The 2016 presidential election, in keeping with the American tradition of a two-party dictatorship, is looking to be a choice between a modern-day fascist and a thoroughly corrupt, lying war monger. As mainstream media cheers on the failure of democracy, the candidates go on telling us how they will spend the money that is taken from us through a convoluted system of taxation rigged to benefit the corporatocracy.
This warped system of revenue collection is complemented by an equally warped system of spending. The practice of lawmakers bringing home pork was highlighted by the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” but in terms of how government spends money on saving lives, we find its priorities in a truly backward state.
A statistical analysis found that more than $500 million spent per victim on anti-terrorism efforts, while about $10,000 is spent per victim on cancer research. Indeed, there is a long list of things that kill people at a rate far higher than terrorism—and could benefit from more resources for study and prevention—but get far less funding from lawmakers.
Heart disease, cancer and stroke top the list of killers, taking about 1,356,000 lives every year. In the 21st century, about 3,000 Americans lost their lives to terrorism, averaging out to 200 fatalities per year.
Cancer and Heart Disease be damned — there are people across the globe that hate your freedom.
However, it is estimated that federal government spends $150 billion annually on anti-terrorism efforts, while it spends $2 billion a year to combat heart disease and about $300 million a year on research into strokes. Diabetes, pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease are other threats to human lives that get hardly any funding relative to terrorism.
One obvious answer to why spending is so disproportionate to magnitude of threat is the existence of the military-industrial complex. Reaping death and destruction overseas is a very profitable business. Much to the disappointment of President Dwight Eisenhower, government and the makers of bombs and bullets have fused into its own leviathan.
As Think by Numbers points out, there may be other factors contributing to the phenomenon of misplaced spending.
Evolutionary psychology may be able to explain this phenomenon. The human brain has been around for 200,000 years. More than 99% of that evolution has been characterized by starvation and general scarcity of resources typified the environment in which humans evolved. In this situation, violent acquisition of resources from other groups was often a necessary survival technique. Hence, human brains most hyper-vigilant and aggressive toward human threats (i.e. terrorists) were most likely to survive and propagate these characteristics.
On the other hand, throughout evolutionary history medical science was almost non-existent. Hence, there would be no survival value added by a tendency to focus on more likely health-related causes of death. We just weren’t designed for these times.
Interpersonal or inter-societal conflict seems to naturally occupy our thoughts more so than other forms of death. Dangers that are imposed on us are amplified, while risks from voluntary behavior such as driving a car are downplayed.
It is important to note that the more the US spends ostensibly “fighting terrorism” the more dangerous the world becomes, creating a vicious cycle. As we have pointed out in the past, the aggressive, murderous, and tyrannical US foreign policy of occupation and war does far more to create terrorism than stop it. Since 9/11 the United States has likely created a million Osama Bin Ladens by blowing up their children or family members in “surgical” drone strikes.
Society, unfortunately, seems to be fascinated by human conflict. With all of our knowledge and capacity for reason, far too many people can’t overcome the tendencies of the primitive brain. We know how to avoid war and we know that violent conquest is no longer needed to obtain resources, but willful death and destruction still run rampant.
We also know that things like heart disease and cancer are far more likely to take our lives or the lives of loved ones, yet we allow government to spend most of our money on bombing the bogeyman in some distant land.
It’s no coincidence that the mainstream media, which is now an arm of government, sets the public policy agenda. Fear of the bogeyman gets high ratings, and the stoking of that fear guarantees access to the inner circles of Washington D.C.
As the presidential election plays out, fear and fascination with human conflict will again be major topics of the candidates. It is in their best interest to counter the advance of human enlightenment and perpetuate the status quo of wildly misplaced spending priorities.