Proposals to cut the US defense budget have been cricitised by a number of contributors to Catallaxy and elsewhere. Yet the same people think that the US budget deficit is ‘out of control’.
I don’t see why the US defense budget shouldn’t be cut. It is bloated and I doubt that US taxpayers are getting good value for money.
Let’s leave aside the qualities of the present Commander-in-Chief. Yes, he is probably one of the worst in history along with the likes of William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, Chester Alan Arthur and James Buchanan.
But he is definitely the worst US President of the 20th and 21st centuries though.
It is all very well for us to argue for high US military spending. Australia enjoys the positive externalities of US military spending.
But do we really think that US taxpayers are getting bang for their buck? Is there no scope for efficiency gains in the US military?
According to the SIPRI database, the US spent 4.4 per cent of its GDP on the military in 2012. You have to look at countries such as Algeria, Oman, South Sudan and a few others that spend a higher percentage of their GDP on the military. Australia spent 1.7 per cent of its GDP in 2012.
The chart below (drawn from the SIPRI database) shows a time series of military spending by a few countries using constant price USD.
US military spending dominates all other countries, including China and Russia.
In 2012, the US military spending was 4.2 times that of China and 7.4 times that of Russia.
Also in 2012, there were 1,430,000 active serving personnel in the US, 2,285,000 in China and 766,000 in Russia.
- The US spends $US 470,000 for each of its serving military personnel
- Russia spends $US 118,000 for each of its serving military personnel
- China spends $US 69,000 for each of its serving military personnel
Sure, we could discuss technology, although Russia and China have some pretty impressive military technology including nuclear weapons. The US military is a good example of diseconomies of scale.
But the biggest argument to cut US military spending is that the US military is impotent.