The human species and military spending

Humans are a strange species when you think about it. We seem to have mastered the art and science of killing each other and of blowing things up. No other species can come close and it is inescapable that America places a higher value on these primal abilities than any other country. At least that is the conclusion one would reach when considering how much of our national effort is spent on our military. Of the 1.5 trillion dollars spent by all national of the world in 2010 the United States is responsible for 43% of that total. We spend six times more than the country in second place, China.

Suffice it to say that we can blow up a lot of stuff and even if the pentagon is forced to cut 500 billion dollars over the next ten years. The first chart shows our dominance in military spending and the effect of cutting 50 billion dollars a year. Clearly, even with those cuts we would be supremely dominant. At some point the protests and demagoguery from the military industrial complex and their spokespersons in Congress will give way to sanity. The tipping point may be when the economic strain from spending so much of our GDP on the military (chart 2) becomes unsustainable.  Historians may agree that we are at that point now.

To be sure, national security is paramount but there are more effective and sophisticated ways of ensuring our safety. Strategic foreign aid, mutual defense partnerships, robust covert operations and cyber-security are necessary and proper alternatives to munitions and ballistic missiles. We still need to be able to blow things up, it is who we are and for some people it “just feels right”; however, we shouldn’t pursue that dream at the expense of real security that can only be achieved through economic stability and prosperity.


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