Evaluating the Tradeoffs Between Dollars Spent and Lives Saved in Military Settings
Kniesner, Thomas J.
Leeth, John D.
Sullivan, Ryan S.
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A fundamental tenant of economics is that actions should be evaluated in terms of benefits and costs, including actions aimed at reducing military or civilian casualties. Safety improvements only expand individual or social welfare if the benefits of the improvements exceed their costs. Monetary costs of safety programs are generally determined through engineering or accounting studies and are fairly non-controversial. Against their costs, must be weighed the value of fewer fatalities and injuries, which requires both an accurate assessment of the fatalities and injuries eliminated and a monetary value of the lives saved and injuries avoided. Some argue that no monetary value can be placed on human life so any effort that improves safety is worthwhile. Clearly, the military cannot operate as if human life had infinite value. The focal message of our chapter is that choices must be made because complete safety is impossible and approving every advancement in armament, technology, or training that would reduce causalities or injuries would soon exhaust the military budget and leave no resources available for the core activities of defending the country.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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