The Peace Profiteers

The war industry isn't the only sector of the economy that's benefiting from the United States' assault on Afghanistan. The "peace industry," as one could call it -- the manufacturers of anti-war buttons, T-shirts, and bumper stickers -- is placing big bets on a dramatic upswing in business, after the booming peacetime economy of the last decade almost did them in.

"In the Nineties, everything was going good in the economy. The Soviet Union collapsed, America didn't have any enemies," explains Gabriel Day, head of Arcata, California-based Resources for Peace, one of the three big sticker-and-button producers that virtually control the leftist self-expression market. "We dropped from grossing $650,000 in 1990 to less than $100,000 in 1996. I had to cut my staff back."

But as soon as Day learned that the U.S. military was mobilizing, he knew that could all change, and fast. So he swung into action, ordering 40,000 extra button parts, nearly a thousand extra blank tee shirts, more ink. He doubled his staff, and hired a new production manager to handle the extra work.

Day is going on past experience: when Operation Desert Shield started ten years ago, his company was bombarded with more orders than they could fill. "In the Gulf War we got hit so hard with orders we didn't have stuff to sell. We were working until midnight every night. Whatever stickers we had on the shelves that day would be gone the next." Within a month of the military mobilization under Bush Sr., Day's company saw an eightfold increase in sales.

Now, more than two months out from the terrorist attacks and more than a month out from the announcement that bombing had begun in Afghanistan, Peace Resources Project has seen their sales double -- a good improvement, surely, but nothing compared to the spike they saw during the Gulf War.

In part, the public's overwhelming support of the administration and the war may be hurting business. Resources for Peace has sold only ten of their once-ubiquitous "Question Authority" bumper stickers in the last two months.

Day, however, remains unfazed. "The worst thing I can do is overproduce and they get bin Laden's head on a stick ... Then this whole thing will be over, right? But you know, my friend said, 'Oh, just put it in your attic, there'll be another war in ten years. You can sell it then.' And you know, he's right."

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