Friday, April 26, 2013

The real cost of the Cold War's nuclear weapons

The United States currently has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It has been estimated that if we used them all we could destroy the world multiple times over. Annually we spend $35 billion maintaining our nuclear weapons supply. We currently maintain 5113 nuclear warheads, enough for 26 nukes per country (imagine 26 nukes descending on Monaco, 26 nukes descending on Canada, etc.) or one per 1.4 million people. If we (hypothetically) descended one nuke on the world's cities over 2,000,000 people we would have over 4800 nukes left. That would decrease the world's population by roughly 20%, and would kill roughly 1,400,000,000 people. Since there are 234 cities larger than 2 million people, this is a kill rate of about 6,000,000 people per nuke. (Based off of Wikipedia's list of urban areas by population) To kill everyone in the world, each American nuke would have to kill 1,400,000 people. I would say this is doable.

How is it worth spending $35 billion on an arsenal that is large enough to kill over 20% of the global population? I always compare government spending by how many people could be sent through college for one year with the same amount of money, and assuming $20,000 per person, we could send 1,750,000 students to college tuition and fees free. If we only paid tuition (assume $6000 per person, a state school) that would pay for tuition for about 5,833,333 students, or 2% of the population of the United States. For comparison, there were 4,136,000 births in 2009.

The message of this post is, next time you hear the Republicans speak about how much we spend on education and health care and how wasteful it is, ask how it is so wasteful to teach people how to be doctors, programmers, businessmen, teachers, any profession you an think of, yet it is a good use of funds to spend $30 billion on nuclear weapons, more than is required to kill every person on earth.

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