Sunday, March 9, 2008

So exactly how much is a trillion dollars?

With China and Japan both holding about a trillion dollars of US debt (with total foreign debt of 9T) I wondered, what exactly is a trillion dollars? How much does it buy?
Since economic power is so often linked to military power, I decided to calculate just how much military equipment one can buy with a trillion USD. So I found a nice table which lists the total number of all crew-operated military vehicles in US and for each type of vehicle I found the latest model and used its production cost to generously approximate average cost of a vehicle in that category. I then summed up the numbers, and here is what I came up with for all the weapons of the United States:

# units unit cost, mln $ total cost, mln $
Tanks 8000 3 24000
Aircraft carrier 21 4500 94500
Cruiser 22 1000 22000
Destroyer 52 1000 52000
Frigate 30 1000 30000
Corvette 46 300 13800
Nuclear sub 72 2000 144000
Fighter Aircraft
3200 43 137600


I excluded traditional nuclear weapons here, because their cost is almost impossible to estimate correctly. Production cost is minimal and it is mostly the cost of installations, missiles and maintenance.

The conclusion is that a trillion dollar would basically buy the entire weaponry of the United States twice over.
Note also that the ballpark cost of the current financial crisis is already being estimated to be roughly 1 trillion dollars. Just to show how serious the crisis is - and it has only just started.

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