One benefit of coping with the flu, is the opportunity to catch up on things you wanted to watch but haven't had the opportunity to watch. So I watched the documentary Why We Fight, which is about the rise and maintenance of the military-industrial complex.
This documentary describes what Milton Friedman referred to as the "iron triangle" (special interest groups, politicians, and government bureaucracies) within the context of the military-industrial complex. Friedman isn't invoked in the documentary, that is me making sense of the discussion via the economic way of thinking.
In many ways, the documentary is a good compliment to Chris Coyne's After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy. Given our ongoing budgetary woes, it makes sense to read (re-read) this book and realize just how costly our military efforts have been for so little benefit. Don't jump to conclusions, I know that military spending is not the only bloated aspect of our budget. There are cuts required across all aspects of government. As I have argued, our public debate has to switch from discussions of scale, to questions of the scope of government. Until we do that, not much progress will be made. As Keynes said, 'you don't make a fat man skinny by tightening his belt.' Starving the state of resources isn't the effective way to tackle these problems, starving the state of responsibility is. But that requires that we build the intellectual case for how the private sector and civil society can effectively address the social ills that led to increased calls for state action to address them. A robust case for the voluntary sector (market and civil society) can address poverty, ignorance, squalor must be made and communicated effectively to the general public.
That is a tall order, but we can first start with an eyes-wide open approach to the extent of the costs associated with our current policies, and the limited benefits. Documentaries such as Why We Fight are one way to alert citizens to this reality. Books likes Coyne's Afer War provide the cool-headed analysis that explains this reality.