Greek Military Spending

This is hardly the only source of Greece’s fiscal woes, but via Tyler Cowen this kind of thing can’t be helping: “Greece, with a population of just 11 million, is the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe—and ranks fifth in the world behind China, India, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. Its military spending is the highest in the European Union as a percentage of gross domestic product.”

The thing about military spending that I don’t think is properly understood is the extent to which if it’s not necessary it’s truly wasteful. Building a mag-lev train from Chicago to Milwaukee would be a “waste of money” but if you did it, the resulting train would still be useful to people and lead to some increased value. But a tank you don’t need just does nothing. An extra brigade of soldiers consumes resources and doesn’t produce anything. Of course if your tanks and soldiers produce “Nazis don’t conquer Europe” then it’s valuable indeed. But if you don’t need them, you really don’t need them. Consequently, for countries like Turkey and Greece it’s extremely costly to pursue these long-term military rivalries.