Sunday, May 13, 2012

Military Research Drives Economic Growth

Some people believe military spending should be cut so more money could be spent taking care of the poor.  The classic textbook Economics by Paul Samuelson has a chart of "guns versus butter" as an example of economic tradeoffs.  This is a deceptive argument.

Military research created the dynamos that drive the modern economy:  computers, computer programming, the internet, radar, and jet aircraft.  Let us look briefly at computers, using the MANIAC computer as an example.  MANIAC  stands for mathematical and numerical integrator and computer.  It was the brain child of John von Neumann while he was at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.  We all know how computers drive the modern economy.  However, the first test of the MANIAC happened in the summer of 1951, and it was a thermonuclear calculation that ran for 60 days nonstop.

As we give more thought to economics, we must avoid being misled by spurious arguments.  A strong military is indispensable for a free nation. Military research often leads to economic growth. Are Texas universities contributing enough to America's military research? 

Robert Canright

Information about the MANIAC computer is from the book, Turing’s Cathedral, the Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson

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