The War in Ukraine and the Revival of Military Keynesianism

Prof Jan Toporowski of SOAS in this INET article:

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western governments are committed to increased defense expenditure. But their armaments industries, under conditions of peace-time economic efficiency, do not have the spare capacity to ramp up production. Many are already operating shifts around the clock to satisfy orders comings in. To increase production they need to invest in new capacity. However, this is only worthwhile if armaments companies can be assured of contracts into the future expected lifetime of any new productive equipment. Industrialists with interests in arms supplies are now complaining about the time it takes to get contracts signed. An additional worry for them is the prospect of peace breaking out, which may leave armaments manufacturers with costly, but unused productive capacity that may have to be scrapped with the next technological innovation. (Much the same dilemma is faced by oil and natural gas producers who are being urged to expand production to replace sanctioned Russian supplies).

In short, weapons producers want governments to underwrite the profitability of their investments. This is precisely the alliance between industry and the state that formed the basis of the military Keynesianism that Michal Kalecki criticized during the 1950s. He showed how, at the height of the Cold War, Western governments subsidized private capital with arms contracts paid for by taxpayers. This arrangement lay at the heart of what has come to be described, somewhat misleadingly, as a ‘golden age’ by heterodox economists, who lament its replacement by “neoliberalism.” The real danger is not neo-liberalism but the takeover of the state by industrial interests which cannot be denied because of the external and internal threats to democracy.

The advent of military Keynesianism is a warning against complacency about the moral superiority of the West in defending Ukrainian democracy. The resurgence of what President Eisenhower once called the military-industrial complex brings our industrial magnates closer to centers of power. In this respect, our oligarchs are no better than Russian oligarchs, even if we defend existing democracy because it offers more scope for progressive politics than autocratic nationalism.

Military Keynesianism challenges democrats about the limits of the democracy that is being fought over in Ukraine. Is the future of that democracy assured by a state which underwrites industrial profits? Or does that future also require the extension of civil rights and welfare to all classes? If the struggle for democracy is just to save Ukraine for democracy, or to extend democracy in the Russian or Chinese spheres of influence, then that struggle will take the West down the path to the oligarchic capitalism of Russia.

I am not sure whether Military Keynesianism is the right word. Keynes wrote ‘Eonomic consequences of peace’ after the first world war, worried that stiff reparations will create diffirculties for Germany.  He also actively led bretton woods agreement despite poor health and tried to build institutions to prevent future wars.

One Response to “The War in Ukraine and the Revival of Military Keynesianism”

  1. Eric Says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: