By John Glaser
January 21, 2013
Interest groups have always tried to influence the state for their own unearned benefit. Despite what idealists in this country would like to believe, going back to the founding of the United States, immediately following the end of the Revolutionary War, everyone from farmers to manufacturers scrambled get theirs from the fledgling state(s) in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, and protectionist regulation.
The most pernicious and by far the most influential lobby nowadays is the military-industrial complex. The name itself denotes a recipe for big government and big business to collude in the worst ways of corruption and warfare. The military lobby is especially distinct, despite the utter normalcy it has acquired today.
Consider what American revolutionaries thought of what could arguably be deemed the country’s first military lobby. Historian Merrill Jensen, in The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781-1789, describes the founding of the Society of Cincinnati:
Americans, partly as a result of their English Heritage, and partly as a result of their experience with British troops after 1763, had a healthy dislike of anything smacking of the professional military man. Revolutionary constitutions one after another forbade standing armies in peace time. The effort to create a permanent military force at the end of the Revolution was turned down. But many Americans who served during the Revolution as officers developed a keen desire to continue a military career.
…The founding of the Society of Cincinnati as the war ended was only further proof to many Americans that military men must be feared and controlled by civil power…The purpose behind the organization was partly political and partly social. Many officers felt that they must unite in order to be effective in their appeals to Congress and the states.