As somebody who believes that real math and reason should govern our perceptions about the world, it is difficult to reconcile how people become almost obsessively concerned with certain categories of death or destruction while ignoring others.
For example regardless of how you view the war in Iraq, the death toll appears to be comparable to …. shootings in the USA. Obviously there are caveats needed for this simplistic comparison – US is larger, civilian deaths in Iraq are not as well documented and down from the past, etc. But my point is that if deaths are what bother you then you should familiarize yourself with key death statistics, and you should advocate US spend accordingly. The most important stat is that *tens of thousands* of people die around the world every day from easiily preventable illnesss such as Malaria, AIDS, Intestinal viruses, and more. Unlike violent deaths, which often spring from irreconcilable ethnic, economic, religious, or cultural tensions, deaths from disease are almost universally considered to be “undesirable”. Also, research has made it clear that lowering death rates generally lowers the birth rate. The notion that saving people just creates more people to save is … not supportable. Yet we (yes, I mean YOU!) continue to pour *trillions* into military and low ROI social programs while a fraction of that amount would create massive infrastructure improvements and save tens of millions of lives.
I don’t understand the aversion to sensible spending, but I think it stems from some key defects of our human species:
1) We are programmed and designed to respond more to single instances of things rather than massive instances, and to respond locally rather than globally. Thus we will work harder to save a single child in need of a heart transplant than a whole village in India dying from lack of sanitation. This focus was functional evolutionarily but now is breaking down in our big world where disaster can loom large for huge numbers of people.
2) We (yes, I mean YOU!) suck at math. Many people in power don’t even grasp the chasm of difference between a million and a billion dollars. Contractors in the military exploit this fundamental math ignorance of people in congress and military decision makers on a daily basis. The answer of course is to follow the advice of the founders (and even Gen Dwight Eisenhower!) and take this massive and inappropriate military spending out of the hands of bureaucrats and politicians. In fact the answer is to massively curtail military spending immediately by 50% to 90%. The security implications are minimal, but people refuse to do the analyses. I’m absolutely *stunned* by how ignorant and sheepish most of my fellow fiscal conservatives are about the waste in the military. It is glaring, massive, and preventable – even more than the massive levels of waste in the US social services sector.
That ends my rant for the day. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging…