I was surprised that in 1941:

American military spending accounted for 2 per cent of it's national output. Compared to Japan's 70 per cent.

70% seems incredibly high, especially given people still need to eat, and be housed, much of which contributes to GDP.

I took a quick look at the current military spending of some random countries:

but none comes close to 70%.

Are there any known examples of nations spending more than 70% of GDP on the military, and if so, what was the highest?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I tried to follow your "in 1941" link but received a message saying "the uploader has not made this video available in your country" (I live in the UK). However, I found this paper which includes some relevant data on Japanese GDP and military expenditure. I rather doubt that its data supports the 70% figure, although it's not straightforward to derive a % from its figures presented on various price bases. There is also an issue whether the relevant GDP is that of Japan itself or should include that of other territories it had invaded. $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2021 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ In response to question of this percentage, I don't know about its accuracy, but this was a lot of occupied territory with policy mandating industry oriented toward military supply manufacturing - very unlike a country catering only to its original homeland. They even built a railway network in northern China during occupation. See here: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/… $\endgroup$
    – kleinerde
    Dec 12, 2021 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ In poor countries like Japan at that time, large amounts of production never show up in GDP numbers. Peasants eat their own produce and build their own clothes and housing. Nigeria almost doubled its GDP overnight in 2013 by accounting for more unaccounted production in the economy. GDP is a very rough guidance, especially in economies that are not mainly market oriented (e.g. if you pay your spouse if he /she cleans the house or not). $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Aug 10, 2022 at 4:58
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    $\begingroup$ The federal reserve of St. Louis writes that the US devoted more than 40% of its GDP for defense spending. Overall, wartime accounting is difficult, especially the further back you go. $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Aug 14, 2022 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Qatar's GDP is around 146 billion USD, but the cost to organize the world cup 2022 is projected to be 220 billion USD. Of course, they do not spend all that in a year, but still, it's very sizeable and as long as you can get financing and war equipment from outside, you could in theory spend more money on war than the entire GDP. After all, imports and exports of countries can (and frequently do) exceed GDP, which only measures domestic production. $\endgroup$
    – Alex
    Aug 14, 2022 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


I think you might be comparing japans % of government revenue spent on military to USA military spending as a % of GDP

Top results on google: japan total ww2 spend=56bn, 1939 GDP=184bn



In the dark-middle ages it was pretty common for % of government revenue spent on military to be 85-95%. Tax rates were often 50-60% (sometimes >90% during war). So going back father you're looking at numbers that would be considered pretty egregious today.


  • $\begingroup$ > "In Japan, military spending in 1944 was 99% of GDP. That means military spending was almost as large as the value of the entire national production in that year.", source: ourworldindata.org/military-spending $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Nov 12, 2021 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ zuljan.info/articles/0302wwiigdp.html C+I+G+NX implies 1% would be used for food $\endgroup$
    – tjaqu787
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ your source says 8.5% of population was enlisted meaning 91.5% of people had ~1% of income and the last 8.5% didn't invest or consume anything. I would suggest that those GDP or expenditure numbers are suspect. $\endgroup$
    – tjaqu787
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 this was edited and has sources now $\endgroup$
    – WilliamT
    Nov 16, 2021 at 20:50

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