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Report From Iron Mountain not so scandalous





boinsterman
I found a copy of Report From Iron Mountain online via a search engine and downloaded it. It is not so scandalous as some would like us to believe, in my opinion. It does not advocate war for economic gain, as some people seem to believe it does.

The report, according to what was included in the text of the PDF download, is the findings of a group of experts from various fields (from economics to engineering to medicine and the like) on the desired direction of American economic activity. It was supposedly intended for the President's reading. The participants supposedly met in a secure facility in an unknown location, which inspired the "Iron Mountain" part of the title.

President Lyndon Johnson, according to the same included text, reportedly "blew his stack" and ordered the report "classified for all time." (Apparently it did not have an initial classification and was intended for public availabilty.) Thus, if I were to quote it in an academic paper, I would include this information and state that its reliability as a source should be treated as a having an anonymous author, such as if I had found it on the sidewalk.

Some people interpret the report as advocating war for economic gain. I also saw it listed in a catalog for Loompanics, a book publisher which published "beat-the-system" like books. (The owner of Loompanics, David Hoy, is now retired and to my knowledge sold the publishing rights of some or all of the books, but not the business itself, so it is now effectively out of business.) The description suggested the US government was trying to hide something by classifying it.

The report does in fact state that war stimulates economic gain, such as occurred with WWII. Armies need arms and other supplies, and the businesses which supply them provide jobs, as do the armies themselves.

But nowhere in the report does it seem to advocate war for that purpose. While it also did not endorse avoiding war either, I read it as simply stating that the economic effect is true. The tone is dry and academic in a fashion similar to a review of the actions of serial killers or mass murderers and why they kill. My own brother wrote such a paper (on classifying types of mass murders) as a graduate thesis while in law school. No one to my knowledge interprets any such paper as an endorsement of murder, nor should they. The authors of such writings are merely trying to understand the problems being considered. Due to limitations of space or language (or a desire for objectivity, which is highly valued in the academic world), the writing tends to avoid moral judgments. While the report had no effective solutions to offer, I believe the same lack of moral judgment is true of Report From Iron Mountain. The authors are merely trying to state the problem.

The report also describes other activities as stimulating the economy, such as space exploration, building of roads and other infrastructure and public works, foreign aid, social services, education, and the like. To the extent of their economic stimulus, they seem to be given equal weight to war in their consideration. (I personally would like to see more space exploration, but the budget drain and corresponding public sentiment are major reasons for the slowing of the space program.) These are all government activities which do not directly produce vital goods and services (food, shelter, clothing, and perhaps medical care) necessary for the basic health and well-being of the American people.

Other nonessential industries and corresponding economic activities are those initiated by individuals and private groups, such as the manufacture and sale of knick-knacks, fine food or fine shelter or fashion/fine clothing, and various forms of entertainment. While these often serve other needs of society, their main economic effect is economic stimulus--they provide a living to those who offer them.

Some of the other needs of society and some corresponding industries or occupations:
might be maintaining the standards of civilization

    A butler or other household servants might seek to maintain the standards of civilization, as portrayed in shows such as Downtown Abbey
    When a person is effectively a vegetable for the rest of his or her life and needs someone to care for him or her (yet cannot produce goods and services) we do so, even at great cost. A family member or a friend might do so out love. A stranger might do so out of altruism.
    Education gives us the skills needed to meet future challenges.
    The entertainment industry helps us relax, to deal with stress, and to "not live by bread alone."


These other needs of individuals or society are valuable. Any inclusion here of them should not be construed as thinking less of them simply because they do not directly produce essential goods and services. I am all in favor of most of them, especially those which I feel are worthy ends in and of themselves.
SonLight
I find it quite interesting that similar economic benefits can be derived from either war or some dramatic technical achievement like space exploration. We certainly know that there have been "spin-off" benefits from these activities; we didn't really need the report to bring that to our attention.

Perhaps there are non-economic purposes also which can be served by either war or space exploration. Both require risking life and limb, and a great deal of teamwork. I suspect that if society's psyche is stimulated by technical achievements involving honor skill and ingenuity, it will not be so easy to get involved in wars.

I want to learn more about the study. President Johnson presumably received it at a time when he was focusing on the Vietnam war, and may have been offended by it and feared that its release at that time would negatively impact the war effort.
boinsterman
I don't remember exactly where I downloaded it from, or what search engine I used to find it. I only know I found it via one of the more popular search engines, as a pdf file. I'm pretty sure I used either the complete title or the phrase "Iron Mountain" as the search term.

I don't know why it was classified. No reason was given, to my knowledge. Most of my information comes from the document itself.
SonLight
The document appears to be a spoof. It became quite popular, and probably did help turn the American people against the war in Vietnam. President Johnson apparently really did get upset about it, not because it gave away secrets but because it was quite damaging to him politically.

You may recall that President Johnson announced he would not run for a second term about April of 1968. I was quite astonished at the time, because I knew he was an accomplished politician, and I had assumed he would do whatever it took to get elected. Apparently he was unwilling to just pull out at that time, and was willing to sacrifice his own career in order to both do what he felt had to be done in Southeast Asia and give the Democratic party a reasonable chance to elect another President that year.
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