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And “Dangerous for Military” Isn’t Synonymous with “Dangerous for Society”

Here’s a letter to US News & World Report:

Worried that sequestration will reduce the Pentagon’s budget, Mackenzie Eaglen quotes Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale’s allegation that sequestration would result in a “less-capable, less-modern, less-ready force and [risk] creating a hollow military” (“Obama’s fiscal cliff stubbornness dangerous for military,” Dec. 7).


According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Uncle Sam’s annual military budget today is more than seven times (!) larger than that of the nation (China) with the globe’s second-largest military budget.  And if China and all other nations, apart from the U.S., ranked today in the top ten according to absolute size of military budgets were to merge into one gigantic country, America’s current military budget would still be much larger than that of our new mega-rival – larger than the combined budgets of these other nine countries by 52 percent (or $252 billion)!  Put differently, if sequestration does kick in to cut, as projected, $50 billion annually from the Pentagon’s budget, five years of such cuts would be necessary to shrink the U.S. military budget to the size at which it would equal the sum of the world’s next nine largest military budgets.

With champions of fiscal prudence and market economies – such as Ms. Eaglen’s employer, the American Enterprise Institute – frantically insisting that modest belt-tightening by the colossus that is the Pentagon will bring calamity, “Progressives” and others who endorse active government involvement in the economy can be forgiven for likewise issuing over-the-top, hysterical predictions about the calamities that await us from modest belt-tightening by the likes of the Department of Education and the F.D.A.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030