The Political Economy of Military Spending in the United States

The Political Economy of Military Spending in the United States

The Political Economy of Military Spending in the United States

The Political Economy of Military Spending in the United States


This is a timely collection of essays utilizing the political economy approach to military spending, primarily by the United States. The articles deal specifically with the relationships between defense spending and: (a) political-business cycles, public opinion and the US-Soviet relationship; (b) military action - i.e. war; (c) economic performance - the trade deficit, guns versus butter issues and fiscal policy.


Alex Mintz

In a recent report on the state of security studies, Joseph S. Nye and Sean Lynn-Jones argue (1988:25) that the division between the fields of national security and political economy is ‘one of the most serious problems within the discipline of political science.’ According to Nye and Lynn-Jones, scholars on each side of the divide have often ignored the work done on the other side. Barnett (1990:3) has similarly pointed out that too often ‘the study of national security has treated “high politics”, a state’s security relations vis-a-vis other states in the international system, [separately from] “low politics”, societal pressures and the domestic political economy.’ According to Barnett, most studies almost uniformly assume ‘that the domestic political economy and national security issues are separate and distinct spheres.’ In light of the current debate on the size of the defense budget and the “peace dividend”, it is particularly important to integrate the contributions of national security with those of political economy.

The state is situated within the domestic and global political economies, and its national security policy is typically shaped not only by security considerations, but also by domestic, political and economic factors. While several scholars have indeed shown that domestic societal forces are an important determinant of the state’s foreign economic policy, these insights have not been transferred to the security field (Barnett 1990:3-4; Brown and Korb 1982).

National security policy often extends beyond the superpowers’ rivalry, regional conflicts, deterrence, and arms control to include domestic political and economic issues (Nye and Lynn-Jones 1988). Work on defense spending has begun, therefore, to focus also on political economic determinants of military spending (see e.g. Cusack and Ward 1981; Griffin et al. 1982; Mintz and Hicks 1984; Nincic and Cusack 1979; Russett and Hanson 1975). This approach has recently been transferred to the analysis of defense spending of other countries, including several developing and newly industrialized . . .

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