The Business of Conflict

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Philip says:

    Funny — though, I guess, naturally — you mention Ike’s warning about the military-industrial complex.  Less remembered are his words of caution about the influence of a “scientific-technological elite,” a clique of equal relevance. Wouldn’t mind some Gents’ thoughts about it.Report

  2. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Interesting, Philip.  Though these days I’m more worried about the international financiers when it comes to elites…private armies and globalist financial institutions – now there’s a connection worth investigating…er…at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, of course…Report

  3. Ahem.  There’s another problem here as well, though: the accountability problem.  Private businesses exist to serve customers; the trouble is that the “customer” of a glorified government contractor isn’t Joe Taxpayer – it’s the government official who gave them the contract in the first place.  This is not as big a problem (though it can still definitely be a problem) when you’re talking about a contractor who simply supplies the government with items.  But it’s a huge problem when you’re talking about a contractor whose job it is to act in lieu of the government – their primary goal isn’t going to be to do that job in the way the electorate wants it done, it’s going to be to do that job in the way that best insures they keep getting the contract.  This can mean doing the sponsoring official’s bidding without question, and shielding that official from responsibility; it also may mean performing a task in a way that would be illegal if performed by a government entity (which may be exactly why the official privatized the contract in the first place!). 

    Whatever problems may exist with government contracting where the contractor is merely supplying the government with a service are unavoidable, but also often tolerable.  But when the contractor is acting in lieu of and on the behalf of the government, you’ve got a dangerous mix in which that company is ordained with all or most of the powers of the relevant government entity, but is accountable only to the official who awarded the contract.Report

  4. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Excellent points, Mark.Report

  5. Avatar Dave says:

    Mark,

    Moreso, I thought the situation with firms like Blackwater in Iraq was that there was no legal body that had jurisdiction over them, at least initially perhaps due to the contract with the U.S. government.

    I’d have to look that up, but I remember Marty Lederman making that point over at Balkinization some time ago.Report