"The State of The World" Number 22
Complete Index Of All Issues
Guns Versus Butter
All nations, large or small, rich or poor, have limited economic resources available for investment and production. "Guns versus butter" is an economics analogy that describes how, for example, the more that is spent on the military, the less that is available for things such as road maintenance and services for its citizens.
At its extreme, a country can make itself a military superpower while its bridges are crumbling and millions of its people are sick, uneducated and living in poverty.
The "guns versus butter" can be applied both ways however. A socialist utopia can only become so by spending too little on legitimate defense, thereby either endangering its liberal paradise by inviting invasion, or a making itself a shameful defense freeloader to its allies.
Many politicians have used the "guns versus butter" principle in their speeches. It was a favorite among Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party while promoting their massive arms buildup so that they could start the Second World War.
"We can do without butter, but, despite all our love of peace, not without arms. One cannot shoot with butter, but with guns."
(Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels on January 17, 1936)
"Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."
(Nazi Air Force Commander Hermann Goring in the summer of 1936)
Some used the term with more wisdom and compassion. Dwight Eisenhower, who served as a U.S. General during the Second World War before becoming U.S. President in the 1950s, used the principle in his warning against the dangers of a malignant "military industrial complex" that will not only waste vast resources on grossly-bloated "defense," but will, by means of getting "their people" elected, manipulate the country into endless, tragic wars in order to make their war industries rich - while the country itself descends into a state of decay.
From the "Chance for Peace" speech given by Dwight Eisenhower on April 16, 1953 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in Washington D.C.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."