NEW YORK -- Seymour Melman, a retired Columbia University professor who argued that U.S. military spending compromised the quality of the nation's domestic programs, died Thursday in Manhattan. He was 86.
The cause appeared to be an aneurysm, said Benjamin Abrams, his research assistant.
Melman often criticized what he considered the United States' exorbitant spending on weapons and defense programs, saying the money could more usefully be spent at home. "To eliminate hunger in America cut $4-5 billion from the C-5A aircraft program," he wrote in his 1974 book, "The Permanent War Economy."
An outspoken advocate for disarmament during the Cold War and after, Melman was co-chairman of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and chairman of the National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament.
He opposed the current war in Iraq, and argued against the long-held belief that World War II pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, saying other factors revived the economy.
"The country is a lot different than it was 30 to 40 years ago, and he had a big role in that," Noam Chomsky, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The New York Times for Saturday editions. "There's much more widespread opposition to the diversion of resources to military production, to the use of force in international affairs, to nuclear development."
He wrote extensively about "economic conversion," the process of turning military facilities over to civilian uses.
Melman was born in the Bronx in 1917 and received a bachelor's degree in economics from the College of the City of New York in 1939. He later earned a doctorate in economics at Columbia.
He served in the Army during World War II.
His books included "Our Depleted Society" (1965), "Profits Without Production" (1983) and "After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Economy" (2001).
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