The Original American Malcontent

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Invest in Peace and Make War Unprofitable

Last night in a conversation with some friends, the issue of increasing the tax on tobacco products was brought up. The argument was that by increasing the cost of tobacco it would become cost prohibitive to indulge the nicotine addiction, thereby forcing countless citizens to quit smoking. Well, I thought that was kind of unfair, since the people who smoke are addicted to the substance, and meanwhile the companies that make the product still continue to profit.

Well then it struck me that the idea of creating taxes to restrain bad habits might not be so bad after all, but I thought we should take it a step further; what if we created a tax that made profiteering from war and the sale of the implements of war so cost prohibitive that it would actually become unprofitable to go to war? Would that possibly help to wean our nation off it’s addiction to mayhem? I think it would. What if every corporation that made weapons or were assigned no-bid contracts to rebuild what we destroyed had to do it pro bono, or at least reinvest all profit into social programs or the betterment of our infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, public transportation, renewable energy etc. with a zero return to investors – let’s make war non-profit.

A windfall tax has been proposed for oil companies that profit from price gouging and the exploitation of natural disasters and regional instability in the Middle East. Here is an argument against the tax from the right: (
…economists who argue against a special windfall profits tax point out that these profits can be used to finance further exploration and production of oil. That is correct. But even if the companies gave every last penny of their windfall in dividends to stockholders, the profits would still serve as an incentive to find and produce more oil. The reason is that oil companies will see the government's action on this issue as a signal of future government actions. If the government taxes or otherwise discourages windfall profits by, for example, muscling them to donate some of these windfalls to charity, as Senator McCain has proposed, oil companies will anticipate similar government actions in the future. Knowing that they will be taxed or face intense pressure to give some of their wealth away, they will see a reduced revenue stream from producing and finding oil. Result: less oil than otherwise.

So what if we extended that tax to weapons manufacturers, infrastructure rebuilding corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel; would the results be less war and less weapons being created and sold to foreign governments? Could this possibly be a deterrent to our addiction to war. In a market economy profitability is everything, if it’s not profitable, it just doesn’t happen. When it comes to war, that would mean that the only wars we would ever get involved in would be those that have consequences that outweigh the profitability factor, like say an invasion on our soil.

Some would argue that if we don’t do someone else will, well as the leading arms supplier in the world, that probably wouldn’t be so bad, since we are the ones producing the lions share of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, not to mention fighter planes, blackhawk helicopters and stealth weapons. When it comes to war, the world would be a lot better off with stone age technology than our indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction.

Right now with the anti-war movement at it’s peak would be a great time to introduce this kind of legislation. There will be a big fight about it, some of the arguments would be that corporations that trade in death would be put out of business, that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost and that our economy would suffer. My first inclination is to say “so what”, but then I thought; what if we offered corporations tax benefits for doing work that fostered peace, equity and well-being for all. Instead of building missiles, tanks and stealth aircraft we focused on things like building more and better schools, medical equipment, hospitals – corporation like Halliburton that rebuild infrastructures we’ve destroyed could be redeployed to rebuild our infrastructure in an environmentally responsible way? With this plan we could achieve several victories for humanity. Less warfare worldwide, less pain, suffering and death, less corruption, a cleaner environment, a better educated populace and the list could go on. Investing in the principles of peace and preservation could replace war and destruction as the driving force of this nation.
In my mind, that’s a win-win situation for everyone.


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