Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

101: Marilyn Waring Part V:
The Value of Death & the Economics of Reproduction

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

“The policy propaganda of national income accounting generates a belief that many economic problems – unemployment, underutilization of capital, lack of growth – are susceptible to improvement through military spending.” (Q1) However war and destruction ought to be considered not profit because the capital stock is not improved, life is lost and futures destroyed or mortgaged. “The economic position of war is still measured … in terms of profit, production, capital, and ‘manpower.’ Nowhere is an account for death, poverty, homelessness, refugee populations, ruined food sources, the enormous waste in investment in armaments, and in an increasingly fragile and exploited environment.” (Q2)

The size of military budgets and “defense” departments is indicative of the high value we, as a society due to our system of national accounts, put on acquiring and maintaining the power to kill people and destroy the earth. As evidence first, consider MAD and the amount of money spent because its logic said it would be good and valuable thing to kill every single person 500 times over. Second, consider that in this world of plenty, a country or countries that have an economic accounting system dedicated to war and an economic production system that is heavily invested in war production, these kinds of countries would benefit from having a war going on somewhere in the world at all times. (Q3)

“In the international economic system, the arms race registers death both as manufactured production and as our ‘desire’ to consume it as a government service. So death by war has a mathematical value. Other death – by poverty, starvation, thirst, homelessness, disease – is not of the same order. It is not even registered as a deficit. These deaths do not enter the market – their ‘value’ is in registering no cost to the market.”

Making war winnable is the purpose of the economic system we live in. therefore it stands to reason that money can always be found for war; that war will lead to economic growth; that war will increase economic productivity. The evidence for these “truths” will continue as long as the system of national accounts continues to preordain the results. The system may continue as long as so many people benefit from the economic opportunities of the war machine; and so many people continue to believe that the best way to solve differences is through armed conflict. To find the value of death in the system, the author roughly totaled up the amount of military spending from 1945 to 1986 and found that the amount of money spent to ensure that we could kill everyone on earth was $700 Million per person. In other words: somehow the system though it was worth spending about $700 Million to make sure you could be killed at any time between 1945 and 1986 – that is the value of death by war.

The Economics of Reproduction

Now let’s consider the invisibility of what makes life possible. In a narrow economic sense, “reproduction” refers to at least six non-market aspects of a market transaction. First is biological reproduction which includes pregnancy, birth, motherhood and so much more is all reduced to “welfare” and within the economic system is measured in cash payments. Second is labour force reproduction which is measured in terms of “fertility” and is most often expressed in reproductive rights (or lack of rights). Third is the reproduction of relations of production which includes the perpetuating of women’s roles inside and outside the household which includes lower pay, benefits and job security. A subset includes the reproduction of enslavement in the form of “female infanticide, preference for sons, maternal mortality, the custom of women eating last or least, female sexual slavery, and marriage.” The reproduction of enslavement is also connected to the fourth non-market aspect of market transaction: the reproduction of relations of reproduction. What can be noticed, especially from the last list is that there is always a transaction but rarely is it a market transaction. Fifth is “the reproduction of the social relations between women and men, which includes the religious, legal, and cultural beliefs and practices that define women as the property of men.” Lastly, sixth is the reproduction of the boundary of reproduction. It “is the categorization, and subsequent institutionalization, of who does (and doesn’t) and/or should (or shouldn’t) reproduce. It is distinguished and characterized in colonization, neocolonization, religious fundamentalism, and homophobia.”

Next time we will look at how the economics of reproduction occurs in 7 markets: the 1) technological medical, 2) legal, 3) social and cultural, 4) labour, 5) sexuality, 6) social welfare, and 7) propaganda markets.

Q1 How many people have heard the theory that WWII was the event that ended the great depression? Have you ever heard that technology seems to advance most during war? It is true because the current system makes it so. It was not always the case; not for most of human history. Though out most of human history the most productive workers usually made the best soldiers: war reduced economic production. The reason these two questions are true in the affirmative is because the system makes it so. However if the system were to privilege some other aspect of human endeavor (such as exploration, education, social welfare, justice etc.) then these would be what we would excel in. Then on this (whatever we chose) would be what it would make sense to spend $700 Million per person for 40 years. How does that strike you?

Q2 material and immaterial wealth is cumulative. This means that we can save it and build on it. But by having an economic system that focuses on war and destruction we seriously limit what can be done. Imagine the cumulative wealth of society and the world if we saved and invested in a system that values any enterprise that did not involve war. What could be done with $700 Million per person over 40 years if we could not set out to destroy any positive value?

Q3 The difference between wars of the past (in which religion or scarcity of supply played a critical role in defining the end) and wars today (that are not necessary and are unending) is in their end goal. Today wars are fought for the sake of perpetuating war. Is the world really different today? And is it likely our new system has anything to do with the difference?

© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren