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Both Guns and Butter, or Neither: Class Interests in the Political Economy of Rearmament


A major rearmament program can have a lasting effect on the balance of political and economic power between societal groups. It will typically require the expansion of progressive taxation and government interference in the economy, both of which are disproportionately harmful to the interests of the upper classes. Consequently, conservative governments that face a sharp increase in international threat should be more likely than their leftist counterparts to try to substitute alliances and appeasement for arms. I test this hypothesis on Great Britain in 1895–1905, 1907–14, and 1931–39, France in 1904–14 and 1935–39, and the United States in 1938–41, 1948–60, and 1979–86. In all but one of these cases, I find that leftist governments did more to strengthen their countries' militaries than conservatives.This paper was made possible by the generous support of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. I would also like to thank Ben Fordham, P. R. Goldstone, Greg Mitrovich, Talbot Imlay, Brad Lee, Ken Schultz, Deborah Boucoyannis, Mark Haas, Sean Lynn-Jones, and the participants in the Olin Institute's National Security Seminar Series and the Belfer Center's International Security Program Seminar Series for their helpful comments and advice.

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