The Conscience Online web site has a military spending calculator on its home page that shows how much has been spent so far this year globally on military expenditure. I noticed it displaying an 11-digit number despite it only being the 7th of January. “Oops” I thought, “I need to change it so it starts again from zero on 1st of January”.
I thought it did that automatically, but decided I must have been mistaken. There is no way we could have spent £22 billion on war-making in under a week.
So I went to see what was wrong and found the error: we spend too much on war-making. In the first six days and nine hours of 2017 the world has already invested £3 per person on killing or readiness to kill one another.
The global news was making a fuss yesterday about the cost of Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the USA and Mexico likely to be about half that with pessimistic estimates expressing concern it will be about the same. If the cost of the wall is a scandal, why isn’t spending 50 times that amount every year on delivering premature death and suffering also a scandal?
At the most sympathetic interpretation, the second Gulf War was initiated on poor quality intelligence, incomplete intelligence, contrary to evidence-based failure to find WMDs, an overly-keen desire to initiate war, a premature decision to initiate war, a lack of collaborative decision making and not listening to objections and alternatives.
So, it should not have been initiated.
Tony Blair is a war-monger.
I don’t think we learned anything we did not know already.
There’s also no discussion going on about alternatives – which is what I have been feeling and saying for years. Stop looking for reasons to go to war – which is what happened here – but instead look for evidence-based, properly-researched, alternatives.
Utilitarianism is the aim of choosing ones actions (be they of individuals or governments) such that the most happiness is achieved for the most people. However, empirical evidence is required to quantify the results of the various possible actions. Also, definitions are required for ‘happiness’ and scales are required to quantify the measures. This was the aim of 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham when considering such things as social policy for punishing criminals.
I suppose what I want to achieve is to gather together empirical data for the cost and implications of different approaches to preventing international violent conflict as well as for conducting international violent conflict, such that the various options can be considered in a measurable way. Utilitarianism is a way of doing this by—at the risk of oversimplification—using the formula:
where ‘violent conflict’ is quantified and included with the investment cost to form the ‘negative implications’. Those wanting to start a war must be claiming a positive outcome, so that can be quantified too.
This should help eliminate, or at least help counter, “for our security” and “because they are a threat” and other such woolly thinking from the decision making, at least publicly. It is also more human than my original idea which was purely cost-based.
Another answer to a query from an aspiring author.
RJ: “What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”
Are the British Isles part of Europe, or some independent islands in the North Atlantic? What looks like a geography question is really a socio-economic question: do we want to be part of of Europe?
Firstly, what do we mean by “Europe”. Currently, that appears to be something called the “European Union”.
After a century of fighting Germany in ever expanding wars, in 1951 France formed the European Coal and Steel Community with them plus Belgium, Italy and others to pave the way for international co-operation that would make future central European war both unnecessary and undesirable. And right there is a great example of an alternative to war being implemented.
This expanded in scope to include atomic energy and governance to produce, in 1957, the Economic European Union or EEC. For many years we debated in Britain: should we join the EEC? It was a difficult question because of the fear of loss of sovereignty.
The original French vision had been to create a single Europe with one government, one defence force, one agricultural policy and so on. This vision was quashed back in the 1950s by the founding countries as they feared the consequences of it and it seems they still don’t want it. It may have meant the loss of cultural heritage, loss of control, failure to recognise differences in values and loss of identity.
These concerns are what put us off: would be be forced to eat garlic sausage and other foreign muck, like snails?
In 1973, we took the plunge and joined. We immediately stopped driving on the left, started speaking French, began eating frog’s legs and stopped buying beer in pints. Well, maybe not. But there were changes, especially around trade, travel and the legal system.
This became the European Union in 1993 when we signed the Maastricht Treaty. Amazingly, this got little press at the time but it is one of the most significant events in British history. We also do not notice the changes it brought about.
Anyway, the European Union is the current name of this ever expanding organisation (although some surprising previous members have left, such as Algeria and Greenland). It expands both geographically and in scope and so is ever changing. And nobody enjoys change.
But after 40 years of membership we still drive on the left, don’t like garlic sausage, still can’t speak anything other than English and measure distances in miles.
So back to the question. “Do we want to be part of of Europe?”
We’ve identified “Europe”, but who are “we”? Ireland wants in. Scotland, traditionally allied with France against England, wants in while nearly being out of the UK. Wales can’t make its mind up. And England? Who knows?
All you need to do is predict the future, and the answer to the in/out question will be clear.