Thursday, June 16, 2011

Military As Economic Model

The New York Times has run an editorial today that may be the most strange piece of economic thinking I have ever come across. Nicholas Kristof suggests that we look to our military for an economic pattern for use in our modern economy.

He points out that the pay scales in the military provide a relatively small difference between leadership and worker, that the organization is racially integrated, and that it “invests in soldiers and gives them skills and opportunities.” He goes on to rave about how it takes care of its people, employees and families, with universal health care and social support.

“Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the American military isn’t its aircraft carriers, stunning as they are. Rather, it’s the military day care system for working parents.”

Then he engages in some delusional discussion about education, hyperventilating about academies and War Colleges, and admiring the way that so many soldiers get law degrees and PhD’s while in service. Of course, a good many of them get killed, too, but that seems to be a minor detail for him, as he admits that “the opportunities for working-class Americans are mingled with danger.”

In the same breath he has to admit that the social support might be somewhat less than ideal, as “It’s also true that the military remains often unwelcoming to gays and lesbians and is conflicted about women as well.” So if you are a straight male, the military is the perfect social model.

And it serves as a great economic model only if you are not concerned with profit. There is the slight problem that the military operates at a 100% negative profit margin, so it might not serve as an ideal economic model for any business that wants to return a gain on their stockholders’ investment, or for any small business owner who wants to make a living from the business which he owns.

Not to mention that the military is, essentially, a dictatorship, where one is required to do whatever he is told without questioning the instructions or offering any backtalk. One cannot quit one's job, change jobs, or live wherever one wants to, and peope are even told what clothing they must wear, and when and where they must eat, sleep and take care of business.

I maybe can understand Kristof writing this nonsense, today’s laws make it impossible to institutionalize crazy people who are not a danger to themselves or others, but I can’t understand why the New York Times would publish it.

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