From the Wisconsin shooting to the war in Afghanistan, we all know that violence costs our society, whether it’s domestic violence, a homicide, a war, or something as simple as a security system. We also know that there are direct and indirect costs associated with violence, whether it’s the immediate medical, court and police costs that stem from violent crime, or the long-term loss of economic productivity that stems from the loss of an American worker’s life.
What we don’t know, however, is how much that violence costs our society — in total. A new report out this week, by the Institute for Economics and Peace, shows just how much, and it is an overwhelming amount. So what do we spend on violence, on violence-related medical expenses, incarceration, police, the military, insurance, and even the private security industry?
The total U.S. public and private expenditure containing violence on our lands and overseas is $2.16 trillion. That equates to roughly $15,000 that each American taxpayer spends annually on violence or more than 15 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Break that figure down by sector and you have public sector spending on violence accounting for 10.8 percent of GDP and private sector spending on violence accounting for 4.2 percent of U.S. GDP (and these are conservative figures).