War What is it Good for?

Lauren Peebles

Just like Charles Wheelan says in his book Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science “The real cost of something is what you must give up in order to get it, which is almost always more than just cash.”[1] Decisions are made every day, and greater the number of choices, the harder it becomes to value the opportunity cost of a particular result, especially when the outcome is unfamiliar. Opportunity cost is experienced in everyday life especially in the news, what the world is going through now are the vicious acts of terrorism taking over the Middle East  and now emerging throughout the rest of the world. Formed from the remains of Al Qaeda, the Islamic militant group, “ISIS”’, has risen to power in the Middle East. Making headlines every day, ISIS has continued to show its ruthlessness throughout Middle Eastern nations. Through the combination of: brutality, military skill, strong religious beliefs, and the use of social media, ISIS has become one of the most infamous terrorist groups in the world.  Some nations have shown their support to fight against ISIS, and have sent troops and supplies. Other countries are still debating whether or not to take action against ISIS. What America faces now is going to war with ISIS. In a poll created by CNN, 53% of Americans support the war,  45% of people were opposed to war and 2% of had no opinion.[2] Do we as Americans spend tax payer and federal money to fund a war with ISIS? What is the opportunity cost of war with the Middle East?

As the famous economic statement goes “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”[3] Everything has a price, especially war. Wars engaged in by the US come at the opportunity cost of beneficial domestic programs that could potentially save thousands of lives every year. According to business insider the United States has spent a staggering 11.5 million dollars a day equaling over a 100 billion dollars a year in tax payer money.[4] This kind of revenue can be spent on a plethora of different things. It can be spent on the veterans who have just arrived back from the war in Iraq that ended in 2011. Also on Education. Not being able to afford a public school shouldn’t mean that you’re doomed to poverty. Money should be spent on Health care. Not everyone can pay a private health plan, and the government shouldn’t leave anyone helpless. Additionally, unemployment programs, and minimum wage, are also in dire need of support. All these are programs that could potentially be resolved if they were funded and boosted the US economy. Instead we are faced with war, which could wipes all of the funding away. Last year the department of education asked for 68 billion dollar budget which provides grant, loan, and work assistance to more than 13 million students.[5] The opportunity cost of war, is the depletion of any domestic program. Every crisis in the world brings forward a call for military intervention, often from people who regard ‘foreign aid’ as a proven failure. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” [6]


[1] Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2008.

[2] “CNN/ORC Poll (December, 2015) – Turner.” Accessed October 19, 2016. http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/12/06/rel12d.-.obama.isis.pdf.

[3] “There Is Such a Thing as a “free Lunch” in Economics…and …” Accessed October 19, 2016. https://socialjusticefirst.com/2012/11/08/there-is-such-a-thing-as-a-free-lunch-in-economicsand-it-should-be-shared/.

[4] Engel, Pamela. “How Much Does ISIS War Cost? – Business Insider.” The Air War against ISIS Is Costing the US about $11 Million a Day. January 19, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-does-isis-war-cost-2016-1.

[5] “Economic Costs | Costs of War – Watson Institute for …” Accessed October 19, 2016. http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/economic.

[6] “The Origins of That Eisenhower ‘Every Gun That Is Made …” Accessed October 19, 2016. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2011/09/30/the-origins-of-that-eisenhower-every-gun-that-is-made-quote.