Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Our Corporate Military

by KEVIN CARSON

Nicholas Kristoff, in a New York Times op-ed (“Our Lefty Military,” June 16), lauds the “astonishingly liberal ethos” that governs the military internally ? single-payer health insurance, job security, educational opportunities, free daycare ? in support of Gen. Wesley Clark’s description of it as “the purest application of socialism there is.”

For me ? an avowed libertarian socialist as well as a market anarchist ? at least two howlers stand out here. First, when I think of “socialism,” I think of all the liberatory things originally associated with that term back in the days of the early working class and classical socialist movement in the nineteenth century: Empowerment of the working class, worker control of production, and all the rest. Last I heard, the U.S. military isn’t set up as a worker cooperative, with enlisted men electing officers, managing their own work, or voting on whether or not to go to war. Taking orders from a boss “because I said so” isn’t my idea of socialism.

Second, the primary external mission of the U.S. military is to keep the world ? or rather the corporate pigs who claim to own it ? safe from anything remotely resembling worker empowerment. To me, that’s pretty unsocialistic. For the past sixty-odd years since WWII (a lot longer, actually), the primary focus of American national security policy has been to protect feudal landed oligarchs from land reform, protect Western-owned corporations from nationalization, act as collector of last resort for the company store known as the World Bank, and enforce the draconian “intellectual property” protectionism which is the central bulwark of global corporate power today. Kristoff’s “socialist” military’s primary mission is keeping the world firmly in the hands of its corporate rulers.

Aside from that, I think Kristoff has it exactly backward: The military is almost a parody of American corporate culture. It’s riddled with hierarchy, with Taylorist/Weberian bureaucratic work rules and standard operating procedures, and all the irrationality that goes with them. The only difference is, the pointy-haired bosses wear a different kind of uniform. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Brazil,” or read Dilbert on a regular basis, you get the idea.

Kristoff has one point on his side: The differentials between production workers and senior management are a lot lower in the military than in present-day Corporate America. But that just means the military is structured more along the lines of old-style bureaucratic “Organization Man” capitalism of the sixties (as described by J.K. Galbraith), in which CEO salaries were typically only fifty times that of a production worker, rather than the current pathological model of cowboy capitalism where it’s more like five hundred.

The military, like the large corporation, is plagued by enormously high overhead costs (the cost of training a soldier), and enormously wasteful capital outlays. The military, like an oligopoly corporation, can afford to be so wasteful because it doesn’t bear the full cost of its own activities.

Corporate America’s prevailing management accounting system, invented almost a century ago by Donaldson Brown of DuPont and GM, equates consumption of inputs to creation of value. You know, like the Soviet centrally planned economy. Administrative costs like management salaries, along with wasteful capital expenditures, are incorporated ? through the practice known as “overhead absorption” ? into the transfer price of goods “sold” to inventory. And in an oligopoly market, the corporation is able to pass those costs ? plus a profit markup ? on to the customer through administered pricing. The military shares that pricing system, with its incentives to maximize costs (Paul Goodman called “the great kingdom of cost-plus”). Ever hear of those $600 toilet seats? But in the case of the military, the administered pricing is called “taxation.”

In short the military, like the large corporation, is a giant, bureaucratic, irrational, and authoritarian institution which can only survive through parasitism ? enabled by the state ? on the working class.

Kevin Carson is a research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society. his written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

 

 

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]