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The Total Influence

Forty five years ago this month, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech that seems to have accurately predicted the future:

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Farewell Address to the Nation, by Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1961

Eisenhower had been the commander of all Allied forces in Europe during World War II. He later went into politics as a Republican, and when he gave this speech he was the president of the United States. He knew of what he warned, and it would appear by the ongoing lobbying scandals in DC that he warned correctly.

He did propose a solution.

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