Perspective

Prof. Delong takes Don Luskin to task for mis-calculating death rates among solders in Iraq. Fair enough.

There have been 1511 combat fatalities in Iraq from May 2003 to November 2005. If there’s 150,000 U.S. solders in Iraq then that comes to 396 deaths per 100,000 per year (the standard units for mortality figures).

A solder in Iraq is 9 times more likely die in combat than a citizen of Washington D.C. is to be murdered. Solders in Iraq die at rates 4.5 faster than loggers. (This last comparison may be unfair… I’m only counting combat deaths not total deaths which include accidental deaths like car accidents. Its hard to tell if loggers die at disproportional rates because trees fall on them, which I would consider to be the logger equivalent to combat death, or because of other incidental reasons. I’m assuming that logger deaths are all directly related to their main work activity, i.e. falling trees. Also, I wonder if non-combat related deaths in Iraq happen at disproportionate rates. [ed. err, ‘disproportionate’ to what? average american accidental mortality? dangerous occupation mortality? maybe you should suck it up and include all 2200 solder fatalities increasing the solder death rate by a third.])

Lessons: I don’t want to live in Washington D.C. and I don’t want to be a logger. Its safe to say that solders lead a dangerous life. Also, there may be a way to quantify the benefit of ‘glory’ or ‘honor’ that solders get by dying for their country… just compare the discounted lifetime incomes of loggers against solders conditioned on likelihoods of premature deaths.