Happiness is a warm military-industrial complex.
June 14, 2006 12:19 AM   Subscribe

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending for 2005 increased by 3.4% from 2004, and now tops US$1.12 trillion. Spending has however declined as a proportion of gross world product, from 2.6% to 2.5%. Naturally, the USA is No. 1 all the way, with 48% of total expenditure. China is in the top five with a bullet , although their guns are different, apparently, because they 'promote peace and stability'.
posted by wilful (21 comments total)
In fiscal year 1986-87, local, state, and federal governments spent a combined total of 60.6 million dollars on law enforcement. Federal law enforcement expenditures ranked last in absolute dollars and accounted for only a sixth percent of all federal spending. By way of comparison, the federal government spent 24 million more on space exploration and 43 times more on national defense and international relations than on law enforcement alone.
—Queensrÿche, Empire
You left me a comment, so I figured why not trade favors. ;)
posted by Eideteker at 1:07 AM on June 14, 2006

what about education eideteker?
posted by sourbrew at 1:10 AM on June 14, 2006

What about education indeed, sourbrew. We can't have the kids learning that Jesus and evolution aren't actually exclusive, but neither can we have them learning reeding riting and rythmetic. Else they might start thinkering they's our betters.

Or: Well, we can't fail a child, because then they'll feel bad and just give up. And making them repeat the grade will just put a greater strain on taxpayers, though not as great a strain as hiring enough teachers that most kids actually learn something the first time through.

One problem (sorry, derail) I think education in the US suffers from is based on an entity theory/model of intelligence. Americans, despite all our talk of the American Dream, hard work, and perserverance; like to believe you either got it or ya don't. Some people are just talented; it's not my fault I'm bad at math (and there are things it's ok to be no good at, and things it's not). Hard work is underemphasized and also subverted by busy work (which is just repetitive and doesn't encourage new ways of looking at a problem in order to better understand how it is solved). One thing that gets swept under the umbrella of education is education research; which we could do with more (credible studies) of. It'd be nice to get some more funding for that, perhaps to see just what reaches kids. You'll never reach everyone, but you could do a lot better than these thousand-student massive school-factories we have now that stamp out low-grade GED diplomas in addition to any individuality, creativity, passion, or faith in humanity students might have illusions of.

I wish I knew the figures, sourbrew, but I don't think they'll matter much until attitudes change.
posted by Eideteker at 1:31 AM on June 14, 2006

Very different indeed:

peace and stability vs democracy and freedom
posted by Djinh at 2:18 AM on June 14, 2006

I've seen it mentioned that since the US has a fairly large population and is rich on a per capita basis that it's not unusual that the US leads the world in military spending. Still, even with that in mind two questions are:
  1. Why do we need to spend so much? Consider that of the next five big spenders, four are treaty allies with the US. Why are we spending at Cold War levels without an actual Cold War-sized threat? Seriously, if we consider our spending compared to what might be reasonably considered our opponents spending (instead of compared to world totals) the gap we are talking about here is much, much higher than the 48% would indicate.
  2. Are we getting our money's worth? Some of this money is definitely worth it in terms of keeping our soldiers alive, as recent casualty figures in the last couple of wars suggest. However, when you look at some of the weapons systems the military has on the drawing board and the amount of money the Pentagon is dropping on them, one is left wondering who, exactly, they think they are fighting.
posted by moonbiter at 2:55 AM on June 14, 2006

eideteker: "hard work" is also used as a catchall excuse that serves more purposes

1. justify getting paid , in the eyes of the worker, because work is fatiguing : which leads to the assumption that pay should be proportional to fatigue ; necessarily less fatiguing work should be paid less. Yet because of a fallacy of the single cause, one will not also consider the production of the work, so if one kept running around in circles he should get paid more then the person sitting down inventing something reducing the workload, which seems absurd to me

2. helps employeers to pay less for less fatiguing work, sustaining the rationalization that a researches shouldn't get paid as much as a salesman because his returns are more risky and he uses company resourc ; while the salesman has to convince people all the day long, really a stressing job, yet he doesn't use as expensive company resources. Yet the same employeer conventiently forgets that the discovery on a single or group of researcher can spin an industry on a dime, which isn't necessarily what an employer wants.

like to believe you either got it or ya don't.

I don't think americans or martian have this propension, even if binary thinking is rather common. For instance if I (authority figure, respected, trusted) suggest you that there is a thing that some have and some don't (talent) when born and if you have ->then you are , the next logical step is : if I wasn't born intelligent -> why should I bother ? ...which betrays the person is more intelligent then he thinks, but he as been misled into believing something "special" is required.
posted by elpapacito at 3:01 AM on June 14, 2006

More interesting (to me anyway) is military spending as a percentage of GDP, which shows you really how deep the country is... I registered with SIPRI and looked up the usual suspects (for me anyway, I am Greek). Here's a sampling of the most recent available data:
  • Israel: 8.7%
  • Greece: 4.2%
  • USA: 4.0%
  • Turkey: 3.8%
  • Pakistan: 3.4%
  • UK: 2.8%
  • France: 2.6%
  • China: 2.4% (with many disclaimers)
  • Portugal: 2.3% (control; approx. same size as Israel or Greece)
  • Luxemburg: 0.9%

    Of course Pakistan, China, etc are probably hiding some expenditures for nuclear programs and the like, but it's still an interesting ranking...

  • posted by costas at 3:31 AM on June 14, 2006

    I wonder how much of other countries' (Israel, Egypt, and Colombia, for example) military budgets are also actually part of the US military budget (spent by proxy as military aid)?

    On the other, I wonder how much larger the military budgets of some other countries (Japan's, for example) would be if the US didn't instead act as their military?

    America has its hand in a lot of places.
    posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on June 14, 2006

    Just looking at the raw numbers doesn't tell you anything.

    For instance, a large part of the US Navy is engaged in the job of keeping the world's sea-lanes relatively safe from piracy. That amounts to the US acting as the world's sea-police, but it counts as American defense spending.

    That's generally been a duty accepted by the world's largest navies for the last few centuries. In the 18th and 19th century it was the Royal Navy that primarily took care of it. After WWII the US took over the job.

    It's entirely unofficial, but it's essential.

    I'd also like to point out that we're not at "Cold War" spending levels right now, even though we're fighting a hot war. (Two, in fact.)
    posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:04 AM on June 14, 2006

    For instance, a large part of the US Navy is engaged in the job of keeping the world's sea-lanes relatively safe from piracy. That amounts to the US acting as the world's sea-police, but it counts as American defense spending.

    So America should get credit for the way things are going off Somalia, Bangladesh, and Nigeria?
    posted by pracowity at 5:32 AM on June 14, 2006

    Preventing piracy doesn't really wash with current naval spending. (Anybody got a good link to what their currently building?) I know there are a mess of destroyers on the way, any one of which could take all the pirates in the world today if it could catch them in the open water. A bit like going after flies with a hammer. And then there's that carrier we want to build to go with the one we just cranked out....

    The USS Freedom might be more useful for a piracy intradiction mission, but knowing what I've read about DoD's new artillery piece (was suposed to transportable via a C-130 - may actually be a hell of a load for a C-5) I'm not holding my breath.
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:24 AM on June 14, 2006

    One of the main functions of the government is to tax the citizens and reallocate the money. What the government has learned with respect to defense spending is that it can take those tax dollars and transfer them to the very wealthy. Defense contractors make billions of dollars. Spending money on social programs does not make people wealthy. Spending money on defense contracts (and construction projects) makes people amazingly wealthy. It is a transfer of tax funds by the government to the exceptionally wealthy. As long as that remains the most effective way to get money to the rich, then it wil continue.
    posted by flarbuse at 6:30 AM on June 14, 2006

    I'd also like to point out that we're not at "Cold War" spending levels right now, even though we're fighting a hot war. (Two, in fact.)

    In FY 2006, the defense department appropriated $575.4 billion (including the $70 billion supplemental for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, those "hot" wars you mention) in 2007 dollars. In 1985, the year we spent the most money during the Cold War, the Pentagon spent $532 billion in 2007 dollars.

    Even if we take the more favorable GDP numbers, you'll find that while defense spending generally declined as a share of GDP throughout the Cold War, it has edged upwards since 2001 and is only 2% less than the 80s average (roughly the same distance in GDP between the difference in 1950s-70s spending and Regan Era spending). [source (93 kB PDF file)]

    Some of us feel that this level of spending is unjustified in light of the threat level to national survival of the enemy in the current "hot" wars when compared to the threat to national survival posed by the enemy in the Cold War.
    posted by moonbiter at 6:45 AM on June 14, 2006

    Anybody got a good link to what their currently building?

    The Navy has not released exact plans, but here's an overview. The site has lots of articles on the subject.
    posted by moonbiter at 7:09 AM on June 14, 2006

    It is a transfer of tax funds by the government to the exceptionally wealthy. As long as that remains the most effective way to get money to the rich, then it wil continue.

    And as long as being rich is the best way to get (re)elected (i.e. no limits on corporate campaign donations), this circle will continue. But these kind of restrictions would, of course, be communist, and freedom hatin'.
    posted by uncle harold at 7:22 AM on June 14, 2006

    Thanks Moonbiter. I think that's the site where I saw the article about mobile artillery piece.

    I LOVE THE COMMENTS! If I were running the show I would take all my defense and foreign policy advice from forward thinking people who realize who don't waste time on complete sentences.

    I especially like this one, "The Navy should eye China..... Must do or risk another attack???"

    I'm not sure how anything beginning with "must do" is a question but obviously the Chinese have some pretty advanced stealth weaponry since I completely missed the previous attack. Our whole nation might be in ruins now and we wouldn't even know it!
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:41 AM on June 14, 2006

    It'd be interesting to see these figures from the point of view of the number of workers employed directly and indirectly by defense - including everyone from engineers, designers, test staff etc, to the janitors and the cafeteria staff at lauch test sites to the guys who do the paintings that hang in the boardroom of aerospace engineering firms. Call it morbid curiousity.

    How many such people would you say are employed in the States by the defense industry? Is it over 5 million say? I'm curious to know if defense expenditures at the very least offer bang-for-buck in terms of white and blue collar employment.
    posted by slatternus at 8:48 AM on June 14, 2006

    "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset"
    ("Kill them all. God will know His own.")

    - Pope Innocent III, 1210 A.D.
    posted by Relay at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2006

    Actually, it was (purportedly) said by Arnaud-Amaury, the Abbot of Citeaux. Not Pope Innocent III.
    posted by Justinian at 12:49 PM on June 14, 2006

    what about education eideteker?

    Total spending on K-12 education in the US was $536 billion in 2004--2005. Dunno what it was in 86.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2006

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