More Than Half The World's Defense Spending

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Yesterday Arthur Brooks of AEI, Ed Feulner of Heritage, and Bill Kristol banded together to defend our bloated defense budget. Wilkinson returns fire:

When thinking about peace as a global public good, it can help to recall that the United States is not the only country that benefits from it. Suppose the United States were to cut its military budget in half to something like the size of the combined budgets of the next five or six countries. This might not suffice if you're itching to invade Yeman, Iran, and who knows what else Mr Kristol's got his eye on. But if the argument is that the purpose of military spending is to secure a calm climate conducive to global trade, it's hard to believe $350 billion per annum will not suffice.

But let's say it doesn't, for the sake of argument. Will nations with an equally strong interest in keeping the peace simply faint on their divans whenever a commerce-threatening war breaks out? Of course not. Even the French are perfectly capable of keeping the sea lanes open.

Gordon Adams lands more blows:

Brooks-Feulner-Kristol fail to point out that it is economically impossible to get the deficit and debt under control unless all spending (and revenues) are on the table. Picking on the other parts of the problem, alone would mean gutting all domestic spending, eliminating much of Medicare and Social Security, or raising taxes into the 80% brackets. And, of course, what they (and, sadly, Secretary Gates) want to do – keep defense off the table – is political death to deficit reduction and debt control – everything will be on the table.

And Paul Waldman puts the debate in context:

[T]oday, with the Soviet Union gone, we account for most of the world's defense spending -- 54 percent in 2009, according to a recent report. That's right: There are 195 countries on planet Earth, and if you added up the military spending of the 194 of them that aren't the United States, you'd still have less than what we are spending.

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