A Surge of Robots


The defense department is recruiting thousands of new machines for a surge of robots (really). Robert Farley notes that these measures mostly seem “shift the cost of war from the blood side of the ledger to the treasure side.” In the short run, this makes questionable military ventures much more sustainable in the United States since we’re a rich country and the public’s aversion to taxes doesn’t extend to an aversion to spending, and the national elite’s aversion to deficit spending doesn’t extend to defense spending.

If Blue Dogs and Concord Coalition types started applying normal budgetary scrutiny to military stuff, it’s hard to see this working. But they don’t, so it does. It makes me sad to think how much better off we’d be today if the past five years’ worth of $100-$200 billion emergency appropriations had been spent on building a clean, economically productive 21st century transportation infrastructure rather than on Iraq. One important political question going forward is whether we’ll continue to treat war spending in Iraq as some “doesn’t count” black hole or whether the costs of an indefinite engagement there will actually get weighed against alternative uses of our resources.