Recently my son needed to learn how to convert currency for a Cub Scout project. Got me thinking about how we can calculate other exchange rates. So here’s a textbook example for calculating the ALV.

Calculating the ALV (American Life Value) for foreign values

The war in Iraq was prompted, to some degree at least, by the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). In the aftermath of 9/11, it was determined that such things needed to be sought out to prevent the future death of Americans. The subsequent war in Iraq was costly, both in monetary terms and in terms of human life. Here we can begin our valuation of human life by comparing the lives taken to determine how much each life is valued:

  • American civilians lost on 9/11: 2,977
  • Iraqi civilians lost in US war: 111,390 – 121,736

While the American casualites did nothing to deserve death, the Iraqi civilians neither chose their country of origin nor to hide the stockpiles of WMDs that precipitated the attack on their country.

By divding the two values, we have an inital ALV-ILV (Iraqi Life Value) exchange between 37.42 and 40.89. This number shows how many Iraqi civilians the average American civilian is worth.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to calculate the ALV for other nations and situations.

Try this

Civilian deaths are not the only casualties. Calcalculate the ALV-ILV exchange rate for fighting casualties, including combat-only and combat + non-combat US deaths.

  • Americans lost in war: 4,488. In combat: 3,532
  • Iraqi insurgents lost in war: 21,22126,405

Exercises for the reader

Calculate a composite exchange rate by combining civilian and military casualties to get a war exchange rate.

Work out the rate not as direct numbers, but as a percentage of population. The American civilian casualty rate is one for every 104,131 people while the Iraqi civilian rate is one for every 269 people. Calculate these values as a percentage and then as a ratio against each other.

Some conversions only involve a different scale, but remain constant (Fahrenheit-Celcius, feet-meters, etc) while oher conversions have adjusting values, like currency. Is the ALV a constant or does it change over time?

Plot the American and Iraqi casualties as well as the yearly ALV-ILV over the last decade. HINT: you will need the number of American casualties for each year since the Iraqi war started in 2003. Be sure to label your axes!

Find another comparison of civilian deaths and calculate the ALV rate for civilians.

Integrate what you’ve learned

Talk with your history or civics teacher to determine how many of the 2,977 American civilian casualties were caused by Iraqis. Recalculate your ALV/ILV based on these new numbers. Also determine how many American civilians were saved based on the massive piles of WMDs that were discovered. Determine a formula to take these saved lives into account.