Spurs threw it away, totally lost their heads tonight, so Leicester win the Premier League with two games to spare. It is hard to think of a sporting achievement that compares to Leicester City’s. 5000/1 at the start of the season, widely tipped for relegation, and now [this](http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/35988673).

Pirates! (Militarism whack-a-mole #73)

by John Quiggin on May 2, 2016

Making the case against militarism is very reminiscent of climate denial whack-a-mole. Demolish one spurious argument, and you’re immediately presented with another. For example, my post showing that the economic benefits of “keeping sea lanes open” could not justify more than a trivial proportion of current naval expenditure, got hardly any substantive responses (apart from tiger-repelling rocks), but a great many saying “what about the pirates?”.

I’ve done the numbers on this one, and they look pretty clear-cut. There are a bunch of estimates on the web of the annual cost of piracy ranging from $1 billion to $16 billion a year.

This seems implausibly high. The amount actually stolen by pirates or paid as ransoms is far smaller, less than a billion a year at its peak, AFAICT. Looking in detail, there’s a fair bit of double counting here (both actual losses and the insurance premiums which offset them are counted, for example), and the high-end numbers typically include some estimate of the cost of naval deployments on anti-piracy patrols. In particular. Still, in the spirit of fair play, I’ll go with $10 billion.

Turning to the US Navy* budget, it’s currently over $150 billion a year. That supports a fleet of 272 “deployable battle force” ships, implying an annual cost of over $0.5 billion per ship. So, the annual cost of piracy is the same as the cost of about 20 ships. To put it another way, reducing the fleet by one ship, and scaling down anti-piracy operations accordingly would have to increase global piracy by 5 per cent to yield a loss to the global shipping industry greater than the savings to the US (I leave aside the question of why the global shipping industry is such an important recipient of US foreign aid).

Having played military whack-a-mole many times before I can anticipate the responses in my sleep. So, I’ll open the comments threads, resist the temptation to take part, and whack the inevitable moles in a later post.

* The US spends more than other developed countries, but I don’t think the others get any more ship for their shilling, capability-adjusted.

** I’ve corrected some errors in the data I used in the original version. But the discussion made it pretty clear that the objections aren’t to the numbers but to the whole idea of weighing benefits and costs in anything to do with military expenditure.