Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Government investment spurs private industry advances! Um, but...

There is always a debate about the targeting of funds to government agencies. Purists argue that this is an inefficient use of economic resources. Proponents, argue, mount the counter-argument that investing money in government agencies will often lead to advances in the private sector. The space program is cited as an example; as we in the United States targeted money to land a man on the moon, we lavished procurement dollars on private enterprises, and we got...Tang. Well, we got other stuff too.

There's a similar discussion going on right now, but with a little wrinkle. You see, the U.S. Army wants to get a new gun for the first time in several decades, and is mounting a procurement effort to achieve this.

Several gun makers will compete for the lucrative contract, developing weapons that are more reliable and more powerful than those currently in service....But the last time the military challenged the industry to make a better handgun, all the innovations intended for the battlefield also ended up in the consumer market...

Great, huh? Government investment spurs private advances! But let me finish that sentence.

...and the severity of civilian shootings soared.

As Defense One explains, a disturbing trend was noticed in the 1980s, as patients at Washington DC hospitals became more and more likely to show up with multiple gunshot wounds. The spike in these injuries occurred at precisely the same time that Beretta won an Army contract to produce handguns - and immediately released a civilian model with similar features. Meanwhile, those who lost in the Army competition took their improvements and released them to the civilian market also.

While there were other issues - the Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986 served to deregulate the market at the same time - certainly government indirect investment in the gun industry played a role in the hospital statistics that followed.
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