There is no way over the long term that Americans will be or should be prepared to endure greater relative poverty in a free trading world when they also have to pay almost the entire cost of global order and stability required to uphold it. There comes a point at which the Western Man’s burden becomes being taken for a ride. For the US to deny its seniors medical care, to sleight its infrastructure renewal, and depress investment in the economy in order to keep the global economy militarily stable for China and India and Europe (…). It makes no sense. We have to move back from a Department of Offense and Empire to a Department of Defense and Security. We need to let go of paranoia. The cycle of fear has already done immeasurable damage to the Constitution, the economy and regional stability and security (watch Iraq and Afghanistan implode in the next few years).
Andrew Sullivan, in a post over at the Daily Dish in which he discusses Ron Paul’s approach to foreign policy in a multi-polar world.
Andrew’s post reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague when I traveled to Israel a few years ago to give a talk.
We were driving around the country on our way back from Masada when my colleague told me that the Israeli GDP per capita was about US$30,000. I told my colleague that this seemed pretty good, since it was comparable with a few Western European countries. But I also commented on how this seemed at odds with the high rate of poverty in Israel, where about one in five families is below the poverty line.
My colleague then replied: “Yes, but think about the percentage of the Israeli GDP that goes to defense compared to the Western European countries you mention.”
In his book Balancing the Budget is a Progressive Priority, my colleague Don Taylor makes a clear case for the tradeoff that exists between health care and defense spending in the US. That is, if you are not willing to accept cuts to the health care budget, you have to be willing to accept cuts to the defense budget, and vice versa.