Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development

Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development

Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development

Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development

Synopsis

Military and defense-related procurement has been an important source of technology development across a broad spectrum of industries that account for an important share of United States industrial production. In this book, the author focuses on six general-purpose technologies: interchangeable parts and mass production; military and commercial aircraft; nuclear energy and electric power; computers and semiconductors; the INTERNET; and the space industries. In each of these industries, technology development would have occurred more slowly, and in some case much more slowly or not at all, in the absence of military and defense-related procurement. The book addresses three questions that have significant implications for the future growth of the United States economy. One is whether changes in the structure of the United States economy and of the defense-industrial base preclude military and defense-related procurement from playing the role in the development of advanced technology in the future, comparable to the role it has played in the past. A second question is whether public support for commercially oriented research and development will become an important source of new general-purpose technologies. A third and more disturbing question is whether a major war, or the threat of major war, will be necessary to mobilize the scientific, technical, and financial resources necessary to induce the development of new general-purpose technologies. When the history of United States technology development in the next half century is written, it will focus on incremental rather than revolutionary changes in both military and commercial technology. It will also be written within the context of slower productivity growth than of the relatively high rates that prevailed in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s or during the information technology bubble that began in the early 1990s. These will impose severe constraints on the capacity of the United States to sustain a global-class military posture and a position of leadership in the global economy.

Excerpt

In this book I examine the impact of military and space-related procurement on the commercial development of six general-purpose technologies. In an earlier book, Technology, Growth, and Development: An Induced Innovation Perspective (2001), I discussed several examples but did not give particular attention to the role of military and defense-related procurement as a source of commercial technology development. A major generalization that emerged in my earlier work was that the public sector had played an important role in the research and technology development for almost every industry in which the United States was, in the late twentieth century, globally competitive. During the winter of the 2002–2003 academic year, commitment to present several seminars led to a reexamination of what I had written in Technology, Growth, and Development. It became clear to me that defense and defense-related institutions had played a major role in the research and technology development of many of the general-purpose technologies that I had discussed in the earlier book.

The military procurement issue was sitting there in plain sight, but I had been unable or unwilling to recognize it! It was with considerable reluctance, then, that I decided to write this book. I shared the view advanced by John U. Nef in his classic book War and Human Progress (1950) that the impact of war on military technology was to due to the intensification of military procurement during wartime, which itself drew on the accumulation of earlier advances in scientific and technical knowledge.

The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that military and defense-related procurement has been a major source of technology development across a broad spectrum of industries that account for an important share of U.S. industrial production. Some colleagues and reviewers have urged me to give more attention to the analytical and policy issues typically included in research in the field of defense research and development. Others have urged me to develop a more comprehen-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.