Global spending on…

Annual global cost of removing all extreme poverty in the world (link): US$ 243 billion.

Annual global spending on ice cream in 2017 (link) US$ 54 billion.

Annual global cost of oceanic marine parks (link): US$ 12-14 billion.

Annual global military spending (link): US$ 1,700 billion.

 

“Let Us Begin”, John Denver

In June 1986 John Denver released the album One World which has the track Let Us Begin, an anti-war song, which had been released as a single.  On this day of that year, 30th July 1986, his record label, RCA, pulled the single.  RCA had been acquired by General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, and they did not like this song with its lyrics of feeding the war machine but not babies.  Thus the powerful, who get rich from making killing devices, get to silence the pacifists to protect their profits.

A video John produced to go with the song, with a short introduction from him, is here on YouTube.

The lyrics.

This is simply the best piece of work that I’ve done in my career.

John Denver, 10th December 1987

Source: www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10947# amongst others.

Global military spending, 2016 to 2017

On the Conscience:Taxes for Peace not War home page is a counter showing the global military spending so far this year.  It comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) figures.  We use those because they are not particularly controversial; they do not include lots of things a strict pacifist would like to see included.  As I start writing this, the number is based on their 2016 figures and is £509,860,928,935.

Yes, global spending on militarisation (essentially, preparing for killing people), is five hundred thousand million pounds.  A million pounds, spent, half a million times.

For comparison, nobody wants to spend the £11,000m to £23,000m it would take to cure the whole world’s 185m people with Hepatitis C.  But we have spent £509,000m on arms so far this year.

(Hepatitis C treatment is the most expensive medicine in the USA, link.  Details of the cost of curing it, link.)

Anyway, it is time for me to update the web site because military spending figures for 2017 have been released.  And it has gone up by about 1.1%, once inflation has been taken out.  As an absolute sum just the difference is about £47,287m.  Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2% of the global gross domestic product.

(For reference, feeding the world’s starving people would cost £23,000m, £132,000m or somewhere in between.)

So, I have updated the script and now the number, based on the new 2017 figures, is £524,852,595,454 so far this year.
£524,853,983,114
£524,854,467,457
£524,854,865,718
£524,855,841,115
£524,873,308,033…

 

No reduction in defence spending until at least June 2022

As part of Theresa May’s £1 billion deal to buy the support of the DUP so she can stay in power, defence spending will be at least maintained until the next general election.

Link: www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-40245514

So there’s not much point campaigning for any kind of reduction for the next four or five years.

Specifically: “On defence, the parties have said they will ensure they meet the NATO commitment of spending two per cent of GDP on the armed forces, as well as committing to the Armed Forces Covenant. They will also look at ways to support reserve forces in Northern Ireland.”  UK GDP is just over £2,000,000 million, 2% of that is about £40,000,000,000 or about £750,000,000 per week.

Note that it is 2% of the Gross Domestic Product which is the entire output of the economy, not 2% of the tax income, nor 2% of government expenditure.

Military Spending Calculator error

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?

Chilcot, briefly

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.

Finding and documenting empirical evidence for peace

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:

happiness = pleasure - pain

I am thinking more along the lines of:

peace = positive outcome expected - negative implications

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.

“What’s the European union and why do we keep hearing about it?”

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.

How does one prevent war?

From a discussion about life goals:

How does one prevent war?

Stop others starting them by demonstrating they are not the most cost-effective solution and creating an environment where it is not in the starter’s best interests.