August 22nd, 2005

coyote Phil

Presidents should play computer games

I spent another evening this weekend playing Civilization, the best computer game ever made. This morning I was trying to find out how much money we spend per person per year in the US on transportation, to figure out whether subsidizing the Segway would've made sense. It turns out that in NY State, they spend about $500/person/year of public funds on transportation ($200 federal, $300 state).

Next I looked up the US federal defense budget per year per person: $1358. Then I fantasized about how we could have clean, quiet cities with pleasant commutes if we spent some more money on transportation instead of defense.

Then it occurred to me that, in Civilization, if you spend as much on defense as we're spending in the US, you will lose the game to another civilization, UNLESS you eventually use your military to conquer or wipe out that civilization. This is because they can spend their money on public works and on education, leading to their economic, technological, and industrial dominance.

So we in the US are painting ourselves into a corner, which we will be able to get out of only by military conquest against one or more leading industrialized nation. I can't say which nation(s), only that we are painting ourselves into that corner.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, we said that we'd won the Cold War because the Soviets had been so stupid that they spent themselves into collapse to keep up their defense. Yet we're now spending a higher percentage of our GDP, and a much, MUCH higher total sum, on our defense, despite there not being any significant threat to the US from any quarter, including terrorism. (Not that you can prevent terrorism by any amount of defense spending. But that's a topic for another blog.)