Models of national defense: Relating weapon technology to the role of the state

Donald Alan Watt, University of Pennsylvania


Technological developments of the twentieth century have made possible many new ways for the state to undertake its traditional governmental activities. Among these developments are the weapon systems available for national defense. Generally they are developed and only after the fact is consideration given to the effect they will have upon the citizens of the state. This dissertation uses economic models to relate basic political theory to current national defense issues. After illustrating the fact that in political theory the legitimate role of the state is to benefit the welfare of its citizens, models based on insurance and portfolio theories are developed to give relative measures of welfare. These are used to obtain insights on how weapon acquisition relates to citizen welfare. In the development of the insurance model, from a commonly used analogy that national defense is like insurance, points of identification are noted, as well as factors in national defense which do not correlate with insurance. In the portfolio model, based on Harry Markowitz's portfolio theory, weapon system acquisition is viewed in terms of the expected return and variance. Through these models it can be seen that there are economic costs involved, which tend to decrease citizen welfare, but that the weapon systems tend to increase the certainty of future events, thereby increasing citizen welfare. Both models show that at some point in weapon system acquisition for deterrence, the increased economic costs are not balanced by a decreased variance. Through these models it can be more easily seen that the weapon systems must be viewed as a part of the foreign policy of the government, not as an end in themselves. The models show that it is legitimate for the state to acquire enough weapons to reach either the minimum variance possible for the given situation or to reach a level of variance the government finds acceptable. Acquisition beyond this point is not legitimate, as it takes the government beyond the role of the state.

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

Watt, Donald Alan, "Models of national defense: Relating weapon technology to the role of the state" (1988). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8816247.