If Wars and Disasters Boost Economies, Why Not Bomb Our Cities?

Steve Stanek
Some people who should know better believe wars and natural and man-made disasters are good for the economy.

Let's follow the logic of this belief to its absurd conclusion: To jump-start our economy and put our millions of unemployed people back to work, we should use our military to destroy our cities!

Just a few days ago, for instance, Paul Krugman of The New York Times - winner of the Nobel Prize in economics - wrote a column headlined "Meltdown Macroeconomics." He writes:

"[G]overnment borrowing doesn't have to come at the expense of private investment, driving up interest rates; instead, it just mobilizes some of those desired but unrealized savings.


"And yes, this does mean that the nuclear catastrophe could end up being expansionary, if not for Japan then at least for the world as a whole. If this sounds crazy, well, liquidity-trap economics is like that - remember, World War II ended the Great Depression."

Krugman seems to have a special belief in good things coming from horror. In his newspaper column after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he wrote:

"Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack - like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression - could do some economic good."

Then there's Larry Summers, currently Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Among other things, he has been director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, World Bank chief economist, and Harvard University president.  Speaking of the earthquake and tsunami that recently devastated Japan, Summers said in an interview on CNBC the disasters "may lead to some temporary increments, ironically, to GDP as a process of rebuilding takes place."

The Huffington Post gave us "The Silver Lining of Japan's Quake" by Nathan Gardels, editor of New Perspectives Quarterly, who wrote:

"The need to rebuild a large swath of Japan will create huge opportunities for domestic economic growth, particularly in energy-efficient technologies, while also stimulating global demand and hastening the integration of East Asia. ... By taking Japan's mature economy down a notch, Mother Nature has accomplished what fiscal policy and the central bank could not."

So let us imagine the possibilities of using the military to destroy our cities. This might be redundant in some cities such as Detroit or Newark, but still. According to Krugman and Summers and Gardels and their ilk, we'd be creating demand and employing millions of people to build tanks, planes, bombs, and guns for the military and roads, bridges, and buildings, and all the machinery, furnishings, and other items that go in them, for civilians.

City officials could of course have some say. If they don't believe the whole city should be leveled -- if, for instance, they want to designate only certain areas for "redevelopment" -- the use of precision laser-guided bombs and missiles could confine destruction to the targeted (pun intended) areas.

To fully benefit, military equipment should be blown up after the attacks. This includes scuttling ships after naval bombardments of coastal cities. The need to replace implements of war is one of the keys to the benefits of war, is it not?

The economic advantages of an ongoing program of this sort soon become apparent. Any time the economy slows, our military could blow up a city to stimulate demand. Better still, to keep the economy from slowing in the first place, we should have rounds of military equipment buildups followed by rounds of military equipment blowups followed by buildups.

As the objective is to grow the economy rather than kill, human casualties are unnecessary. Only after we're sure a city is emptied of people should an attack begin. This way we'd have all the benefits of war and destruction without any of the killing and maiming.  Detroit is already evacuating itself at a good pace.

According to Krugman, Summers, and others, this would not be waste. It would be stimulus.

Steve Stanek (sstanek@heartland.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.
Some people who should know better believe wars and natural and man-made disasters are good for the economy.

Let's follow the logic of this belief to its absurd conclusion: To jump-start our economy and put our millions of unemployed people back to work, we should use our military to destroy our cities!

Just a few days ago, for instance, Paul Krugman of The New York Times - winner of the Nobel Prize in economics - wrote a column headlined "Meltdown Macroeconomics." He writes:

"[G]overnment borrowing doesn't have to come at the expense of private investment, driving up interest rates; instead, it just mobilizes some of those desired but unrealized savings.


"And yes, this does mean that the nuclear catastrophe could end up being expansionary, if not for Japan then at least for the world as a whole. If this sounds crazy, well, liquidity-trap economics is like that - remember, World War II ended the Great Depression."

Krugman seems to have a special belief in good things coming from horror. In his newspaper column after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he wrote:

"Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack - like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression - could do some economic good."

Then there's Larry Summers, currently Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Among other things, he has been director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, World Bank chief economist, and Harvard University president.  Speaking of the earthquake and tsunami that recently devastated Japan, Summers said in an interview on CNBC the disasters "may lead to some temporary increments, ironically, to GDP as a process of rebuilding takes place."

The Huffington Post gave us "The Silver Lining of Japan's Quake" by Nathan Gardels, editor of New Perspectives Quarterly, who wrote:

"The need to rebuild a large swath of Japan will create huge opportunities for domestic economic growth, particularly in energy-efficient technologies, while also stimulating global demand and hastening the integration of East Asia. ... By taking Japan's mature economy down a notch, Mother Nature has accomplished what fiscal policy and the central bank could not."

So let us imagine the possibilities of using the military to destroy our cities. This might be redundant in some cities such as Detroit or Newark, but still. According to Krugman and Summers and Gardels and their ilk, we'd be creating demand and employing millions of people to build tanks, planes, bombs, and guns for the military and roads, bridges, and buildings, and all the machinery, furnishings, and other items that go in them, for civilians.

City officials could of course have some say. If they don't believe the whole city should be leveled -- if, for instance, they want to designate only certain areas for "redevelopment" -- the use of precision laser-guided bombs and missiles could confine destruction to the targeted (pun intended) areas.

To fully benefit, military equipment should be blown up after the attacks. This includes scuttling ships after naval bombardments of coastal cities. The need to replace implements of war is one of the keys to the benefits of war, is it not?

The economic advantages of an ongoing program of this sort soon become apparent. Any time the economy slows, our military could blow up a city to stimulate demand. Better still, to keep the economy from slowing in the first place, we should have rounds of military equipment buildups followed by rounds of military equipment blowups followed by buildups.

As the objective is to grow the economy rather than kill, human casualties are unnecessary. Only after we're sure a city is emptied of people should an attack begin. This way we'd have all the benefits of war and destruction without any of the killing and maiming.  Detroit is already evacuating itself at a good pace.

According to Krugman, Summers, and others, this would not be waste. It would be stimulus.

Steve Stanek (sstanek@heartland.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.