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Violence Containment Spending in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2012
40 pages
This report presents and applies a new methodology for quantifying the cost of containing violence in a country, with a focus on its application to the United States' economy.
The methodology is proposed as a new and novel approach for understanding the international economic competitiveness of a nation, based on a calculation of the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on containing violence. The less a nation spends on violence containment, providing violence is effectively controlled, then the more competitive the economy should be because of its ability to deploy its resources more efficiently. The cost of containing violence is related to tax expenditures for government-sponsored violence containment, and private expenditures such as security systems, security guards, and higher insurance premiums. Any money spent for the purpose of containing violence is part of the cost of violence. The costs of violence containment escalate as more personnel, time, and equipment are required to prevent and contain violence at a risk level deemed acceptable by businesses and the general public. This paper calls the aggregate of these resources devoted to violence containment as the violence containment industry (VCI). The VCI includes a country's resources devoted to a nation's military as well as domestic law enforcement. The VCI cost in the United States amounted to $2.16 trillion in 2010, equivalent to just over $15,000 for each taxpayer or $7,000 per year for every man, woman, and child living in the United States. The VCI is the largest industry in the United States economy, and if represented as a discrete national economic entity, it would be the seventh largest economy in the world. Public-sector spending on VCI accounts for 10.8 percent of GDP, and private-sector spending is 4.2 percent of GDP. Extensive tables and figures and 28 references