Afghanistan War Vs the IRS


A Management Engineering Analysis

By Jesse Brogan, Management Engineer


In my studies as a management engineer (specifically in my effort for the development of prosperity engineering), I have learned to look for the hidden costs that modern leaders are unable to see without technical help.  The challenge in this paper is raised by the political furor maintained by anti-war activists.  Our effective analysis will have to put this war into a larger reference frame, one where we can more-effectively evaluate its impact on our civilization.

With the typical cynicism of the engineer, I was doubtful that any benefit can be gained by the return of our military prior to attaining objectives.  With the analysis below, I have had to rethink this.

As a start, we have 140,000 soldiers in a war zone in Afghanistan and surrounding areas.  The complaint from various elements of our nation, including many in Congress, is that we are essentially wasting these resources; and that they could be better employed in other pursuits (mainly non-military).

This ignores the obvious truth that there is rarely any expenditure that could not be made better in some people’s perspective.   The question is more whether there is intelligence that can be provided to evaluate the expenditure – perhaps some use for our people in combating an element that is more dangerous to us.

What is it that we really have at risk?  We need an evaluation of the cost of having these soldiers engaged in a war.

The most valuable things we have, as human beings, are our lives.  With a natural understanding of this, our news media has focused on Loss of American lives in its presentation of the war to the public.  The next most valuable is the time we have to live.  Next to human life, personal time expenditures are where we have the most personal value.

My first observation is that we have lost much less than 3% of current war manning in the whole five year war effort!  To this expenditure, we add the personal time of 140,000 citizens who are actively engaged in pursuing the war.  As a first answer which puts our personal war risk into perspective; this war is expensive in manpower, but not all that great a threat to life; especially in comparison with past war efforts.

But this is not the end; we need a comparison with another threat to our peace and prosperity.  I have chosen to compare it to the American income tax.  Consider the burden of this war in relation to the burden placed upon our civilization by our system of personal taxation. 

The tax system requires citizens to fill in complex Government forms, under a law that even full-time tax experts can’t seem to understand so that they agree with each other.

Start with 125,000,000 American tax payers, each putting in their average of 8 hours effort reading manuals, gathering records, creating files, and mailing forms.  The result is an expenditure/loss of 1,000,000,000 man hours of our personal time.  At 2,000 man-hours per work year, this equates to 500,000 man-years of effort expended every year; and that is only direct citizen time, not the payroll of the IRS. 

For an initial perspective, this amount of manpower should be enough to annually rebuild the Panama Canal, or to take on like projects.

As to manpower, the 140,000 soldiers in the Mid-East is a substantial expenditure of manpower, but pales in reference to what we are expending just to support the way our government funds itself through demands placed upon its citizens.

Even that is not sufficient for perspective because it addresses only time, not lives. 

Consider the threat to life associated with the income tax, with its threat of audit and prosecution for errors (a well-recognized source of personal stress).  If we lose only one tax-payer per million to heart-attacks and strokes from tax-time stresses, we are losing more people to income tax than to the Mid-East war.


While this indeed satisfies our starting need for developing a perspective, it also raises a new challenge.  Which is the more the dangerous enemy of prosperity in the United States, radical Islamists or our own income tax?

And so in answer to the question of the propriety of expenditures of lives and manpower on the war, perhaps we have found a more deadly and expensive threat to our way of life!  In spite of my initial leanings, I might support bringing our troops home to fight on the new front should we declare war on the IRS.