To provide empirical terms of reference for the analysis, I consider periods of military mobilization to be defined by a rapid, uninterrupted, multiyear increase of real military outlays, and periods of demobilization by a substantial decrease of real military outlays. In the United States since 1948, three mobilizations have occurred, during 1950–53, 1965–68, and 1978 to the present. The first two were followed by demobilizations. The third (as of this writing) is still in progress–real military spending increased by about 3 percent in calendar year 1987–though budgetary authorizations and appropriations already legislated make an eventual spending retrenchment almost certain.
An increase of the share of G-M in GNP can occur at the expense of either the share of P or the share of G-NM or of both. A natural distinction may be drawn between “capitalist” buildups, when the share of G-NM declines, and “socialist” buildups, when the share of P declines. Obviously, mixed cases are possible. Demobilizations may be viewed in the same way.
In light of the empirical findings, one may reconsider the institutions and processes by which resources are allocated among P, G-M, and G-NM. Of particular concern is the role of ideology and information. Who knows what, and who believes what, about national defense requirements and capabilities? How is the existing information used in the political processes that determine the broad allocation of resources? How stable are public preferences, and what makes them change as they do?