The Ecphorizer

Barry Leff

Issue #63 (February 1987)

George Towner's December Ecphorizer article "Wanted: $4.5 Billion" got me to thinking about what really constitutes BIG money and what one could do with it.

I understand that to those people who have trouble making payments on their used Datsun $4.5 Billion sounds like quite big money. However, consider that with a Trillion Dollar budget, $4.5 Billion would carry the US Government for a measly 1.6 days. It would support the Department of Defense for less than 5 days.

The United States spends about 6% of GNP on defense; the Japanese spend 1%. If we were to decide that 1% was really enough to defend ourselves that would free up over $250 Billion dollars, every year . Now THAT'S big money.

Maybe we could buy Russia. After all, considering the terrible state of the economy, the rotten climate, etc, it couldn't be all that expensive. That should effectively solve the arms race. Or if we didn't want to buy Russia, maybe we could just give them the money as a bribe to totally dismantle their military.

Or we could do some SERIOUS space exploration; space stations all over the solar system. We might eventually figure out something useful that could be done up there. Old Folks Homes where no one breaks hips.

Who knows what discoveries could be made if that money were applied to basic research; things devoted to making life better (medicine, social systems research, electronics, novel transportation schemes, etc). It would undoubtedly be better than the Billions being spent on figuring out ways to kill people.

There are inevitably those who would say that the $250 Billion a year could "wipe out poverty." Unfortunately, that is not true. Poverty is a state of mind, not a state of the wallet, as has been amply demonstrated in New York City . What is needed to abolish poverty is a system that encourages people to work rather than collect welfare (see George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty).

There could be interesting effects on the economy if we just gave $1000 back to every man, woman, and child in the US. Alternatively, we could simply do away with the budget deficit without raising taxes. Somehow, that does not sound as exciting as space stations all over the solar system.

Perhaps we should have a contest in the Ecphorizer to see who can come up with the best way to spend $250 billion a year. We could then petition our Congresspeople to spend the money in an "intelligent" fashion. 

BARRY LEFF is another man of varied antecedents. He has been a pilot, Scuba divemaster , and karate black belt, as well as having lived in Bangkok and been a bouncer at a gay disco.

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