In response to Lida Mirzaii’s piece, “We have to be realistic about military research” Peter Campbell goes one step further, and says BAE are not the bad guys we make them out to be.
Life is full of moral dilemmas. In an age where almost any decision regarding change can be morally objected to, from the banning of foxhunting to the decision to allow same sex couples to adopt, here at last is an easy one. The news that York receives £8m of funding from BAE Systems and others to aid research in the electronics and computer science departments is seen by some as shocking and by others as immoral. Ultimately, however, we should see it as encouraging. While many arguments may be raised against BAE, there is actually a lot going for it, particularly from an economic perspective.
Firstly, the company is a major employer, with thousands of families’ dependant on the income they receive from BAE. Within the UK alone, BAE offer jobs in engineering, project management, customer support, commercial, procurement, finance, and human resources to name but a few. At a time when graduate employment has started to drop, a company that offers vocations in such a wide variety of areas within an expansive industry is surely to be encouraged.
Secondly, the company contributes a huge amount to the UK economy in two different ways. The tax paid by both the company and by its employees amounts to a fearsome sum, injecting valuable money into the economy, and the substantial exports of goods, largely to Australia, Sweden and the US, helps Britain’s balance of payments, thus creating a greater in-flow of foreign currency.
Thirdly, their partnership in Airbus, the aeroplane-manufacturing giant, helps prevent a US-owned monopoly of the industry.
But finally, and most importantly, they fund technical research throughout the UK, thus enabling the UK to remain within the premier league of industrialised nations. Now why is this important? Surely we cannot stop other nations, such as China, South Korea or India overtaking us economically? Would it not be better to adopt a moral approach and pay the industrial “league-table” consequences? Well actually no. With our international status comes an automatic audience, such that we can exercise diplomatic power in negotiations and can have our views heard in order that we might then contribute to global matters in an effective manner. Thus, were we to let our position internationally decline by not researching or updating our systems we would then have a diminished power of persuasion on the international stage. Those of you who are concerned about the Arms Trade might be interested to consider under which set of circumstances we would be best placed to help stop the illegal arms trade, as well as the deeply sensitive issue of human trafficking.
All this can therefore lead us to the conclusion that investment into research by a company of such economic standing can only be viewed as good. Whether or not you morally object to the work of BAE in supplying Britain and America with arms, to take a stand against research that enables Britain to remain one of the most developed nations makes no sense at all.
To those of you who would doggedly take the moral high ground, I say this: Do not let this issue become the new sweat shop story. Whether it is to design new landing gear for aeroplanes at Heathrow or to develop communications devices for British troops struggling to restore peace to Helmand province, the work of BAE is not the evil that is often portrayed. I would even go so far as to say that it is an inherently good thing to have York University funded to research in order to aid Britain’s industrial standing and therefore international attention.
Investment of this magnitude is important, nay vital in establishing York University’s place within our national infrastructure.