Monday, April 22, 2013
The above shows global military expenditures as a fraction of gross world product.
Although there are certainly things to worry about in the world, this is a reassuring graph. With the end of the cold war, the world as a whole has moved to relatively low and stable levels of military spending at about 2.5 - 3% of gross world product. That's a fairly small fraction of our total efforts going on killing each other, or preparing in case we decide to kill each other. The fears that dominated my youth -- thundering herds of Soviet tanks crossing Germany, closely followed by large-scale thermonuclear ICBM exchanges between the US and the USSR -- have receded. In turn, this was less a concern that what my grandparents faced: actual waves of bombers criss-crossing European skies.
Maybe some day climate change will affect food production, oil production will decline, masses of technologically disenfranchised citizens will rebel, or China and the US will enter an arms race, and the world will get ready to start fighting wars left and right. But there are no signs of preparations at present.
(Data nerds footnote: the military expenditure data are from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. GWP data are from the IMF, and inflation corrections were done with the BEA GDP deflators.)