2014/07/06

A guide for demanding a higher military budget

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I'm tired of the insultingly low level in some contributions to 'security policy' debates. Again, minutes of my life were wasted by reading just another pointless text on how "interests" -> "sea" -> "ships" -> "win!" without any logical connections, merely pretending to make any sense.


Thus here's a beginner's guide for how to make a coherent, logical and waterproof argument for an increase in military spending:

Step 1
Identify something dissatisfying in the distant future in a scenario with the baseline budget. Past, present or near future issues don't matter, for budget increases take effect slowly.*

Step 2
Monetarise the issue. You cannot possibly make a logical, conclusive, uninterrupted case for more spending when you don't convert from "issue" to "currency" at some point.*

Step 3
Discount the issue using the long term government bond real interest rate as internal interest rate. Money in the far future isn't the same as money right now, after all.

Step 4
Get an idea for how the military could lessen the issue (by doing ...).* Put a price tag on it, discounted.*

Step 5
Execute an ethics check. Benefits from bullying are unethical, drop any such plans.

Step 6
Reason and justify by how much the change in military spending could lessen the future troubles.* We're not stupid enough** to fool ourselves into thinking it could be a 100% cure, right?

Step 7
Discount the extra military spending. 

Step 8
Now you can compare the discounted reduction of troubles with the discounted extra expenses. Stop right here if the latter is higher.

Step 9
Identify alternative uses for the extra budget. Infrastructure investments, civilian foreign policy, education, disease prevention, crime fighting, whatever. Identify how much benefit could be gained* by the most promising alternative.

Step 10
Quantify the economic benefit from keeping the people in civilian jobs instead of hiring them as extra personnel for the military.* Discount this benefit.

Step 11
Compare the future benefits from more military spending with the most promising non-military alternative. 
STFU about more military spending if it doesn't show a superiority over the most promising civilian opportunities.

Step 12
Now consider the damages done to society by government revenue.* This puts an extra 1-30% price tag on government spending; administrative expenses of revenue gathering, judicial expenditures, cost of tax advisers, monetarised damage from suboptimal behaviour of dodging taxes with otherwise inefficient exploitation of tax loopholes etc.

Step 13
Compare the pro-more military funding net benefit left over from Step 11 with the costs from step 12.
STFU about more military spending if the "more military spending" case doesn't prevail.
You may wonder why not compare the extra military budgeting with the least efficient civilian spending already in the budget and then possibly shift the resources. They reason is simple; you may argue for the wasteful spending's removal separately, for it has no justification independent on what you do with the military budget. And when you did so with all wasteful spendings, you would have no such wasteful spending as benchmark left.


This isn't how wannabe advisers do it, of course. The just like the idea of the military having this or that additionally. They don't make an uninterrupted, logical case for more. They just prefer more, from gut level.

The many uncertainties involved in these steps prohibit a conclusive, uninterrupted case for a particular proposal for more military spending. Only god-like knowledge could build such an uninterrupted case for it. Nobody who argues for more military spending can prove his/her point. It's impossible. They may fake to have a strong case, though. And that's why there are so many phonies, so many "much style, little substance" types involved in this, and why officials with supposed authority of being insiders can fake making a good case for more military spending so well.

And that's why they all talk and write nonsense when the pretend to have a strong case for more military spending.


S O
*: Uncertainties involved in here.
**: Huge uncertainty involved in here.
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2 comments:

  1. Let's give something more simple a try:
    Defending the territory against invasions.
    Defending the economy against coercion via sanctions.
    These are the two basics for obtaining freedom.

    Defence of the territory is a given with the current level of most military spending globally.
    Defending the economy against coercion via sanctions is a dangerous route.
    It advocates the capability to defend own communication lines or deter by threatening someone else's. You could even go so far and grab control of something of "strategic importance" like the Midddle Eastern oil fields. For this approach, you need a navy (LHD, carriers and such) that can defend your own communication lines on the oceans and an army that can run invasions of surprisingly resource rich countries. Defending your economy, by creating a situation that makes it impossible for any competitor to run sanctions on you, is kind of the traditional seapower approach, exemplified by the USA and on a lesser level by France and UK.
    Defending your territory is a more continental approach that is the basis for your thoughts. We are in a transitional phase during which more countries want to position themselves with the capability to defend their economy, thus built giant warships and invade defenceless underdeveloped countries.

    Arguing for a capability to defend the economy should be that, a capability, not a raptor. The problem with all arguments for defence of the economy is that they run the raptor course, that the only way to feel safe is by controlling the world (Anglosphere) or having a capability to challenge the control of the world and impose some own.

    How to combine interests-sea-ships-win into something sensible? The Jonesses invest into naval assets and that makes it possible that they clash and endanger the freedom of navigation. It's a stupid idea to fuel the flames and invest into a naval armament, but it would be a wise investment to have the capability to do so if the freedom of navigation gets endangered. How to solve this?
    Run cooperations with existing allied naval powers for know-how transfer, creating an own know how base. It might be helpful to have a small amphibious and fixed wing aircraft carrying- ship for training that know how level (Spanish or Italian designs come to my mind).
    It's only training to have a capability. Built up of actual hardware and expansion of personnel takes place in the final arms race before and during an actual war. You are right that heavily investing into a lot of military hardware now is the least efficient solution to creating security and the costs of lost opportunities is too high. But you kind of overlook the costs of lacking capabilities in the further future.

    KRT

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  2. I don't agree that benefits from bullying are unethical. One of the biggest problems with Western countries is that we do not extract a pound of flesh when we bully--we largely bully for reasons of ego and domestic politics.

    Imagine if we used the threat of military force to open markets, completely tariff and regulation free, to our exports.

    Or what if we had actually seized the oil in Iraq? It probably still wouldn't have been worth it, but it would've been a hell of a lot better than what actually happened.

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