Dr Steve Wright

Blog Post by Dr Steve Wright, Reader in Politics and Applied Global Ethics, Leeds Beckett University


Ruth Sivard died last month but her work continues to inspire. A sociologist and economist by training, she lived an extraordinary long life of almost a century. After joining the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1961, Ruth will be best remembered for her pioneering work on World Military and Social Expenditures, a series of 16 publications which ran from, 1974 – 1996.

The nub of her work was about excessive, nay grotesque, military expenditures which can be so vast, they are measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which few readily understand. Few of us can imagine what a billion actually means or can buy. So for example, if we accepted CND’s calculation of Trident replacement costs of £100 billion, or nearly $150 billion dollars: it is easier to understand this if we said it is a equivalent to a million dollar heist, each week, every week since Christ was a lad some 2000 years ago.

Ruth’s genius was to convert such astronomical sums for aircraft missiles and tanks into their social expenditure equivalents – the sort that you and me are being told we can no longer afford. Check it out for yourself…


Ruth Sivardn1915-2015

Challenging the re-prioritization of military over social expenditures continues to be a vital task as the well heeled military advisors, lobbyists and consultants feed the paranoia of seeking ever more militarisation as the price of security. Ruth deconstructed such activities with a crystal clear mind to the extent that her work was removed from US government reports in the Nixon era since it was undermining pentagon propaganda. Nothing much has changed since except the global military budget has grown to over 1.7 trillion dollars and each of us makes a significant donation to the military, police, security, university, media, entertainment complex – but without the ever elusive payoff of peace – as if people mattered, It is time for all of us to walk a distance in her shoes if we can….. See –


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