Monday, April 22, 2013

Global Military Expenditures


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.)

3 comments:

jhm said...

Not to be too cynical, but might it not be a sign that arms manufacturers (no longer to bilk governments giving blank checks) selling the same, or more, weapons at lower cost?

Luke Smith said...

The graph goes back to 1988. So far the fall in military spending as % GDP: does the cause stem from the end of "proxy" wars like Iran-Iraq, or does the cause stem from bubble economies?

There were a series of very bad recessions from 1974-1981 associated with oil prices and Middle-East wars.

Unknown said...

A little late, but I find little comfort in knowing that death is becoming less expensive. Total military expenditures have been rising since the post cold war lows of the 1990's.