Art Carden  

There's No Such Thing as a Free Bomb: A Brilliant Idea from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

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Time Inconsistency in Tax Poli... Flying blind...

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has joined The Oatmeal, XKCD, and Botched Spot as one of my favorite comics.

This particular installment was especially brilliant. It proposes a browser plug-in that makes the opportunity cost of military hardware explicit.

The night of my 32nd birthday, I remember lying on the living room floor and writing my article "Bombs over Big Bird." While I don't think the government should be funding PBS and NPR, public broadcasting probably wouldn't even be rounding error in the military budget.

Resources used to fight wars are like resources used to build stadiums and bridges to nowhere. The resources are scarce, and they have alternative uses. As the human mind doesn't handle large numbers very well, it might actually be a very good idea to better contextualize the numbers we're talking about. This XKCD illustrates: we have a very hard time appreciating just how much larger $170 billion is than $165 million. If we can express these numbers in terms of what they can buy, we might perhaps have a better shot at really grasping what we're doing.


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COMMENTS (10 to date)
mickey writes:

I like the SMBC comic on an honest interview. http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3454#comic

Rick Hull writes:

That is fantastic. I'd suggest more materially intensive substitutes like MRI machines, research laboratories, or transit infrastructure.

"Manhattan's A-C-E line was dropped on Syria this morning."

JKB writes:

But it could be argued that dropping the bomb on the United States would be far less damaging than releasing 3400 more Harvard graduates on America.

But wouldn't it be more libertarian to relate the bomb to how much was forcibly taken from the taxpayer rather than finding another misuse for the funds?

m writes:

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Lars P writes:

The best way to make big sums of money "real" is usually to present it per person.

So $170B is $550 per American. $165M is $0.53.

Counting per tax payer and household is also useful, depending on the context.

Salem writes:

My attitude is more "Be grateful we're not getting all the government we're paying for. It is the height of deception to claim that uf the US didn't bomb Syria, the savings would go on Harvard scholarships. How about:

"8,000 bureaucrats dropped on Syria."

Doesn't sound nearly as bad.

Tom West writes:

I like the SMBC comic on an honest interview.

Ugh. Brought back bad memories of being told by two human resources experts that they would never hire anyone who provided honest answers to certain questions they were asking ("What is your greatest weakness?", etc.).

I was enraged for days at the thought that anyone applying for jobs in the corporations these people influenced would be instantly removed from consideration for the job if they made the mistake of being honest.

Why ask the question in the first place???

Sorry, the real point is that I loved Art's post.

mico writes:

The purpose of de-funding NPR and PBS is to reduce the production of left-wing propaganda, not primarily to save money. The military is not, at least internally, a political actor.

Glenn writes:

What is the opportunity cost of a world without unfettered freedom of movement for people, ideas, and commerce? A freedom bought and paid for almost entirely by the United States (and its armed services).

The social and regulatory structure of the Federal state are an order of magnitude more costly, and return far less to the nation and the world. Pick better battles.

TMC writes:

"reduce the production of left-wing propaganda, not primarily to save money." How are these two not the same?

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