Online event: Inquire Capitalism’s Research in Progress Luncheon Seminar

Join us at noon on Friday, 23 October 2020 for a special digital version of the Inquire Capitalism’s Research in Progress Luncheon Seminar (lunch not required) 

Never Enough: The Evolution of U.S. Defense Contractor Policy, 1950s-2010s

Dr. Mark Wilson, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

In the decades after World War II U.S. military authorities believed, as did many corporate executives, that as the defense sector became more privatized, profit margins needed to rise, to attract sufficient private investment into the defense sector. Defense officials were attempting to navigate a challenging problem in Cold War political economy: how to compete with the Soviet Union (which could command huge public investments in defense without any regard to profit), while relying substantially, and increasingly, on for-profit firms and profit-seeking investors.  It was often a quixotic project, stymied by unanticipated events and unintended consequences, including contractors’ inability to handle a transition from cost-plus to fixed-price contracts, the Great Inflation of 1965-82, and swings in the defense budget.  However, over the longer run, the effort to make the defense sector more profitable has been a success, in its own terms. 

Should profits in the defense sector be regulated? Do they need to be higher than they have been in the past? Are there viable alternative configurations of the U.S. military-industrial sector, which might do more to promote the efficient use of tax dollars and provide necessary national and global security?  

For a copy of Dr. Wilson’s essay and to receive the Zoom invitation, contact Sean Adams at Reading the precirculated essay is not required, but it is recommended in order to facilitate discussion. For any questions, please contact Sean Adams at

This event is sponsored by the Hyatt and Cici Brown Chair of History.