Jan 16, 2009

The $3,000,000,000,000 War

US$3 Trillion Bucks is by anyone's reckoning a lot of money - it will certainly buy you a lot of Ipods, even in expensive Swiss supermarkets. Yet that is the price tag that Stiglitz and Bilmes have put on the Iraq War, in their book which I finished reading over the holiday season (shown above, the short precis of the book can be found here). It's an excellent read, not only because of the eye popping figures that the authors put on various aspects of the war, and the interesting facts contained in it (I for example learned that the shadow value of human life is actually US$7.2 million), but also because the forensic methodology they use to arrive at this figure is extremely rigorous and transparent.

In fact, apart from its huge size, the scary thing about the figure of US$3 trillion is that the authors arrive at it using quite conservative assumptions concerning the evolution of future government liabilities related to the war (like veteran's healthcare, replacement of army equipment, etc.). Realistically speaking, the actual cost may be even higher.

Given the myriad of better alternative uses for such a huge pile of cash, hopefully this book will give policymakers some pause the next time they think about letting slip the dogs of war......

No comments: