This is Dumb

We should stop spending this much money on this. We are trillions in debt.

But, of course, that will be dismissed as crazy talk by “realists” who are among the most unrealist people on the planet. It is imprudent to have a military budget this large when you’re trillions in debt. Those who wish to treat with reality should face that.

  • Rebekka

    I agree this is stupid.
    I wonder, though, how this is calculated. I have a totally irrational and probably completely prejudiced/discriminatory/etc assumption that the cost of things in China or Russia is not the same as in the US. I wonder what this would look like if, for example, the Chinese defense was paying US prices? Does anyone know?

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    It would make more sense to compare figures normalized to GDP. I recollect similar graphs (the same graph, for all I know) “proving” that the US consumed a disproportionate share of the world’s resources without taking into account that the US produced a disproportionate share of those resources. The US spends about 4.7% gdp on military expenditures. Russia, about 3.9%. The UK, France, and Germany spend 2.5%, 2.3%, and 1.3%, resp. But this is because those countries outsource much of their defense spending to the US. And no one in Europe would like to see Germany spending too much on his military.
    OTOH, Oman spends 9.7% gdp and Israel 6.5%. Saudi (10.1%) and Eritrea (20.9%) are much higher, but in many countries, the police forces are included in the military and there are no independent state polices.

  • Dan C


    The use of a GDP to normalize such things would be relevant if the metrics used to measure such things were GDP. But, the dominant metric, debt, is based on revenue (taxes) which are low in the US compared to GDP rleative to other countries.

    We spend money on lots of special ways to kill people, and the conversation is that because of this highly morrally praiseworthy endeavor of defense spending, we can’t support the poor (as called by Dolan and DiMarzio). I reject this moral claim. I reject normalizing the defense spending relative to the the GDP since such a metric is not the dominant one used in discourse or politics and is not relevant to the topic of debt.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The relevant comparison would be what is the wage of a private soldier, the price of a rifle, and so forth. For example, the USA has about 1,500,000 active duty military personnel, while China has 2,300,000. OTOH, a Chinese private is likely paid far less than an American private, so it is possible that China has lower expenditures to pay for 50% more soldiers. Similarly, equipment costs less in China, so China could build more tanks for less money. It is also true that the US has more advanced systems, like satellite communications networks, and these naturally cost more than, say, wild guesses about enemy capabilities.
      We could also look at active duty military as a % of population. So: USA 4.6/kilopersons versus Israel 24.4; Russia 7.3, France 5.5, and so on. But this raises the question of who counts as a ‘military’ person. In some countries, the police are a branch of the military; in other countries, they are not.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Interesting how you compare us to China when looking at raw number of military and then compare us to much less populated countries when looking to military to citizen ratios. China gets by there with only 1.71 per 1000 civilians…

      • Dan C

        Can we afford it? or should we do like we do for other activities in our globalized workforce-outsource it to a cheaper source?

        It seems that the relative size vs. others is less significant if we can’t afford it. The question is budget. Is it enough? And the answer is likely, “more than enough.” Can we afford it? No.

  • Dave

    Regardless of the arguments about the comparison of the numbers, it seems pretty clear that we could cut our defense spending by a third, and still have a kickin’ military. When you’re fighting a bunch of wars and maintaining scores of bases around the world, though, it tends to add up.

  • What Can I Do With A Philosophy Degree?

    But Mark,

    If we don’t protect the world from the bad guys, then the bad guys will win! It is our sacred duty, bound up in manifest destiny, to have military installations in every country…and then to inculcate instability by supporting militant regimes and give them weapons too, so that we can then come back in 20 years and have a new enemy to fight. How can we always be at war, unless we’re constantly battling with Eurasia while simultaneously arming Eastasia against them. War is Peace, man! Ignorance is strength! Quit trying to weaken big brother (may he always be loved) with your peace-mongering!

  • HokiePundit

    Isn’t the relevant question whether this is efficient? Does our defense spending A) prevent harm to us and B) provide economic benefits greater than the cost (and if so, is it at a good ratio)?

    It may be that spending this money elsewhere does less good than keeping it where it is. The chart above tells us nothing about this.

  • Mark R

    Was the British Empire at its apogee spending this much on defense? One would doubt it, but I would be curious to make a comparison.