Rusty guns and buttery soldiers: unemployment and the domestic origins of defense spending

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Abstract

Scholars and practitioners continue to debate transatlantic burden sharing, which has implications for
broader questions of collective action and international organizations. Little research, however, has analyzed
domestic and institutional drivers of burden-sharing behavior; even less has disaggregated defense
spending to measure burden sharing more precisely. This paper enhances understanding of the relationship
between national political economies and burden shifting, operationalizing burden shifting as the
extent to which a country limits or decreases defense expenditures, while at the same time favoring personnel
over equipment modernization and readiness in the composition of defense budgets. Why do countries
choose to allocate defense resources to personnel, rather than equipment modernization? I find that
governments slightly decrease top-line defense spending in response to unemployment while shifting
much more substantial amounts within defense budgets from equipment expenditures into personnel.
This research highlights the intimate connection between Europe’s economic fortunes, transatlantic security,
and burden sharing in NATO and the EU – of particular interest as a pandemic buffets the transatlantic
economy. It also points policy analysts toward factors more amenable to political decisions than the
structural variables generally associated with burden sharing, bridging significant gaps between defense
economics, security studies, and comparative political economy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Political Science Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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