Friday, April 18, 2003

I'm getting really annoyed at the moronic leftist Spanish media for trumpeting over and over that the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein because of the arms sales and the oil. That is flat stupid. First, war is bad for business. It causes uncertainty, and business hates uncertainty. It eats up resources unproductively (not only natural resources, of course, but capital and labor), taking them out of the economy as a whole. It gets people killed and wounded, removing their skills from the economy and costing us, uh, an arm and a leg to take care of them. Stuff gets destroyed and it has to be rebuilt, costing us even more resources. Wars always cause internal political friction, which, to say the least, is not helpful to the smooth running of an economic system. You simply don't make money off participating in a war. You lose money. Unless, of course, you are a neutral country selling goods to both sides. Then you make a ton of money. Case in point: Spain, neutral in both WW I and WW II. Especially in World War I, the Catalan textile and leather industries got incredibly rich supplying the French Army with their uniforms and boots. This is why Spaniards think that people make money off wars. Because they did.

Now, let's look at the United States economy. In American billions (1 followed by nine zeros, called a "milliard" in Europe) of dollars, the US economy is by far the largest in the world, at $9,100 billion a year GDP, according to the 2002 Economist Pocket World in Figures. Japan is second with $4,300 billion per year, Germany is third with $2,100 bn., the UK fourth with $1,400 bn., and France fifth with $1,400 billion. Italy, China, Brazil, Canada, and Spain round out the top ten.

The American economy is just plain enormous, and it runs extremely well despite the mild slump we are in now. It would be just moronic to risk all we have going for us on an unnecessary war. Absolutely moronic. Mr. Bush and his Cabinet and the leaders of Congress are not morons.

Now, first, let's look at international arms trading. According to the US State Department, in 1999, the US was by far the world's largest arms exporter--we exported arms to the tune of $33 billion. The UK was second with $5.2 bn., Russia third, France fourth, and Germany fifth. Now, 33 billion dollars is just a drop in the bucket in the total economy of more than $9,000 billion. Are we sufficiently idiotic to risk screwing up our whole economy--and, of course, getting our own people killed--to make five or ten billion dollars extra in weapons sales? I just bet we aren't. Arms exports are less than one-tenth of one percent of the American economy. By the way, the leading arms importers in 1999 were Saudi Arabia with $7.7 billion, then Turkey with $3.2 bn., then Japan, Taiwan, the UK, and Israel, in that order. The big importers of arms are not rogue states but established, legitimate governments (though I don't like the Saudis any better than anyone else, it is a functioning state).

Now let's look at oil and other forms of energy. First, we are the world's largest producer of energy, second after Saudi Arabia in oil production, second after Russia in natural gas, and first in coal. We produce 73% of the energy we use, again according to the Economist's little handbook. (Spain produces only nine percent of its own energy.) We also get a good deal of our imported energy from our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico. Mexico is the fifth world producer of oil and Canada is tenth; both are ahead of Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, and Indonesia in oil production. In addition, Canada is the third producer in the world of natural gas. Let's face it, Middle East oil is nice and cheap and importing some of it is good for our economy. But we could live just fine without it, unlike Europe and the Far East tigers, who are completely dependent on it except for the North Sea countries.

By the way, again according to the Economist, of the twenty largest companies in the world in sales, only three are oil companies: America's Exxon Mobil, third in the world with $163.9 billion in sales, the UK / Netherlands company, Royal Dutch Shell with $104.5 bn., eleventh in the world, and at seventeenth, the Anglo-American BP-Amoco with $83.6 bn. in sales. These statistics are from 1999.

Now, these here companies are powerful and influential, and rightly so, since what's good for them is good for the world economy as a whole, and especially for their hundreds of thousands of workers and stockholders. But to think we attacked Iraq so we could get fifty or a hundred billion dollars more in oil money is just ridiculous when you look at the United States' total GDP of NINE THOUSAND BILLION DOLLARS. Oil, like everything else, is an important part of our economy, but it just isn't the be-all and end-all, and if anybody knows this it is George Bush and Dick Cheney and Condi Rice, all of whom actually know something about how the petroleum industry works and what its comparative importance is.

You might be wondering about the makeup of the US economy. You might have thought that it really was based on weapons and oil. It certainly is not. Here are the stats for 2000 of the components of the American economy according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in billions of dollars.

Agriculture $135 bn
Mining $127 bn (oil and gas extraction, $99.5 bn--remember we're second in the world in both oil and gas production)
Construction $463 bn
Manufacturing $1,566 bn
Transportation $825 bn
Communications (includes the entire media industry) $281 bn
Utilities $230 bn
Wholesale trade $674 bn
Retail trade $893 bn
Finance / insurance / real estate $1,936 bn
Services $2,164 bn
Government $1.216 bn

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