ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research

06/21/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/21/2024 01:13

Ideological Military Spending: More Pay or More Weapons? // ZEW Study on the Influence of Political Ideologies on Military Spending in the EU and NATO

ZEW Study on the Influence of Political Ideologies on Military Spending in the EU and NATO

Left-wing governments pursue a more expansive fiscal policy, while conservative governments aim for a more restrictive fiscal policy.

The political ideology of a government directly impacts its military spending. While conservative governments spend more money on military equipment and weapons, left-wing governments devote more funds to military personnel. Furthermore, according to a study by economist Łukasz Olejnik at ZEW Mannheim, governments whose constituencies have personal ties to the military tend to increase their military spending. The study is based on data from 29 EU and NATO countries spanning from 1999 to 2022.

Although it is clear that the degree of military spending depends on defence and budgetary factors, there has been little research to date on political factors that may be influencing the level of military spending in developed and democratic countries. "It was only when we disaggregated military spending into personnel expenses, arms purchases and other expenditures that the ideological differences in military spending became apparent," says author of the study Łukasz Olejnik, PhD, a Humboldt visiting fellow in ZEW's "Corporate Taxation and Public Finance" Research Unit.

He explains: "The results are consistent with theories that suggest that left-wing governments usually pursue a more expansive fiscal policy, such as through higher salaries for soldiers, along with a restrained foreign policy which results in lower arms expenditure. Conservative governments, on the other hand, strive for a more restrictive financial policy, i.e. with lower salaries for soldiers, coupled with a more forceful foreign policy, which goes hand in hand with more spending on armaments."