December 08, 2002
depressing or wonderful? you decide.

Annual military spending globally is over $780 billion. The US alone accounts for over $343.2 billion in military spending annually.

What the World Wants is a simulation project that attempts to calculate the cost of various basic needs of humanity, which include:

Eliminate Starvation and Malnourishment
Provide Health Care & AIDS Control
Provide Shelter
Provide Clean Safe Water
Eliminate Illiteracy
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Efficiency
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Renewables
Retire Developing Nations Debt
Stabilize Population
Prevent Soil Erosion
Stop Deforestation
Stop Ozone Depletion
Prevent Acid Rain
Prevent Global Warming
Remove Landmines
Refugee Relief
Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
Build Democracy

According to their reckoning, all of the above would cost (annually) approximately 30% of the world's annual military spending. If we go with their estimates, it would take ten years for stable versions of all of the above to be put into place.

They also have fun comparative costs. For example, eliminating starvation would cost approximately 55% of what Americans spend on weight loss programs each year.

Each category is accompanied by an account, with references, so it's possible to dispute each one, and I have no idea if the estimates are realistic or not. I hardly need to point out, though, that that is most definitely not the point.

If the over-developed world didn't attach all kinds of self-interested strings to "aid for Africa" deals like NEPAD, then something useful might get done with the relatively tiny sums that we devote to foreign aid. Of course, most of what counts as foreign aid consists of direct or indirect subsidies of western business. Whether we make aid conditional on changes to economic policy or just hand it over to US companies (e.g. lucrative contracts for textbooks in Afghanistan, then and now), the little money that is supposed to be doing good is mostly funneled back to Wall Street or its other G8 equivalents.

I won't pretend that anything like a ten year devotion of 30% of military budgets to humanitarian programs is possible, but every once in a while, it can't hurt to stop and ask: what if we actually wanted to do something about the world's problems, and not just look like we're doing something?

Heck, the US could do this on its own, and end up with more power and economic clout than any military initiative could ever achieve. It would be a great way to shut up all those pesky European "anti-Americans", leave the vast majority of the world's population in awe, and defuse the rage of those who support terrorists. And who could attack so generous a country without pissing off all the people who benefit from these programs?

I am, of course, dreaming, but it's worthwhile to ask why this is the case.

Why am I dreaming, you ask? Good question. Three quick answers: racism, fear, ignorance, and an overwhelming asymmetry in access to politicians. Those are themes that have been and will be expanded extensively.

(What the World Wants links via Beyond Greed)

posted by dru in activism