If you’ve ever wondered why the US continues to talk the language of war while claiming to want peace, here may be one answer. Axios’ Felix Salmon has a quick take on the bonus effect that decades of war have had on the US economy.
He starts by urging us to look beyond the short-term effect of war. So, never mind that US stocks are sold off at the prospect of war with Iran; or the record stock market highs when fears of war abate.
Mr Salmon says that over time, “war tends to be good — not bad — for American stocks.”
But then he offers a remarkable numbers read out:
- The Dow rose 43 per cent during World War I, despite the destruction of much of Europe
- It rose 50 per cent during World War II
- Defense spending has accounted for more than 3 per cent of US economic activity in every year since World War II, making it a “consistent and predictable fiscal stimulus”
- The 2020 US defense budget stands at $738 billion, or about 3.6 per cent of GDP. Mr Salmon points out “that’s roughly the same as the entire economy of Switzerland, or the $787 billion spent on the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the Obama economic stimulus bill”.
It is Mr Salmon’s conclusion though that is profoundly disturbing:
He points out that Iran doesn’t significantly matter to global trade and so “the only way that US companies can make money from Iran is by selling materiel for use in a war there. The bigger any war, the more money they can make”.