The BBC recently reported that the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has calculated that US military budget is now 58% of the total for the whole world. It has grown enormously even during the recession. And now stands at $607bn, or about $2000 per US citizen per year. That's 4% of the GDP.
After the US the second highest expenditure is now China, which spends about $85bn per year, which due to their huge population is only $63 per person per year, and third and fourth place are taken by France and the UK, each spending about $65bn, or about $1000 per person per year.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, now spends about $10bn per year, or about $683 per person per year. That's about 1.5% of the GDP.
And what does this have to do with cycling ? Well, Assen spends about 27 Euros per person per year on cycling infrastructure. That's about $37 per person per year, and a fairly typical level in the Netherlands. A small sum compared with the military figures we're looking at.
In the past, people from both the US and the UK have told me that providing decent cycling infrastructure as the Dutch do is too expensive for their countries. However, to take the USA as an example, if the military budget was cut by a mere 2%, still leaving them easily outspending the whole of the rest of planet on weaponry, they could also outspend the Dutch on cycling provision. The UK would have to cut its military budget by more like 4% to achieve the same thing, still leaving that country as one of the biggest military spenders.
It really depends where your priorities lie. Bombs vs. bikes.
The "axis of evil" countries are also interesting. Take Iran, for instance. They spend about $6.7 bn per year on arms. That's about 3% of the country's GDP. Their population is 70 M. so that works out as about $96 per person per year. i.e. roughly 1% of the overall figure and under 5% per person compared with what the USA spends.
You can find these figures for virtually any country directly on the SIPRI website.
The photos of Swiss soldiers on "Swiss Army Bikes" come from the website of the Condor Club in the Netherlands, enthusiasts of the machines who have have a great list of military bicycles from around the world. Switzerland spends just 0.8% of its GDP on the military.