Iraqis are Chicken

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This is because Iraqis are like chicken and nobody cares about the killing of a chicken, but the British are the lords of this world”- an Iraqi cleric commenting on the daily toll of life in Iraq and world’s reaction to the London bombings

SmartEconomist (registration required) has a summary of the recent paper by Stiglitz on the cost of Iraq war;

"The costs of the Iraq war are officially estimated around $500 billion, a sum which may be compared to the one spent in the Korea and Vietnam wars. However, this is likely to be less than half of the war’s real economic cost. If proper accounting principles are adopted, reasonable estimates lie between $750 and $1,269 billion - or between 6% and 10% of America’s GDP. Taking other economic costs into account, such as the medical costs borne by seriously injured soldiers, the loss of income produced by reservists on duty, and increases in oil price and greater uncertainty, adds $380 to $1,400 billion in present value terms….

This analysis of the costs of the Iraq war allows the authors to outline a useful novel methodology and a new conceptual framework for implementing a rational cost-benefit analysis for any war. While this may seem a gruesome exercise considering the monetary evaluation of casualties and injuries, it is in fact a valuable tool for supporting rational policy decisions….”

As Stiglitz says in a recent event at Columbia;

”Our study also goes beyond the budget of the federal government to estimate the war's cost to the economy and our society. It includes, for instance, the true economic costs of injury and death. For example, if an individual is killed in an auto or work-related accident, his family will typically receive compensation for lost earnings. Standard government estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death are about $6 million. But the military pays out far less -- about $500,000. Another cost to the economy comes from the fact that 40 percent of our troops are taken from the National Guard and Reserve units. These troops often earn lower wages than in their civilian jobs. Finally, there are macroeconomic costs such as the effect of higher oil prices -- partly a result of the instability in Iraq.”

One question that would remain unanswered for all eternity would be;

“One cannot help but wonder: were there alternative ways of spending a fraction of the war’s $1-$2 trillion in costs that would have better strengthened security, boosted prosperity, and promoted democracy?”

Alan Kruger brings some sense to the ongoing debate;

Credible estimation of counterfactual outcomes of alternative policies for cost-benefit comparisons has been a hallmark of modern economics. When it comes to judging whether war is worth it, however, cost-benefit analysis is little more than educated guessing by other means. But at least it provides a framework for where to put the guesses.”

I don’t how in their estimates, the value of an Iraqi life is captures and as a recent UN report on Iraq showed chronic malnutrition is on the rise;

“According to the report, a full 25 percent of Iraqi children between six months and five years old suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition. A 2004 Living Conditions Survey indicated a decrease in mortality rates among children under five years old since 1999. However, the results of a September 2005 Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis – commissioned by Iraq's Central Organisation for Statistics and Information Technology, the World Food Programme and UNICEF – showed worsening conditions since the April 2003 US-led invasion of the country”

Related Links:

Paying for Iraq- The Economist article

IRAQ: The war's price tag Q&A at CFR

The Economic Costs of the War in Iraq by Scott Wallsten, Katrina Kosec. (see also their blog)

Is the value of a British person's life greater than the value of an Iraqi person's life? Tim Harford writes.

Interactive Cost Estimate at AEI Brooking

Iraq--Whether, When and How to Disengage - a webcast lecture by Barry R. Posen

2 Comments

This is very interesting report about Iraq and their economic status. Seems like they have so many words about the country. - Kris Krohn

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 11, 2006 12:14 AM.

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