The Higher Education-Military-Industrial Complex

In a not-often-cited part of his infamous 1961 “Military-Industrial-Complex” speech, (imperialist) President Eisenhower explained how the government subsidizes research, which private interests then profit off of (emphasis mine).

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

In his “The Military Is Misunderstood” lecture, at the 2013 Center for Popular Economics conference, Chomsky made a similar point.

He argues that the military exists for two primary reasons:

  1. to subsidize technology and research for private corporations, and
  2. to maintain US hegemony abroad.

Research is expensive, and inhibits short-term profit. So we, the people, pay for the expensive part, while corporations profit off of what we ourselves paid for.

This is how capitalism works.