Free Enterprise - Principle 14

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Principle 14: Wars are costly and drain a society of its valuable human and material resources.

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You may have seen pictures of motherless babies crying, wandering the streets in emotional shock. Their mothers were killed by a bomb blast. They had the misfortune of being born into a country at war! Even when necessary, war is a costly drain on society.

In the drawing we see oil, a material resource, going down the drain. It is being wasted! Valuable emotional resources can be wasted too. War is a drain on both material and emotional resources.

It is hard to turn emotional agony into a number. But is not hard to imagine the emotional trauma caused by the many wars/armed conflicts raging on our planet right now. Think of the children who lose their mothers or fathers to war. Think of the wives and husbands living in grief. And for those not killed, there are still the pains of physical wounds, the emotional pains of families being torn apart.

Sometimes war is unavoidable, but the pain it inflicts leaves emotional scars for decades to come. Unfortunately, post traumatic stress disorder is now a mental condition common to our world. How do we measure the talent lost, the joys never experienced, and the energy of anger and revenge that consumes some survivors? Society loses out when these folks in pain are unable to deliver their finest creative skills and talents to benefit society. War drained away their energy.

There are also financial costs. The cost to rebuild a bombed out airport is huge. When soldiers are fighting they are not producing food, clothes or houses that people need to live. Money needed for schools and roads must be diverted to make tanks and rifles.

When the homeland is attacked it must militarily defend itself. But defending is costly and will drain off some of society’s valuable human and material resources.


Trouble had developed in their little valley community. It started so quickly it took everyone by surprise. One day at the noon meal, when all were gathered around, it happened!

A girl stood up, started screaming bad names at Andre, and charged at him.. She knocked him into the fire pit. He was badly burned.

Quicker than anyone could have imagined, hostilities broke out—their once peaceful valley was at war! Two opposing sides quickly developed! Each side thought the other was very wrong about something—it didn’t seem to matter what! Once friends, they quickly became enemies.

Marcella was glad she and Sabetha were on the same side.

“Sabetha, what are we going to do?” she wailed as she paced back and forth. “We needed those kids to buy the huts we invested in—and now they are our enemies!”

“I’m not really worried about a drop in sales—I’m worried about Andre and Allen’s tools and materials being burned or destroyed in some way! And Andre is hurt. Will he even be able to run the company?”

She really was worried. She remembered times back in the real world, before the crash, how countries would deliberately try to ruin each other. They did not just try and kill and injure soldiers, they tried to destroy the enemy’s economy too.

“We have got to stop this thing!” She exclaimed.

“Well” said Marcella, “I agree, but how? We have kids who used to be friends trying to hurt each other now. Did you see hat group of boys kicking the ones they pushed to the ground?”

Much to Sabetha’s dismay, they had to scurry away and hide because a gang with flaming torches was coming toward where the tools and materials were stored —probably to burn them.

Someone shouted, “Let’s just see how important Andre and Allen feel now after we burn them out—we’ll show them! They are not the only ones that can make things happen!”

“Marcella, this is terrible! Valuable resources are just being drained away!” Sabetha was so sad.

Activity: The point of this activity is to show the human and material cost of war. The author’s bias is that was should be avoided when possible but when attacked a nation is entitled to defend itself. Being a peaceful nation is good, but you can’t let enemies subdue you.

You might lead students in a discussion of the various ways people feel about war. Some are pacifists, some are “hawks”, and others accept war in some circumstances. Respect for the various positions is good. Explain this exercise is not about promoting a position on war in general: it is about the costs of war, regardless of how one feels about war.

Ask students to list some costs of war in material terms. They may come up with costs such as money for guns, uniforms, military bases, ships, airplanes, rehabilitation hospitals, prosthetics for missing limbs, etc. You can write these costs on the board.

Then ask them to list the non material costs. This may be more challenging for them. There generally are not dollar amounts here, but emotional burdens and pains. There is the agony of having a loved one killed, of children growing up without a parent, suffering on the battlefield, suffering during the months for rehabilitation, etc. There are also the costs of what will never get done because someone got killed or wounded; the killed soldier who will never finish university and go on to be a school teacher or the blinded soldier who won’t become an artist. Lead them to this awareness.

There are times when war may be necessary but it will have costs. Necessary or not, it will drain away some of society’s resources.

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