As an example of how government spending mushrooms due to unnecessary duplication, bureaucratic turf protection, and lack of assessment, consider the varieties of camouflage the military has been using for uniforms over the past decade.  (For the ten patterns, go here.)  The story about this in the Washington Post is quite instructive and might make you indignant at the waste of money it chronicles, but it also has its hilarious moments, which I have put in bold print for your convenience after the jump. [Read more...]

Does America need to defend everybody?

Frank Sonnek, frequent commenter on this blog, has found some interesting data and raises some interesting questions about our defense budget:

our military spending exceeds ALL global military spending if you don’t count china, which spends about 15% of what we spend.

some analyses relate military spending to GDP, but I am not sure what the relevance of doing that is, as opposed to absolute spending.

let’s say we cut our military spending to be maybe 1/2 of the next top military spenders combined…. would those nations not work to defend peace and commerce? are we unfairly subsidizing the peace rather than having other nations chip in their fair share of spending?

and now look at this chart:

and this one… the pie chart is sort of eye-popping. the usa represents nearly half of ALL global military spending according to the pie chart.

Summary: I am really challenged to believe that significant cuts in the military will threaten world peace.
It would appear that the United States of America really is the policeman of the world and budgets accordingly.  Is it that we are enabling other countries to spend so little on defending themselves that they can afford free health care and all of those other welfare state benefits?  Does our status as leader of the free world mean that we have to have the capability of defending every other country, as well as our own?   Couldn’t we expect our technological superiority in warfare, expensive as it is, to result at some point in savings?
Granted that national defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government and that it has to remain an important priority in this still-dangerous world, given our massive deficits, should our defense budget be scaled back?

Point/counterpoint: Military Spending

In our efforts to raise the quality of discourse in American politics, let us try something different. We will take two arguments on opposing sides of an issue. We will then discuss which makes the best case.

Kirk Anderson alerted me to two columns on military spending. One argues that in our zeal to cut government expenditures, we had better not touch the defense budget. The other argues that any attempt to cut government spending must cut the military.

Which view do you think is right? Can you deal with the opposing arguments, showing why they are wrong?