HARBESON: At war with state’s business philosophy
SELLERSBURG — During World War I, Randolph Bourne wrote, “War is the health of the state.” Bourne was referring to nation-states of course, but considering what I’ve learned recently, it seems appropriate to say “war is the health of the state of Indiana.”
According to a 2011 Indiana University report, back in 2001, Indiana received $1.8 billion from the federal government in the form of defense contracts. This number grew to more than $4 billion over the next decade. We all know why the growth occurred: War.
This report, titled “Building National Security: The Economic Impact of Indiana’s Defense Industry,” explains that the ability to attract federal defense spending is of great benefit to Indiana. The introductory letter signed by the lieutenant governor and the IU president says, “... it is critical to the state of Indiana and its work force that the defense industry continues to flourish here.”
I don’t agree. It’s extremely unwise to develop an economy based not only on government spending, which requires taxation and/or debt, but which also depends on death and destruction for growth.
As a result of their desire for continued and increased federal defense spending, a private-public partnership firm, Conexus Indiana, and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. have created the Indiana Aerospace and Defense Council for the specific purpose of promoting Indiana as a great place for the federal government to spend its defense budget.
It’s bad enough that state government uses the euphemism “economic development” in an attempt to centrally plan an economy by spending tax money in ways that favor some industries and businesses over others, but using funds to lobby for increased federal spending that supports war attacks the sensibilities of all peace-loving individuals.
But those who directly benefit don’t see it this way. The groups involved — the politicians, the state universities and the corporations — all benefit from the business that results when the nation-state participates in war. No one wants to acknowledge the horrible truth embedded in the fact that pushing the defense industry encourages the development of businesses that are healthiest during wartime — in other words, peace makes them sick.
This council also wants to increase the number of companies involved, but any business owner should be cautious about such a move. Besides the more obvious concerns when businesses get involved in war, there can also be plenty of unanticipated costs.
For example, as I was browsing around the website of CACI, the newest business to locate in New Albany’s Purdue Research Park, I was amazed at how much time, money and energy this company is spending as it works to disassociate itself from the abuse and torture controversy at Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq. I wonder if they think the contract was worth it.
Indiana is already receiving fewer defense dollars as the federal government’s involvement in the current wars change. However, instead of seeing this as a warning, signaling a need to gain freedom from such dependency, officials are making decisions that will only suck Indiana in even deeper.
Should the businesses in this state increase their dependency on an “industry” that experiences its best growth when the federal government gets involved in nasty wars far from the actual soil they claim to be defending?
Or would it be better to spend energy working to create products and services that enrich lives, thereby encouraging mutually beneficial peaceful trade and friendly relationships?
I am concerned, and even mourning, this realization of where human energy and resources have been focused, because I do not want war to be the health of the state of Indiana.
— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is sick of government interference.