Disillusioned commentary on Australian financial sector, politics, business, media... with attention occasionally distracted to the world outside... and intermittent reminder that rage is a more life-conserving irrationality than despair.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The price of peace and war

Joe Siracusa claims that expenditure to date on the new US missile defence system is around $120 billion, and counting. If we could do something else instead with that money, well, what might that be?

According to the Copenhagen Consensus, just $50 billion would be sufficient to control HIV/AIDS globally ($27 billion), make major global inroads into malnutrition by supplying micronutrients to those who lack them ($12 billion); liberalise international trade (political will, not money); and control malaria globally ($13 billion). What is more these initiatives are estimated to have a pay-back of at least ten times their cost.

And the consensus has a further shopping list of worthwhile projects that could be accommodated well within the balance of the $120 billion.

It's a good thing that fanatical terrorists aiming to launch atomic missiles onto the United States are not trained economists (or at least we hope they are not). Intercontinental ballistic missile represent a hopelessly expensive and inefficient vehicle for delivering atomic warheads. An economist would recommend that this method of attack be dropped without further ado.

The most cost-effective vehicle for delivering an atomic warhead is a shipping container, or in the case of a very small atomic device, a suitcase. Department of Homeland Security's 2005 budget for US port security is $50 million.

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