Posted tagged ‘Political disfunction’

DFH’s are not alone: Some video on the madness of current defense spending

April 6, 2010

Benjamin Friedman is no one’s idea of a wild-eyed hippie naif.

He is, rather, a Ph.D candidate at MIT’s Political Science Department and a research fellow at that well known bastion of tie-dye and patchouli, the Cato Institute.

Money fact: as Friedman totes up current defense spending  including all the bits up to the share of interest on the debt that can be attributed to deficit spending on the military, he finds that we get almost no change out of a trillion dollars each year. (Contrast that with estimates of the cost of health care reform that come in at about 940 billion over ten years, and is projected to reduce the deficit over that period.)

The edited version of Friedman’s is 23 minutes long, and there is no requirement that you agree with the whole analysis.

(I think he dismisses security interests in Asia a bit cavalierly, myself — not in that I disagree that it’s odd we still have major bases and commitments in Japan, but that it seems to me a more difficult process to extract from that north Asian series of commitments than it would be to do so from a Europe that no longer divides along the inner-German border.)

But that said, Friedman makes a coherent and to-me pretty obvious argument that we are spending way too much on the military.  He offers a good story as to why — where the different pressures to maintain that cost trajectory.  (If ever there was a case for “bending the curve” it comes here.)*He also came up with a pithy answer as to why that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Money quote, from political scientist Ronald Dahl:

“In a dictatorship, a minority rules. In a democracy, minorities rule.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

*One note:  Friedman points to an increase in the expansion of benefits and the cost of health care for active duty members of the armed services and for retirees as one of the (smaller, I think) drivers of military budget growth over the last decade.  He doesn’t separate out the specific cost of care attributable to the wars.  But the point is, of course, that getting medical care cost under control is as many have noted, a national security issue as well as a moral and social one.

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