Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Outsourcing the Guns

In the reading from "Bureaucracy", Mises uses the military as an example of the "perfect bureaucratic organization". Mired in the past, reluctant to change it is an institution that shuts down and ostracizes the enterprising individual:

"Let us take as an example the conditions of army life. Armies are certainly the most ideal and perfect bureaucratic organizations. In most countries they are commanded by 'Bureaucratic Management of Private enterprises officers who are sincerely dedicated to one goal only: to
make their own nation's armed forces as efficient as possible. Nevertheless the conduct of military affairs is characterized by a stubborn hostility to every attempt toward improvement. I t has been said that the general staffs are always preparing for the last war, never for the future war. Every new idea always meets with adamant opposition on the part of those in charge of the management. The champions of progress have had most unpleasant experiences. There is no need to insist upon these facts; they are familiar to everybody."

I have plenty of friends and family in the Armed Forces who will confirm this analysis. My muse is whether or not this should be different. Can the system of free enterprise be safely applied to the armed forces? Our government is already contracting out a lot of military endeavors in Iraq to private corporations, or rather, to describe them more accurately, mercenary companies. What I wonder is if the system of free enterprise would lead to a more effective, robust military, or if that sphere is one of the few that is best left to the government's domain.

Some time ago I read a book called "Outsourced" by RJ Hillhouse which explores this concept. A blend of fact and fiction, the author navigates through the war in Iraq, warning of the danger of the privatization of our military. I recommend the read for anyone who wants to know more about the situation as the author has certainly done her research. It is not the most believable of plots, but the appendix to the book entitled "The Facts Behind the Fiction" and which details how much of the story is based on actual facts, makes up for that. A scarily large portion is based on actual facts.

Now that I've presented this interesting concept, I'm going to say that I don't favor it. I don't think privatization of the Armed Forces is an example of free enterprise as the only consumer is the government. It's more of a throwback to the days of war lords dominated by the single mega-war lord. Also, as these private companies offer much higher pay than the traditional Armed Forces, they entice the experienced soldiers and generals away from the military. Which can't be a good thing, either.

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