By Chandran Nair

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia-Last week, I was invited by the Club of Rome Japan to address the topic of extreme capitalism at an international symposium.

To give an example of how our economies have been hijacked by different forms of extreme capitalism, I argued that a good example of the most corrupt and dangerous form of capitalism is the business of war, in which organisations profit by thriving on conflicts between nations.

How has this happened?

The capitalist economy has allowed the arms trade to fall into the hands of an elite pool of extremely powerful organisations, which have in turn formed a global “defence” industry that tragically also seeks growth — an important feature of the capitalist system.

These companies are in bed with Defence Ministries around the world and possess a superstructure so intricate and powerful that it can shape state politics and foreign policies.

Most global industries that are deemed to inflict large-scale harm across society are the subject of great scrutiny and even regulatory oversight: fossil fuels, finance, big pharma, junk food, and tobacco. 

The externalities of these industries and successive economic shocks in the last two decades have led to repeated calls for "reshaping capitalism".

Yet the business of war has been manoeuvred outside of public scrutiny – instead of being seen as a threat to our societies, it is even lauded by many. This is extreme capitalism at its most insidiously dangerous.

Indeed, to spur the growth of the defence industry and validate government budget spending, there is a need to heighten tensions and create fear, anxiety, and threat. As we speak, we are seeing the drums of war being beaten relentlessly by global mainstream media.

The business incentives are real.
In 2021, the US alone accounted for more than 40 percent of the world’s weapons exports. The country also has the highest military spending at US$801 billion. In the same year, the total European defence spending surpassed €200 billion ($217 billion) for the first time, and the UK spent $68.4bn on its military.
China, despite being more populous than the US, the UK and Europe combined, spent $293 billion.

It would be naive to suggest that China and other large nations like India do not have their own versions of this perverse industry, but they are not the ringleaders of this global industry.

Trillions have been spent on wars since the turn of the millennium. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and now the flooding of weapons into Europe. 
Extreme capitalism has helped the business of war ruin nations, kill millions, and leave generations displaced, all while making the owners of a shadowy global industry extremely wealthy and influential.

We need to build an industry of peace. I suggested that a united north Asia in which Japan, Korea and China come together for peace rather than be played off against each other by the warmongers would change Asia and the world for the better.