Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy
Sarah Kreps (Author)
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DescriptionWhy have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted longer than any others in American history? The conventional wisdom suggests that the move to an all-volunteer force and unmanned technologies such as drones have reduced the apparent burden of war so much that they have allowed these conflicts to continue almost unnoticed for years. Taxing Wars suggests that the burden in blood is just one side of the coin. The way Americans bear the burden in treasure has also changed, and these changes have both eroded accountability and contributed to the phenomenon of perpetual war. Sarah Kreps chronicles the entire history of how America has paid for its wars-and how its methods have changed. Early on, the United States imposed war taxes that both demanded sacrifices from all Americans and served as reminders of their participation. Indeed, thinkers from Immanuel Kant to Adam Smith argued that these reminders were exactly the reason why democracies tended to fight shorter and less costly wars. Bearing these burdens caused the populace to sue for peace when the costs mounted. Leaders in a democracy, responsive to their citizens, would have incentives to heed that opposition and bring wars to as expeditious an end as possible. Since the Korean War, the United States has increasingly moved away from war taxes. Instead, borrowing-and its comparatively less visible connection with the war-has become a permanent feature of contemporary wars. The move serves leaders well because reducing the apparent burden of war has helped mute public opposition and any decision-making constraints. But by masking accountability, however, the move away from war taxes undermines the basis for democratic restraint in wartime. Contemporary wars have become correspondingly longer and costlier as the public has become disconnected from those burdens. Given the trends identified in Taxing Wars, the recent past-epitomized by our lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq-is likely to be prologue.
Oxford University Press, USA
June 01, 2018
6.4 X 1.2 X 9.4 inches | 1.2 pounds
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About the Author
Sarah Kreps is Associate Professor of Government and Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell University. Kreps is the author of numerous books and academic articles on the topics of international security, in particular alliance politics, military technology, and the political economy of security. Shehas a B.A. from Harvard University, M.Sc. from Oxford University, and PhD from Georgetown University. Kreps previously served in the United States Air Force and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
"This is an excellent book - well-written, carefully researched, and with a clear message: that America's move away from war taxes to finance its wars through debt has shrouded the costs of these conflicts. The consequence is public apathy, diminished democratic accountability, and longer, costlier wars. TAXING WARS will appeal to political scientists and economic historians, but also to a general audience interested in ongoing policy debates about guns-butter tradeoffs and how they are addressed in our democracy." - Joseph Stiglitz, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, and the recipient of both the John Bates Clark Medal and the Nobel prize in Economics
"How do democracies pay for wars of choice? In this illuminating study, Sarah Kreps explains why modern democracies now finance wars by borrowing money instead of raising taxes. Eschewing taxes obscures the true cost of these wars, shifts the burden onto future generations, and helps pro-war leaders evade full accountability. Based on careful case studies and rigorous survey evidence, the book is exemplary social science with a powerful message: when publics do not feel the immediate costs of war, unnecessary wars will be harder to prevent and more difficult to end." - Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
"American wars are paid in blood and treasure, and most accounts focus on the human costs. Sarah Kreps' landmark work examines the other side of the coin: the financial costs of war, and the shift from taxation to borrowing as a means of paying them. Kreps' examiniation of this trend, and the political implications that flow from it, is a must-read for all those concerned with war, peace, and democracy." - Richard Fontaine, Center for New American Security
"The third book that upset one of my mental apple carts is Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy by Sarah Kreps (Oxford, 2018). Kreps shows that we used to pay for war by raising taxes, but now we add on debt and pass the bucks to future generations. That, plus technologically decreased casualty rates, may make it too easy for us to intervene in places where we may make things worse." - WORLD
"THE AMERICAN MILITARY: A Concise History carries precisely the right title. In just 127 small pages of text, Glatthaar, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gallops through American military history from the French and Indian War all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. Impressively, he manages to provide a lot more than battle histories, deftly delving into technological advances, social changes and political contexts. Anyone looking for a place to begin understanding the military history of our country would do well to start here." - THE NEW YORK TIMES