An older article from Christopher A. Preble, reposted at the Cato Institute website:
The true costs of the military-industrial complex, they explain, “have so far been understated, as they do not take into account the full forgone opportunities of the resources drawn into the war economy.” A dollar spent on planes and ships cannot also be spent on roads and bridges. What’s more, the existence of a permanent war economy, the specific condition which President Dwight Eisenhower warned of in his famous farewell address, has shifted some entrepreneurial behavior away from private enterprise, and toward the necessarily less efficient public sector. “The result,” Coyne and Duncan declaim, “is a bloated corporate state and a less dynamic private economy, the vibrancy of which is at the heart of increased standards of living.”
The process perpetuates itself. As more and more resources are diverted into the war economy, that may stifle — or at least impede — a healthy political debate over the proper size and scope of the entire national security infrastructure, another fact that Eisenhower anticipated. Simply put, people don’t like to bite the hand that feeds them.
And that hand feeds a lot of people. The Department of Defense is the single largest employer in the United States, with 1.4 million uniformed personnel on active duty, and more than 700,000 full-time civilians. The defense industry, meanwhile, is believed to employ another 3 million people, either directly or indirectly.
What’s more, these are high paying jobs. In 2010, when the average worker in the United States earned $44,400 in wages and benefits, the average within the aerospace and defense industry was $80,100, according to a study by the consulting firm Deloitte. And 80 percent of that industry’s revenue comes from the government.