The Political Economy of Military Spending in the United States

By Alex Mintz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

Military Burden and Economic Hegemonic Decline: The Case of the United States

Chi Huang and Francis W. Hoole

Is Paul Kennedy correct when he suggests that if ‘too large a proportion of the state’s resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then it is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term’ (Kennedy 1987: xvi) and ‘[g]reat powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending more on “security”’ (Kennedy 1987:xxiii)? More importantly, for our purposes, are these insights useful in understanding what has happened to the United States in the post-World War II era?

The latter question was debated in the 1988 presidential campaign in the United States and has also received serious consideration in the academic literature (e.g. Huntington 1988; Kupchan 1989). We will attempt to contribute to this ongoing dialogue by examining in a systematic empirical manner the relationship between military burden and economic hegemonic power for the United States during the 1951-85 era. We begin by examining the concepts of economic hegemony and military burden and discussing how they are measured. Our basic orientation toward the empirical examination of the relationship between our indicators of these concepts is then discussed and the results of our analysis are presented. Finally, our conclusions are formulated and a perspective is offered on the relationship between military burden and economic hegemonic power for the United States during the post-World War II era.

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