Monday, August 25, 2008

Education investments, not security spending, separates the United States from Third World status

Speaking today of education and crime, I saw a sad and unreal statistic from the Salvadoran Public Security Council which found that "El Salvador spends some 11% of its GDP on security, yet spends only 2.7% on education." Their crime problem is a lot worse than ours, too; for that matter, it's substantially worse than Mexico's.

These stark data remind me of a recent exchange in Grits comments. Reacting to this Grits post, someone wondered, given Texas' high incarceration rates, "Do we need any more proof that Texas is really just another third world country?" I replied that no Third World country could afford incarceration rates that high, declaring "Mass incarceration is a rich nation's hobby."

To judge by these data, I may have misstated things. I don't know comparable US stats, but as a proportion of GDP, one anticipates a much greater proportion of public expenditures in the United States go toward education as opposed to items associated with security (though it's hard to say what effect the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are being fought with borrowed money, not directly out of GDP, had on that ratio).

For that matter, I've little doubt that those reversed spending priorities are a big reason why the United States has less crime and more economic prosperity than Third World nations that don't invest in education as heavily. Ideally the overall balance struck would decisively favor education spending. Particularly in the modern information-era economy, investments in society's human capital via education make everybody safer in the long-run with more overall bang for the buck than prisons and jails.

Read the full post from Mexidata.


Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the amount we spend on education. What I have a problem with is the amount of money we spend in the name of education. Here in Texas, public school hasn't been about education in a long time.

Anonymous said...

In a world in which computer networks are involved in nearly every facet of business and personal life, it is paramount that each of us understand the basic features, operations and limitations of different types of computer networks.