This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
War is the greatest fact that presents itself in this part of our general subject. Its consumption, its expenditures, are wholly for unproductive purposes, and not only unproductive, but absolutely destructive of those by whose labor wealth is produced. War demands by far the largest part of all the revenues of civilized governments throughout the world. It therefore claims consideration as far as our limits will permit.
That war is a political necessity while no preparation is made for preserving peace, cannot for a moment be denied. So also were private combats and the wager of battle in by-/ gone ages. Disputes will ensue between nations as between individuals; and, if no provision is made for umpirage or arbitration, a resort to the sword is inevitable. Hence the great system of war. But for established laws and courts of justice, individuals would, of necessity, be compelled to seek redress for private grievances by an appeal to brute force. This would not, indeed, determine which of the parties were in the right, only which was the stronger or more fortunate in the struggle. So of nations. When differences arise between them, how can they be settled except by a trial of strength? There is no well-defined, well-established code of international law; there is no tribunal of international justice: how then, except in battle, can their disputes be adjusted? It is a well-established principle, that a man should not be a judge in his own case; and therefore, as between individuals, it is decided, that, instead of the wager of battle, the aggrieved party shall submit his case to the arbitrament of his fellow-citizens. But, as between nations, no such arrangement has as yet been made.
Hence we are to contemplate war as a political necessity, until the nations of the earth shall establish a code of international law, and institute a high court of appeal, to which their disputes shall be referred for adjudication.
War, then, in the sense in which we are to look at it, is not an accidental fact, but an established system; and, as an economical question, is to be regarded from three different points of view.
1st, As consisting of a permanent military force, a standing army, with all the paraphernalia of war; and, if the nation be maritime in its position, a naval force, somewhat proportioned to its military establishment.
2d, A system of constantly increasing preparations for war, — arsenals, dockyards, and manufactories.
3d, A heavy indebtedness for wars of the past, with unceasing taxation for the payment of accruing interest and the extension and perpetuation of the system.
These three items may be said to constitute the war system of the civilized world at the present day. Looking at war in its economical bearings only, the great feature that presents itself is the immense and constantly increasing expenditures it requires.
In proof of this, we first refer to the statistics of Great Britain, not because they are peculiar, but that they are full and reliable. Her naval and military expenditures from 1815 to 1865, during which period of fifty years there has been no protracted war, have been £1,084,330,507, equal to $5,000,000,000, or nearly twice as much as the whole present debt of the United States: from 1855 to 1865 inclusive, £769,612,936, of which £301,618,920 were required to pay interest on the national debt; £331,887,258 for current expenses of army and navy; for the cost of collection, £48,733,823 (or about six per cent of the whole revenue); and only £105,472,935 for all the expenses of civil government. So that, in paying interest upon the debt wholly created in war and in meeting present expenses, the war system swallowed up six sevenths of the entire revenue.
The "Annuaire Encyclopédique" has the following statement of the armies of Europe for 1863: —
But this sum of $644,283,880 is but a part of the cost. If we take the loss to production to be equal to $150 for each soldier (a low estimate), we shall find the additional amount to be five hundred and seventy-two millions of dollars per annum.
The following statistics from the muster-roll of the British army show its entire strength and composition: —
If from this total amount we deduct about 270,000 for the constabulary, the militia, volunteers, &c, we have 550,000 men, as the non-productive force required by the war establishment of Great Britain.
* The Report of the Secretary of the United-States Treasury for 1863 showed, that there was expended for the army §747,359,828, and for the navy §82,177,510; total, $829,532,838, or about thirty-three per cent more than all the war expenditures of Europe for that year.