The War Bubble
by Karen Kwiatkowski
We hear a lot about housing bubbles, credit bubbles, even oil bubbles. These bubbles exist. They are birthed and nurtured by statist governments fixated on central planning. Statist governments that obsess constantly about control over property, movement, and the minds and hearts of individuals. You know, governments like the one in Washington, D.C.
For libertarians, these bubbles are predictable. But predictability doesn't make them less sad or less painful for the bulk of Americans, who pay dearly for their government's outrages.
But there is an exception in the predictable sadness of bubbles. Paul Farrell's latest column at Marketwatch.com advances the outrageous American war economy, and concludes that the massive "war bubble" will explode, and soon. I naturally agree with what Mr. Farrell had to say — after all, most of his article was plain old statistical fact about what Eisenhower recognized in the 1950s, and what Bob Higgs has explained in his excellent books and articles.
Most ongoing bubbles have innocent, if ignorant, victims, who ultimately pay the financial price. But unless those Americans read LewRockwell.com or consult history directly — they do not understand why they are hurting, and why they are paying. So far, the state-created bubbles have been successfully portrayed as victimizing a thin regional or economic slice of the population, and most importantly, as being caused by a non-state, non-government villain. For housing, the villain was evil mortgage lenders, and colluding appraisers. For the credit bubble, it was the nasty raptors in the credit card industry, and in banking, the villains were, as always, a few bad apples. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac blamed everyone but itself, and with oil, we found that the bubble was the direct malevolent act of "oil speculators."
A delightful exception is the war bubble. Investopedia explains bubbles this way:
Speculative bubbles are generally a result of the "bandwagon effect." Investors, seeing an upward trend in prices, quickly enter long positions in an attempt to participate in the stocks' profitability. Typically, these bubbles are followed by even faster sell-offs once the prices begin to decline.
The war bubble — the American war bandwagon — unlike other, more familiar bubbles, has a kind of clarity and marketability politicians would die for, and sometimes do. The victims of the war bubble are not people who just wanted more house then they could afford, or who chose to buy high in a hot market. The innocent victims of the war bubble are our own patriotic sons and daughters! They are those who, after "serving their country" are now on waiting lists at VA hospitals that by commission and omission, fail to heal or even help. The innocent victims of the war bubble occupy graveyards, family basements, and shelters in towns around the country, and what we clearly understand as an American family is this: "My son, my daughter, my husband, my wife, my niece and nephew, my grandson, my granddaughter — is not the same person I knew before they went to war." We feel a nearly national shame about what we have had our children and spouses do — what we ourselves may have done — in Iraq. This shame fuels the anger of both those against the war as well as the actions of those who support it even more vigorously, to ensure they did not sacrifice their child at the wrong altar.
If the obvious war bubble victim is our child, the other victim of the American war bubble has 100 million taxpayer faces, all looking horrified at the debt and outlays for war — $3 trillion just for current war, not counting ongoing military empire expansion that appears determined to encircle both Iran and Russia. How can we repay this obscene debt, a small, optional purchase by our government in the basket of commitments our government has racked up? Someone ought to make a movie about what we are going to do about this debt!
But what is really interesting about the war bubble, and useful if we want to see political change in this country — is that this bubble miraculously makes all Americans — adults and children — its righteous and innocent victims.
Before I go on — there is truth, and then there is truth. Truth is, we didn't have to join the military, encourage others to do so, insist that our congressmen and the transient living at 1600 Pennsylvania "protect us" from darkness, and light and everything in between, and on top of that, give us federal kickbacks in the form of military bases, military benefits, college funding and university grants. Truth is we could have taken Ike's advice, and been a little more vigilant. We didn't have to accept the false patriotism and true fascism of the government created and sustained defense industry.
But the kind of truth that makes the imminent bursting of the American war bubble exciting and joyful is that we — all Americans — will be able to say honestly, together, that we love peace, and we hate war. As we did in the 1980s, again we can honestly and loudly criticize government and military waste — waste and loss that is measured in billions and billions of dollars, making the $500 hammer look like a smart deal.
Politicians complain that the people are fickle. For once, as the American war bubble collapses, we can be fickle in a direction that recalls the ideas of Washington and Jefferson, founders who feared standing armies, and a well-funded central government. Tyranny of the majority was less of a concern than the sure tyranny of a would-be king, and a bunch of government-aligned businessmen. For them it stunk of the contemporary British Empire; for Americans, who do not study history but trust our gut, it stinks of simple un-Americanism.
When the American war bubble collapses, we will have American victims — it will be all of us. And for once, the obvious villains will be the actual ones. We will ask, as a nation: Who pumped up the case for war? Who lied about real return on investment? Who played the role of ignorant flamboyant CEO and CFO — and who whispered sweet assurances of success in their ears? Who conducted the audits? Who defaulted on the promise, and trashed the American dream? Americans will blame the war-mongering thinktanks, and the greedy politicians without a principle or a moral or a backbone among them. Americans will blame the political generals, found in green zones, green rooms, and boardrooms. Americans will blame government dependent, overfed and non-competitive defense and security industries and their lobbies, who effectively push, always and constantly, for more war and more spending. Americans will look askance at foreign countries who stand shamelessly with their hands out, for military aid they neither need nor deserve.
The collapse of the war bubble will hurt. But as we witness the rapid and accelerating global selloffs — Americans and their representative media will, like a stopped clock, correctly identify the villain. There will be no one but the state to blame — and all Americans will stand together as its victims. Completing the trifecta is the foundation of understanding across the country brought about by the Ron Paul Revolution. The coming collapse of the war bubble is indeed good news, and it will usher in a new era of liberty.
August 22, 2008
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.
Copyright © 2008 Karen Kwiatkowski