Linda Bilmes in a recent New York Times column estimates the total outlay for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan will come to $1.3 trillion. Christopher Westley cites a 2002 study by William Nordhaus estimating the ten year cost of an Iraq invasion at $1.2 billion:
The figure was outlandish, I was told. This was back at the time when Larry Lindsay was fired for making public his estimate that the war would cost $200 billion when the Bush Administration was estimating a cost of about half that amount.
At a glance it looks like Bilmes and Nordhaus each are including things like debt financing costs, increased veteran’s benefits and oil prices in their estimates, accouting for the half trillion increase over other recent estimates that the direct financial cost of the war could come to $700 trillion.
Regardless, it is clear and bears repeating ad nauseum that the war advocates underestimated financial costs by an order of magnitude and this radical underestimation is recurrent.
More broadly (sorry, can’t dig up the links right now) I’ve seen pro-war or ambivalent putatively pro-market people lament that the U.S. regime implements a centrally planned economy rather than a hoped for Hong Kong on the Euphrates, or anything close. Sorry, that hope was stupid and ignorant. Why trust the government to do the right thing in Iraq when you agree it almost never does the right thing at home? What about postwar Japan and Germany? Well, in the case of Germany anyway, the allied forces imposed price controls, one of the stupidest economic policies possible, and were aghast when Ludwig Erhard abolished the controls in 1948, paving the way for the economic miracle the U.S. wrongly takes credit for.
The average person has some excuse for believing whatever lies were told about the presence of “weapons of mass destruction”–how could one know? (Personally I find the entire topic incredibly boring. The only reason I didn’t believe is that I assume nearly every phrase uttered by a successful politician is fraudulent.) When the lies concern financial cost or economic policy, there is no excuse for belief, as the lies are basically the same every time.