Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Stupid questions, cont.

The Munk Debate was tonight, and it seems to have largely gone well for the side of scientific accuracy and good sense.  But Dave Roberts was liveblogging it with a handful of folks, including Peter Tertzakian.  At 8:31, David Roberts writes something about how if the US halved its military spending, the entire debate over whether the US could "afford" to solve climate change would be meaningless.  And at 8:32, Tertzakian writes in that
We'll be militaristic regardless of whether or not there is climate change. Let's keep this nonsense out of the debate.
Ah, nothing like having basic mathematical facts called "nonsense".

Look, if American militarism is inevitable, or the result of some deep-seeded cultural mania, then isn't it just as likely that so is massive, unsustainable consumption? Or, if we're going to wave our hands about military spending, aren't we totally fucking doomed?

To be slightly less bleak about it, there are four basic parts to the US govt. budget (not including debt payments): Social Security, Medicare, the Military, and everything else, where everything else is less than 20% of the budget -- and we need to remember, "everything else" includes a bunch of stuff that in other countries would be counted as direct military spending, such as the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons spending.

So we could try raiding "everything else" for money to fight climate change, but at best we could get only a few crumbs. We could try and raid Medicare or Social Security, but if you want a way to lose a political battle, the best is to pick a fight with old people. So that leaves military spending -- which is both the largest pool of money in the US budget if accounted for honestly, and by the way does almost nothing for the economy. We could raid the war budgets, reduce the dead weight costs of maintaining the legions, and spend it instead on retooling the economy for a world with limits.

Nonsense, say the Voices of Conventional Wisdom. We're going to want to kill people in the future, climate change or no.


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