,000,000, not including liabilities for their housing and business, whereas the pre-war national revenue was $6,000,000,000. New wars are always being entered upon before old wars are paid for. For the United States to win another war would mean its suicide. Militarism is the beginning of the financial profligacy of war. War costs many prices. Where the man who goes to work carries a soldier on his back, collapse will come sooner or later.

One of the anomalous costs of World War II is that the United States will pay Germany over $2,000,000,000 for rehabilitation. The United States smashed German property at an enormous cost to itself in money and men, and then pays for the damage--an expensive two way enterprise.

The costs of World War I to Germany is illustrated in the total devaluation of its money. The value of the German mark was as follows:

At the end of 1923 the old German mark was replaced by the new Reuter mark at the rate of 1,000,000,000,000 old marks for one new mark.

War is expensive for victors. For the defeated it means injustice, poverty, disease, economic slavery, and a readiness for any desperation. The few who come out of war with a resultant fortune suffer moral destitution--they become hard hearted, arrogant, selfish, oppressive, and ready to support the conditions that produced the war and their prosperity. These are dangerous people.

There is an answer to all this--take the profit out of war. So long as war offers opportunities for making profits, the makers of war are guilty of this accessory crime against society--making money out of destruction and waste. Danger of war is increased while the competitive price and profit motive dominates production and distribution. A nonprofit method of business answers these questions and can prove more efficient for real defense in the event of threatened military attack. This means that a happy and united people, with homes and jobs, are most capable of defense. They have something to defend. They prefer peace.


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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.