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An alternative approach might be to consider the opportunity costs to Iraqis. Would they rather have had some trillions of dollars spent on armed combat on their home territory, or would they rather have welcomed $16,000 per individual Iraqi to relocate out from under Sadam's regime? What other opportunity costs might present themselves to Iraqis in this situation?

UCD Neuroscientist

Iraq Body Count reports that there have been between 67845 and 74334 verified civilian Iraqi deaths to date. The Lancet study published at the end of 2006 estimated the death toll among Iraqis as a result of the US-led invasion to be 655,000. Applying the dollar estimate for the value of a statistical life of $5 million, suggests that the cost in lost lives of Iraqis has been at least $0.4 trillion and as much as $3 trillion, with the high estimate being closer to the appropriate value. Thus, it is not unreasonable to estimate the economic cost of the war at $4 trillion, not including the damage to the Iraqi infrastructure. To put this value into perspective, consider that the gross domestic product of all the countries in the world is estimated at US$48 trillion. Consequently, US adventurism has, to date, consumed enormous global wealth, equal to about 8% of the yearly global economy.


UCD Neuroscientist:

You make an assumption which just does not hold - the prices of US and Iraqi statistical lives are not the same. I doubt that the value of the Iraqi life is much higher than 100.000 USD, if the same methodology for determinining the value of statistical life is used in Iraq.

We may not like it, but this kind of methodology of determining the value of life is country-specific.


Marko, I believe that you misunderstand the concept of the statistical life value. Granted, the average American will produce more income and will accumulate more wealth than the average Iraqi. However, this value has nothing to do with an individual's earning power. Rather, it is based on how much an individual is willing to pay to accept a small risk. Clearly, even in the US when determined under different scenarios, there are dramatic differences in the value obtained. However, the $5 million value cited is based on large experience. I see no logical reason to believe that Iraqi citizens value their own lives any less than we Americans value our own. The fallacy you express, where we assume that another individual values his or her own life less than we value our own, has allowed us to rationalize murdering more than one-half million Iraqis.


I see no logical reason to believe that Iraqi citizens value their own lives any less than we Americans value our own.

Ummm, other than the fact that they have a habit of blowing themselves up?

The idea that the West has ‘murdered’ a half million Iraqis is absurd. Shia consider Sunni to be Infidels. Sunni consider Shia to be Infidels. The Americans are not killing Iraqis. The Sunni and Shia are killing each other in a religious war driven by Islamic ideology. Often with drill bits.

2:99 Disbelievers are evil people.
2:104 For disbelievers is a painful doom.
3:73 Don't believe anyone who is not a Muslim.
3:48 Don't be friends with non-Muslims. They all hate you and want to ruin you.
4:89 Have no unbelieving friends. Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.
4:63 Oppose those who refuse to follow Muhammad.
4:101 The disbelievers are an open enemy to you.
5:51 Don't take Jews or Christians for friends. If you do, then Allah will consider you to be one of them.
5:59 Jews and Christians are evil people.
6:106 Stay away from disbelievers.
8:55 The worst beasts in Allah's sight are the disbelievers.
9:5 Slay the disbelievers wherever you find them.
9:28 Disbelievers are unclean.

Those wishing to champion compassion need to confront Islamic ideology, not those who have sacrificed to give the Iraqi people a chance at self-government.

One of the benefits of the War in Iraq that Professor Becker did not note is an ongoing lesson on the Religion of Peace.


Neuroscientist, if you study the willingness to pay literature, you will see a strong positive relationship between income and willingness to pay.

Studies of wtp for lives saved do find lower values in developing countries than in industrial countries. It is likely that a country like Iraq (with GDP per capita one fifteenth of that in the USA in PPP terms) would have a lower value of a statistical life than in the US.

That said, I find it unlikely that any valuation on life has gone into the calculation of casualty levels in Iraq- an absence which is kind of the point of the blog thread. Your statement about rationalising half a million Iraqi deaths is just ludicrous - even if one were to accept the implausible and statistically biased Lancet study.


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The problem with the argument between neuroscientist and Marko is that the value of any human life differs not only by country but by individual. There is not way to be able to idnetify the amount of an average life. Im not talking in a moral scence but in a more specific one.
Take a Iraqui company for example. Not even think that the company is caught in the line of fire. Just that 2 managers were killed when they were having lunch (caught in cross fire). In a middle size company the lost of half the managing staff can take them to near bankrupcy. That would take all employees to unemployment. That would diminish the incomes in all of its suppliers. That would have a cost in the clients benefits (they would have one option less). That would damage all stake holders (ussually medium size companys have a bigger leverage).

Depending on the size of the company and how many companies are damage by the cassualties and the rank in the companies of the killed ones this cost can be exponential. Higher delicuency. Lower education (due to the smallest income in their families). More anger that can bring more people to the jihad (think in the sons and relative of the kills that now have no income for the families).

The outcome of the killed has no probable valeu.
Have you thought about of the growth in the probability of a bomb exploiting in america and the killing a high ranking executive that this war brings??? can you value that?
I have my opinion on this war, but to stick with the subject, there in no possible way that the economics benefits justify it.



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