Prosperity, Then Peace

Tracy O (ASA)money money money

I recently wrote about how globalization could make the world a much safer place. The logic is essentially this: countries that have significant business interactions are much less likely to go to war. A China that relies on exports to the West probably won’t start a war with anyone, and a West that relies on imports from China is less likely to go to war with them. If you extend this logic to a world in which each country relies on imports and exports to and from everywhere else, a completely “globalized” world seems destined for peace.

In explaining that theory, I drew on the (easy) example of Europe. The logic is straightforward: trade liberalization under the auspices of the European Union has made Europe more interconnected. That interconnections has made war all but impossible. After publishing, a very interesting and reasonable counter-argument came to mind: the prosperity of Europe, not it’s liberalization, has kept it at peace.

Consider, for example, that almost all the violence in Europe to have occurred in the last few decades happened in the relatively poor Balkans. Consider too, that Africa–a continent almost synonymous with war–is easily the poorest inhabited continent on the planet.

Now I’m not that interested in listing hundreds of examples. I’m well aware that for every example I can give there are probably an equal number of  counterexamples.

The mechanism by which prosperity would yield peace is more intuitive than rational. The basic idea would be that the wealthier a person is, the more social capital–education, acquaintances, leisure time–they have, and the more resistant they are to putting a nice life on hold to risk their own neck in war. This makes sense, but without some actual data remains “just a theory.”

However, it follows that if this worked, generally speaking, to turn a populous against war a responsive government would almost necessarily be less likely to wage war. Even a government deaf to the desires of its citizens would likely struggle to conscript people to join an undesired military action.

Certainly the theory has flaws. Rich countries do start wars. There are poor countries that are peaceful. But I can’t and wouldn’t contend that prosperity alone makes a country or population less likely to go to war. I would say, however, that it’s a factor that shouldn’t be ignored if one desires to end all wars.


Globalization as Entanglement

JohnLeGear (ASA)Globes in Chicago

Globalization has bad rap. Some of it is, no doubt, deserved. The practice is great at giving us (in the “rich world”) poorly made plastic doodads that we don’t need, but at prices we can’t resist. By doing so it’s probably increased the amount of raw materials needlessly wasted, and encouraged the desire for similar wastefulness in poorer countries.

It’s also got a well-deserved reputation for low wages and poor safety in country where workers are glad just to be employed. Surely there should be at least some embarrassment among companies that come from the rich world that they’re essentially doing their best to move their manufacturing to places with the least stringent worker-safety regulations they can find.

All of this, and more, are the legitimate problems with globalization as it is currently being implemented. I’m not defending globalization in it’s current incarnation as an overwhelming good. It has not been.

But that does not mean that globalization does no good. Openness to trade and the shrinking barriers between nation-states means that the world is ever more entangled. And an entangled world, the logic goes, is a more peaceful world.

Consider Europe. The two largest wars this world has ever known were started by European countries in the first half of the twentieth century. And yet, here we are at the start of the twenty-first century and Europe–well, most of it–is the most diverse, stable, and peaceful continent in the world.

If you doubt it, consider that Belgium has just recently decided that maybe they should get serious about forming an operational government. Though they had parliamentary elections eight months ago, they’d not managed (or needed) to form a governing coalition. Where being without a government would have seemed dangerous just 100 years ago, today the relatively touchy people of Belgium have seen no economic, military, or health catastrophe that would precipitate a government’s formation.

Surely the devolution of power in Europe’s a great deal more than buying cheap plastic products from each other, but to envision the European Union as much more than trade liberalization writ large is misguided.

Chastened and fearful of the legacy of two world wars and the prospect of another, the free countries of Europe chose to become so economically entangled that war world be, essentially, impossible. Surely there’s more to say than that, but at base it’s what happened.

That’s a nice story, but surely it’s a little foolish to try to extrapolate it to the current world. After all, Europe’s was far more stable fifty years ago than most of the world is today. It was. And surely there are some dangerous people in the world today who could easily end some peaceful tide. There are. And surely there are people who will lose in a vast tide of globalization be they Americans made jobless or Vietnamese subjected to poor factory conditions. There are.

But painting with the broad strokes of history it’s hard to see globalization, and it’s compulsory entanglement, as anything but a good thing. America’s politicians and citizens should remember that more often.


‘Falcons sign Japanese reciever from NFL Europa’

Perhaps you remember what I said about surprising headlines, but this is probably at the top of the list of surprising headlines.

Apparently, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons just signed a Japanese wide receiver, Noriaki Kinoshita, who had been playing in the Europe league. And though I can’t even tell you how many ways this surprised me, here are a few.

First, I had no idea that anyone in Japan played American football. I didn’t know anyone other than Americans and maybe Canadians played the sport. Aside from the geographic issues, I would never expect a Japanese man to play football. I always thought that Japanese men were smaller more docile than most. The article specifies that Kinoshita is 5-10 and 179, which isn’t exceptionally small for a wide receiver.

Second, I had no idea that NFL Europa was a place that American teams would even think to scout. I’d heard of players moving to the American game from Canada, Doug Flutie is probably the most notable example of that. Or moving from the Arena Football League, like Kurt Warner; but Europe? I’d admit the possibility that I didn’t know this was common, I didn’t even know how many teams there were in Europe.

And the last reason I’ll list right here is this: how did a Japanese man come to play on a European football team? I suppose it’s probably not so uncommon, but I assumed that most NFL Europe players were either Europeans or expats.

Interestingly, Kinoshita is not the first Japanese player signed by an American team. Nachi Abe was the first in 2000, though apparently he only made it through 10 days of camp.

And as a side note, I just discovered (thanks to Wikipedia) that just last week the NFL closed the European league because it wanted “to develop a new international strategy” (read: it was hemorrhaging $30 million a year).

If nothing else, this story proved to me that even when I think I know a lot, I really do not.