The Handbook on the Political Economy of War
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The Handbook on the Political Economy of War

Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers

By defining political economy and war in the broadest sense, this unique Handbook brings together a wide range of interdisciplinary scholars from economics, political science, sociology, and policy studies to address a multitude of important topics. These include an analysis of why wars begin, how wars are waged, what happens after war has ceased, and the various alternatives to war. Other sections explore civil war and revolution, the arms trade, economic and political systems, and post-conflict reconstruction and nation building. Policymakers as well as academics and students of political science, economics, public policy and sociology will find this volume to be an engaging and enlightening read.
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Chapter 12: The Arms Trade

David Kinsella


David Kinsella 12.1 INTRODUCTION The Book-of-the-Month Club’s April selection in 1934 was Merchants of Death. In that best-selling volume, H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen argued that the activities of arms merchants undermine the policies of national governments to whom they owe allegiance. Part of their message was, in essence, that American neutrality was compromised during World War I by weapons manufacturers whose strict adherence to commercial principles in peddling their wares left them little incentive to ponder the political or moral implications of their profession. The arms business is exactly that – a business – and business is good when nations are at war, or when they fear it. Merchants of Death figured prominently among the polemics that fueled the flames of American isolationism, culminating in the Neutrality Acts of 1935–39. Prior to the passage of the Neutrality Acts and the formation of the Munitions Control Board, the export of weaponry by American merchants was essentially unregulated. By the outbreak of a second World War in Europe, the US Government had established controls over private arms sales, and thus what was for the arms merchants a means of profit became for the government an instrument of foreign policy. This new role for arms transfers was inaugurated with the signing of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, in the hopes that direct American involvement in the European war could be avoided, and that the country would remain merely the great arsenal of democracy. With the passing of international arms marketing from the private...

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