Re: [OPE] Studying unproductive labor: CEPR report

From: Jerry Levy (
Date: Sat Mar 01 2008 - 06:54:52 EST

> Regarding innovations and their applications, they are a result
> of a process that is inherently unpredictable. It is impossible
> to say what products and technologies would have existed without
> military spending.

Hi Dave Z:

I think that what you wrote above contradicts what you wrote below since the modernizing of the means of production is a process of innovation. What you take to be "quite clear" is quite problematic, I think. For instance, modernization of the "means of destruction" can assist a nation's winning a war and that could - through the transfer of wealth that often accompanies a war (booty) - lead to a higher living standard at home (for those who survive the war) and can make available funds that can be used for modernizing the means of production. After all, if there weren't economic benefits for capitalist nations going to war then there would be less wars! If what you were saying was correct, then all 'rational' capitalist societies would disarm. This highlights the importance of contextualizing this question: what might be the case for an abstract closed economy is not necessarily the case for a real capitalist economy in the context of a particular historical moment in time.

In solidarity, Jerry

> However, it is quite clear that if a country's best engineers
> were engaged in modernising means of production rather than
> refining means of destruction, improvements in productivity and
> the material living standards would be greater.
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