Knowing Our Priorities: Butter or Canon

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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The saying “guns or butter” goes back to World War I and was used by peace activists to illustrate the usually unequal relationship between a nation’s investment in military hardware and civilian goods. It cuts both ways, as a anti-war and pro-war slogan. In a speech on January 17, 1936, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels pronounced: “We can do without butter, but, despite all our love of peace, not without arms. One cannot shoot with butter, but with guns.” During the same year, the porcine Nazi Hermann Göring stated: “Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.”

Mussolini figured Italy, which uses olive oil for most cooking, but butter is part of the diet too, could have it both ways.

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His propagandists demonstrate in this little brochure how butter consumption can help cannon production. Here are a few pages featuring infographics that somehow render the equation of how so many farm animals’ fats equal a well-fed and properly armed military in the time of war.

Perhaps a better slogan is from Isiah 2:4:

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

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For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility‚ one of the many Heller titles available at