How to Prevent War: Socialize Weapons Manufacturers

Talking about World War III is all the rage as Trump’s recent killing of Iran’s Soleimani last week set the gears of war in motion. He further solidified his position with a weekend tweet announcing that the United States just spent two trillion on military equipment [1] and that he’s ready to use it. If the United States has any hope of avoiding this war and future wars, we have to address the often unacknowledged driver of war, profit.

War in the United States is a profit-driven industry, just like any other economic vertical. Private companies develop, manufacture, and sell weapons to the United States and foreign nations. America is responsible for the perpetuation of war both internally and internationally, as you’ve probably already heard we are the military-industrial complex of the world. There have been numerous instances where weapons we manufactured and sold to allies ended up in the hands of those attempting to fight against American efforts [2][3].

For American citizens, the time has come to ask ourselves: why do we accept the classification of weapons of war as a for-profit industry? What good does it do for our country and the world? How many more innocent people have to die directly through our actions and indirectly through the efforts of others using our weapons before we decide that enough is enough?

Preventing future wars is a complicated discussion involving many moving parts. Still, there is one thing that Americans can do immediately to stem future conflicts. Support the removal of profit incentives from weapons manufacturers, socialize that specific industry. Removing corporate profit from war is within our rights. It would radically reshape the landscape for how we promote and conduct war in the United States.

Legality & Citizen Power

Let’s begin the argument by addressing critics who would decry this solution as some sort of evil socialist plot. The suggestion to socialize American weapons manufacturers is supported by the U.S. Constitution. It is both within our rights and our collective best interest to recognize the civilian power over this decision moving forward.  

Article 1 Section 8 [4] of the Constitution lays the foundation for the argument to enforce public control over our national production of weapons of war. It states that Congress shall have power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”  In addition, one of the primary purposes of the U.S. government is to defend our people.

While it’s easy to forget in modern times, Congress is supposed to act on behalf of the people, not their corporate donors. Further regulating the manufacture and sale of weapons of war, such as missiles, fighter jets, tanks, assault weapons, and others, is within our power. Removing the profit motive from these industry verticals is a form of regulation that can be imposed on transactions occurring internally here in the United States and internationally.  

Congress is already involved with national action relating to the sales and export of weapons. It’s required by law that the President notify Congress when they desire to sell arms to another country. The House and Senate then decide whether or not to approve the measure. If Congress rejects the request, the President can veto the rejection, which would then require a two-thirds majority in the Senate to override the veto.  

We witnessed this happen in the summer of 2019 when the President wanted to sell arms to Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Congress rejected the plan, Trump vetoed it, and the Senate was unwilling to muster the two-thirds vote required to override the veto. In imagining alternative solutions, it is vitally important for every American to understand how much power we are granted by law in controlling military manufacturers and sales.  That’s because the development and export of weapons directly impacts the safety of American citizens.

So what would the process look like in socializing the profits of weapons of war? The central method would be the establishment of a new set of laws of property and contract pertaining specifically to weapons of war.  

We could begin by clearly itemizing the products and developing pathways within the law to allow it to be updated with low resistance as weapons technologies advance in the future. Using the Constitution as our basis, the first step could be made towards redefining the American economic system that dominates nearly every aspect of our government and culture.

Sales of these items would have their net profits (money retained after the transaction minus all expenses put into production, including salaries) confiscated by the U.S. government. Some weapons manufacturers like Boeing also have separate product verticals. In these scenarios, we would require companies to restructure their bookkeeping in a way to accurately classify these assets independent of others. This could be reinforced by independent quarterly audits funded by tax-payers, a cost that would be totally offset by the revenues collected after the process.

The implementation of this shifting classification could take the form of a series of bills, each addressing aspects of laws that would have to change to create a spin-off vertical. For example, we could define a new class of corporate structure for weapons manufacturers in one bill and then pass another requiring reclassification for existing companies. We need to address the “legal person” classification of weapons companies as separate from other corporations, giving Congress more power to regulate and guide the actions of weapons manufacturers. Understanding throughout the process that the best way to bring about the most significant vision of change is through incremental steps towards our new direction.

The separation of weapons manufacture into an independent market vertical opens up new opportunities for approaching market segmentation in the United States. Today weapons manufacturer operates under the same laws of operation as any other public company. Of course, there are different regulations within the process, but at the end of the day, Lockheed Martin’s primary interest is the satisfaction of its shareholders. Global peace, prosperity, and safety are an afterthought, if they’re even considered at all.

The Founding Fathers were very wary of having a standing army in the United States. Today we recognize that their fears are valid. The United States massive spending on wars kills enemies and innocents alike. We bring destruction abroad while our population lacks the economic, medical, and infrastructure projects so desperately needed. We should label war as the international and domestic tyranny that it is.  

Corporate, political, and military classes fuel perpetual wars on behalf of their self-interest. The deaths of American sons and daughters are an inconvenient cost to the dollars and resources to be gained from conquest.  

Dollars & Donors

We’ve established how we can move forward with the socializing of weapons manufacturers. Now we move onto why we should. There are two primary arguments for why these actions would be of great benefit to the American population.  

First, socializing weapons removes the incentivization to create more weapons for the sake of profit. It would help to ensure that the weapons sold are being manufactured solely for defensive purposes. The process would also eliminate expanding weapons sales into new markets to fuel corporate profits and shareholder revenues.    

Every public corporation needs to grow. Allowing weapons manufacturers to expand their markets directly conflicts with the moral and intellectual compasses of many Americans. Are we supposed to believe that consistently giving more countries more weapons of war is a good thing for the global population? That arming countries with more advanced ways of killing people makes us any safer as a nation? Corporate expansion in the weapon’s vertical endangers all of humanity. It takes us farther away from our shared vision of global peace with every new contract.

Let’s also consider the scope of the weapons industry in present-day America. According to a 2017 report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [5], the combined arms sales of the 42 US-based companies in the global top 100 arms manufacturers grew by 2% to $226.6 billion, accounting for 57% of arms production globally. 

Mind you, this is only counting the top 100 weapons manufacturer globally. Wikipedia lists the United States as having 143 modern weapons manufacturers [6]. Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest weapons manufacturer. In 2018, the company reported net earnings of $5.0 billion, a $3.1 billion increase over 2017 [7]. Since the attack on Soleimani last week, we’ve seen stock prices rise for weapons manufacturers across the board.  

Socializing these profits would allow the United States to reinvest the monies into services to help those most impacted and devastated by wars. Thousands of American families have children are being transported to the Middle East right now who will never come home. Many of those that do will be irreparably damaged from the experience, consigned to a lifetime struggling to reenter society. These profits could fund rehabilitation programs such as mental health counseling and therapy, medical costs associated with injuries, and skills training.

Other possibilities for the profits can be to invest in the countries we’re destroying. History shows us that if we don’t invest in countries devastated by war, there is a likelihood of radicalization. Ideally, we would democratically choose how to spend the profits. Keep in mind that net gains are after all operations. Workers with existing roles in the company would be unlikely to lose their jobs if production was continuing. The only losers would be shareholders and multi-millionaire executives.  

This argument is apolitical. It doesn’t matter which of the two corporate party monoliths you support. Weapons manufacturers are active donors to members of Congress in all parties. However, they do donate more to Republican candidates than Democrats  [8]. Political corruption is wrong by nature; representatives are elected by the people to serve the people. But there is something inherently evil about being bought and serving the interests of war profiteers.  

Socializing the profits of weapons manufacturers will greatly diminish the power of these corporations to influence our national politics. This may be the most significant reason to proceed with this alternative political pathway. If we are unable to free ourselves from the influence of weapons manufacturers on our national politics and elections, we probably have no hope of stopping the war machine.  

National Vision & Direction

As millennials and Gen Z become the largest voting bloc, it’s time for us to begin to think about the world we want to craft moving forward. It doesn’t matter where you identify on the current political spectrum today. What matters is whether or not you believe that perpetual war is a positive thing for the United States.

Today millions of Americans have no health insurance. The opioid crisis plagues communities around the country. We’re running concentration camps on our borders where children are dying, and those who live will struggle with the trauma for the rest of their lives. Most dire of all, the planet is on fire, and global leadership is unwilling to act. It’s time to take a deep breath and ask ourselves: is constant war solving any of these problems?

One of the most sickening things about U.S. wars is that many of the young soldiers deploying overseas today weren’t even born when this chain of events started. Children will die this year, fighting a war that has been going on for their entire life. How could anyone argue in good faith that this is the right course of action for our country and our people?

Beware of the military-industrial complex moving forward. You will see an active effort made by media outlets, talking heads, and elected officials to demonize and dehumanize the Iranians. They seek to create otherness, to lull you into a false sense of pride and duty as we devastate communities across the globe. You’ll hear all about supporting our troops, and how you’re not a patriot if you don’t support their efforts.  

Don’t be fooled. Another war is quite possibly one of the worst things we can do for the American people moving forward. There is nothing patriotic about killing innocents and calling it collateral damage. It is not anti-American to deny and reject the corporate control and guidance of our national agenda. The only result that is guaranteed is death and misery for all involved.  

Socializing weapons manufacturers is an agenda that could radically redirect our national path. It’s an effort supported by our Constitution and one that would provide substantial benefits for the American people. Our only chance to avoid another war may be through creative policies like the one argued and putting pressure on our legislatures.  

By focusing on socializing the narrow economic vertical of weapons manufacturers, Americans will take the decision of war out of the hands of profit-seeking corporations. It empowers all of us by strengthening the power of our democracy. We give ourselves more say in the national direction, making a clear stand that another war is quite possibly our worst option. Most importantly, it lays the foundation for a new type of change in American politics and an economy that will open up new doors for progress in the not-so-distant future.

[1] Donald J. Trump Official Twitter Account Twitter Jan 2019

[2] U.S. Missiles Found in Libyan Rebel Camp Were First Sold to France By Eric Schmitt and Declan Walsh July 2019 New York Times

[3] Sold to an ally, lost to an enemy By Nima Elbagir, Salma Abdelaziz, Mohamed Abo El Gheit and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

[4] Article One of the United States Constitution Wikipedia

[5] The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Service Companies by Aude Fleurant, Alexandra Kuimova, Nan Tian, Pieter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Wezeman Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2017 p2

[6] List of modern armament manufacturers Wikipedia

[7] Lockheed Martin Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Results Lockheed Martin Jan. 2019

[8] Top Defense Spenders on Political Campaigns

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