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Narizny: Both guns and butter, or neither

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Narizny. 2003. Both guns and butter, or neither: Class interests and the political economy of rearmament. American Political Science Revew 97: 203-225.

In Brief

"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."

Despite some significant shortcomings (e.g. conservatives can profit considerably from defense spending, but Narizny neglects this), this was an insightful piece of work. Key contribution: IR cannot treat states as unitary actors; even in the most threatening situations, state security strategies (alliance vs armament) were critically affected by parochial interests (politics).

On the whole, though, this article kind of stunk.

Research on similar subjects


Narizny, Kevin (author)Comparative PoliticsPolitical EconomyWarClass Conflict

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