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Morality and Economic Imperative

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by PhotoEcosse, Dec 9, 2016.

  1. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I had an interesting conversation in the pub last night with a friend who spent his working life as a top engineer with the part of BAe Systems that used to be Ferranti.

    It started with Boris's Bloomers and strayed on to the morality of exporting arms to dictatorial or repressive regimes.

    Basically, his thesis could be summarised as follows:

    1. Virtually all technological development is driven by innovation and invention in the defence industry. That innovation then percolates down into other spheres of engineering.

    2. Without very substantial exports, the defence industry in the UK would simply not have the revenue to fund research and development. Our own defence requirements would come nowhere near the necessary level.

    3. Without the research and innovation in our defence industry, all other sectors of our engineering and technology industries would become hopelessly out of date and uncompetitive in the world market and would, consequently, wither and die, causing mass unemployment and economic disaster.

    4. Virtually all potential customers for our arms industry exports are what I described as dictatorial or oppressive regimes. Enlightened countries either have their own arms industry or don't have the wealth to buy our products.

    He countered my suggestion that I would much rather live in comparative poverty than continue funding war and genocide with two points:

    1. Few of the British public would agree with me.

    2. If Britain stopped supplying arms to such regimes, a competitor would immediately fill the gap and there would be no reduction in war and genocide.

    What do other forumites think?
  2. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Don't agree with item 1, so the rest of it falls down. UK R&D expenditure is around £30.6 Billion per year. Of that, £1.7 Billion is Aerospace and £2.3 Billion Motor vehicles. £6.3 Billion is described as "other" in the government stats, so if we pretend all of this is defence related, around a third of the UK's total R&D spending goes to weapons. In reality, I guess the real figure is no more than £2 billion. The real standout spending is the education sector, around £7.5 Billion and pharmaceuticals at around £4 Billion.
  3. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    I've written about three answers to this so far but deleted each one. Basically, I think the bloke in the pub is spouting oblox - probably had to justify it all to himself somehow.

    Question - if sanctions against Russia are appropriate for making/supplying surface to air missiles which brought down an airliner, why haven't we seen calls for sanctions on the UK and US for supplying weapons used against civilians in Yemen, Palestine, etc.?

    (Rhetorical question!)
    Wheelu, peterba and Catriona like this.
  4. Craig Vanrooy

    Craig Vanrooy Active Member

    I'd be inclined to agree to an extent. I'm an Engineer for Jaguar Land Rover and if you look awfully closely there's a lot of technology that goes into our cars. Heads up displays, aerodynamics, aluminium architecture to name but a few.
  5. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    A not unusual state of affairs.
  6. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Some of that tech has undoubtedly come from the weapons sector (too Orwellian to call it defence), but had that level of cash been pumped into automotive in the first place, we'd have even better/cleaner/more sustainable vehicles, AND less blood on our hands.

    Just sayin'.
  7. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Ultimately the cutting edge of any tech is 'sharpest' when the perceived need is greatest. The greatest threat to our existence (as a nation/race/species whatever) is the depletion of the earth's resources, pollution and our impact on climate change. But obviously the perception is that 'terrorism' is more dangerous (ironic considering we have put weapons in their hands in exchange for money/influence/strategic aims!).

    If we directed that weapons R&D money into environmental care/preservation etc. just imagine what kind of impact it could have.
    peterba and Catriona like this.
  8. Footloose

    Footloose Well-Known Member

    Hmmm ... We can gain a pretty good idea of the above consequences by looking at some, if not all of the Scandinavian countries, but taking on board how society has evolved in some of these, would probably lead to the demise of too many of the 'sacred cows' and policies that some of our political parties wish to hold onto?
    Trannifan and steveandthedogs like this.
  9. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Time then to shoot the sacred cows. Shooting the political parties would be too messy.
    Trannifan and Catriona like this.
  10. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    C''mon Boris!!
  11. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    How's this for a coincidence - the BBC Trust vice chair is very high up in BAe Systems. Obviously there must be another reason arms sales aren't big news on the Beeb?
  12. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    Money money money supersedes morality in Government attitudes.
    I truly hope Boris opens his mouth wide and jumps into the void of truth! There's plenty of space there.
    PhotoEcosse and Trannifan like this.
  13. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the reason so little was said on the Beeb of HSBC's scandals has nothing to do with the chair of the BBC Trust being a director at HSBC at the time. Oh no, there were other [sub editor, insert examples here] reasons.
    PhotoEcosse and peterba like this.
  14. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    I wish I'd known that on Thursday night!
  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Of course war and existential struggle concentrate the mind. But where have war and existential struggle been, from a UK point of view, for well over half a century? Eisenhower's phrase "the military-industrial complex" (1961) sums things up pretty well.


  16. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    With a slight drift in subject, I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with BoJo. But his comments on the Saudi's proxy wars needed saying...
    Catriona likes this.
  17. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Hmmn, very interesting Thread.

    How much of a piece of military industry research into a possible weapon is 'killing machine' and how much is high technology of another kind? Andrew is taking the right approach in trying to look at bottom lines for evidence of economic effects.
  18. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Craig, Some of it goes in the other direction. I seem to recall - warning: memory can be defective - that an invention of Bruce McLaren's found its way into British tanks. Have I remembered that right? Motor sport monocoque sandwich techniques finding their way into 'Cobham armour'? Cheers, Oly

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