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The Merchants of Death

The Merchants of Death by Engelbrecht and Hanighen

Tags War and Foreign PolicyWorld History

06/15/1934H.C. EngelbrechtF. C. Hanighen

Here is the archetype of all post–World War I revisionism of a particular variety: the hunt for the people who made the big bucks off the killing machine. The Merchants of Death was, in many ways, the manifesto of a generation of people who swore there would not be and could not be another such war.

But here is the kicker: it was co-authored by the founder of Human Events, the conservative weekly. So this is no left-wing screed against profiteering. It is a careful and subtle, but still passionate, attack on those who would use government to profit themselves at the expense of other people's lives and property.

Here is a sample of the ideological orientation: "The arms industry did not create the war system. On the contrary, the war system created the arms industry.… All constitutions in the world vest the war-making power in the government or in the representatives of the people. The root of the trouble, therefore, goes far deeper than the arms industry. It lies in the prevailing temper of peoples toward nationalism, militarism, and war, in the civilization which forms this temper and prevents any drastic and radical change. Only when this underlying basis of the war system is altered, will war and its concomitant, the arms industry, pass out of existence."

This book is a wonderful example of what Rothbard called the "Old Right" in its best form. The book not only makes the case against the war machine; it provides a scintillating history of war profiteering, one authoritative enough for citation and academic study. One can see how this book had such a powerful effect.

Why re-release this book now? The war profiteers are making money as never before. They are benefiting from conflict as never before. Everything in this book has not only come to pass but as been made worse by a million times. So this treatise is more necessary than ever.

This is the real heritage of the American Right.


H.C. Engelbrecht

H.C. Engelbrecht (1895–1939) received his PhD at Columbia University, with a dissertation on Johann Gottlieb Fichte. While teaching at the University of Chicago, he wrote the bestseller Merchants of Death (1934) with F.C. Hanighen.

F. C. Hanighen

F.C. Hanighen (1899–1964) was an American journalist and the founding editor of Human Events. In 1934 he published the bestseller Merchants of Death with H.C. Engelbrecht.


Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1934