Democracy and Militarism

#1
FRom Political Violence @ A Glance Democracy and Militarism
Last November I posted here about Yagil Levy’s new book, Israel’s Death Hierarchy: Casualty Aversion in a Militarized Democracy (you can find an article length version of his work here). The short version — the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has very explicitly traded the lives of Israeli soldiers for Palestinian civilians. I wax philosophic and surmise that what Levy has found in Israel can be generalized to all wealthy democracies. Prime ministers and presidents have a strong electoral incentive to minimize military casualties at the expense of civilians, or precisely what the IDF has been doing. Democracy works, and human rights violations are an outcome.I recently ran across a fascinating dissertation, now a book in progress, by Jonathan Caverley that considerably extends what I supposed in that post. While in my post I implicitly treated the electorate as an undifferentiated mass and focused upon the executive, Caverley focuses on the voter and begins by assuming a skewed income distribution. With that unobjectionable assumption in hand he appeals to the median voter theorem to produce the proposition that the median voter has incentive to support policies that shift the burden of paying for those policies toward the wealthy. More specifically, his work establishes why the median has an incentive to support a technology heavy, labor light military: it represents a welfare gain for median voter (who contributes less to the public good of national defense as capital displaces labor in its production). The theory thus comports with the recently published work on taxation of wealth and income by Scheve and Stasavage (War, Democracy and Wealth: Lessons from Two Centuries of Inheritance Taxation). Caverley further shows that the lower a voters’ income, the more likely she is to support aggressive use of coercive bargaining in interstate conflicts.
Pop culture commentators such as Ted Rall and Jello Biafra explain the aggressive military policies of wealthy democracies as a disjunction between the average voter and the executive via appeal to US President Eisenhower’s concerns about the military-industrial complex. Caverley offers a more chilling account of democracy at work.
Finally, as a former officer in the US Navy, Caverley brings to the table some gravitas that those of us who have never served lack. Gravitas has precisely nothing to do with science, but in politics it sure helps.
My bold, well in a US context median income to me means about $45K PA, paying mostly state an payroll taxes, what is now the main US tax base. Solid blue collar people, not doing that well. More than half of Americans earn less than this. In other countries they'd be working class.

Both the low and high deciles tend not to seek millitary service, it's a mostly lower middle class military so service and the entitlements tand dangers hat come with it probably are not a huge factor but such voters certainly do show an eagerness for the jobs that come with defense pork. That's been one of the engines of US prosperity for over a century. I'm not finding it very plausible that they are rationally calculating the benefits to them versus their social betters, this would over play the economic side of this blue collar folk in the US do tend to be intensely patriotic and proud of the countries millitary power, the militaristic urge is an emotional rather fanciful thing. US blue collar voters are certainly happy that conscription ended, as it fell largely on them in most of history.

This idea has some application in the UK but it's slighter, the defense budget is smaller and Brits have a very ambiguous attitude to the millitary, mostly admiring but projecting national power isn't so central to their identity. Indeed they've quietly voted mostly to spend revenues on welfare mostly for the elderly instead.

Israelis on the other hand are still conscripted and a lot are rather unhappy about it but feel it's a civic duty. It's entirely understandable that the IDF accepting high casualty rate is not going to play well with voters. They also have genuine defensive concerns, their security rests on the regional dominance of their high tech military power. Lots of Israelis also benefit from defense pork, it's what built the country's fine technological base.
 
#2
All I got was...

Explicitly... wax philosophic... implicitly... undifferentiated mass... unobjectionable median... theorem proposition... coercive disjunction... military-industrial complex... those of us who have never served.
Care to explain just what the **** he's talking about?

*This is a website for squaddies.
 
#4
Defence pork.... Israel... Uh-huh-huh-huh-huhhuhhuhhuhhuhuh....
 
#6
.. and they prefer to pay others to sort all that nonsense out just as long as it feels good.
 
#8
He was saying that some bloke said the man on the Manhattan omnibus (or the Gethsemane one) would rather have a technology-heavy manpower-light armed forces. The corollary of this is that those who pay more tax would rather send lots of poor people to fight their wars than send a small number of poor people with some very expensive kit their taxes have had to pay for; which is rather more self-evident.
 
#9
All a bit odd and full of blatant bias.

To use the phrase 'trading lives' to describe assesing casualty rates is a very prejudicial way of putting it.

A thousand men assault capture a fort and in doing so 100 of them are, as assumed in the planning, KIA.

Seems a perfectly normal thing to do in war fighting but to then announce that the Head Shed has 'traded their lives' for posession of said objective is daft.

The main point is also a dig at democracies being militarially agressive - as opposed to what, dictatorships? I don't think so.

Equally daft is the insinuation that there is something sinister in employing technology to reduce your own casualty rates.

As for voters not wanting to pay for stuff - who knew?

It's just a badly written moan, wrapped up in long words.
 
#10
To be honest, I don't think it's a matter of democracy or lack of, rather one of social responsibility on behalf of the leadership or lack of. In the span of human history, we've seen democracies entirely willing to sacrifice the lives of their citizens for fairly minor gains while at the same time autocracies determined to save them for reasons of internal stability and vice versa.

It's less about whether a society is democratic or not and more about what the particular democratic mandate is.
 
#11
He was saying that some bloke said the man on the Manhattan omnibus (or the Gethsemane one) would rather have a technology-heavy manpower-light armed forces. The corollary of this is that those who pay more tax would rather send lots of poor people to fight their wars than send a small number of poor people with some very expensive kit their taxes have had to pay for; which is rather more self-evident.
That really does depend on if you have interests in the likes of BaE. Where small numbers of chaps actually go and their fate may be fairly irrelevant, perhaps akin to marketing, what matters is that tax revenues flow to defense pork.

Heaven forfend the UK was ever prone to such dodgy Septic practices. Ludicrous things might happen like endlessly commissioning crap kit that always goes into cost overruns or building carriers with no jets to put on them.
 
#12
Interesting concept- I think a lot of it isn't about the MONETARY cost of capital but the OPPORTUNITY cost of capital (Sorry-Economist talk).

Rich nations (like the US) invest heavily in cpaital kit because the opportunity cost, (what they have foregone) is low-in fact, its a mjaor driver of the economy. Poor nations like North Korea that invest in lots of capital forego everything else-you end up with a massivley misbalanced econony.

But- if you DON'T invest in capital (and up to date capital-nothing depreciates faster than the latest state-of-the art military system) and go for a low-tech manpower-heavy force, it gets eaten when the high tech Space Marines turn up (Looks over shoulder for Games Workshop lawyer...). Also see what happened when the various huge tribal armies of the world met tiny numbers of Western troops equipped with Mr Maxim gun.

For Israel, its got a double edged problem- a low manpower pool, so its got to go high tech. -but its also reliant on a friendly State (The USA) to subsidise it with billions of dollars of kit-because although it can make some stuff itself, its capacity to replace metal lost in a big metal-bashing conventional war is limited.

Basically, it has to keep things threatening enough that the US feels it necessary to keep the F15s flowing, but not so hot they lose lots of irreplacable voters.
 
#13
I think get the idea of opportuity cost and capital cost but I'm not sure it easily skips between democracy and dictatorships.

If I, a liberal democracy type person, was to spend a buckshee £20k on a new car instead on, say, medical care for an elderly relative then, certainly as far as the relly is concerned, the opportunity cost is high.

But if, as a North Korean sort of chap, I was only ever going to spend it on a car or a cruise and sod the olds, then the opportunity cost is nil.

Isn't it?
 
#14
I think get the idea of opportuity cost and capital cost but I'm not sure it easily skips between democracy and dictatorships.

If I, a liberal democracy type person, was to spend a buckshee £20k on a new car instead on, say, medical care for an elderly relative then, certainly as far as the relly is concerned, the opportunity cost is high.

But if, as a North Korean sort of chap, I was only ever going to spend it on a car or a cruise and sod the olds, then the opportunity cost is nil.

Isn't it?
I'd say that the issue then is the process you have to go through to authorise the spending.

If the public consensus (the voters) see more 'what's in it for them' in spending more on public support for their grannie, then that's what the government of the day will offer. The opportunity cost is high, but the real benefits are spread.

If it is a 'One man-One vote' dictatorship with an electorate of one, it's a lot easier to authorise a million man army and shiny kit, at the expense of the bulk of the population.

The opportunity cost is to the economy as a whole, not El Presidente in the palace. He's not going short of a few meals to pay for grandiose military projects which again, only really benefit him and his mates.
 
#15
Pork = work! Typo, and not the only one! Still a load of old pock, though...
 

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