War and Peace: The Trade Off

Aishwarya Visweswaran Words of Freedom Leave a Comment

Today, world military expenditure is estimated to have reached $1.756 trillion. This corresponds to 2.5 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP), or approximately $249 for each person in the world and this total is still higher than in any year between the end of World War II and 2010.But even more devastating has been the widespread loss of human life, both military and civilian as well as the damage to property,the environment and livelihoods.

War and its consequences need no illustration- the debilitating effects have been experienced by almost every country in the world. The challenge that the world faces today, though, is its prevention. In our rapidly globalizing world with its leaping progresses in science and technology, what could be an effective policy for countries to adopt to deter war? This is a question that many nations still struggle to find the right answer to but in last week’s Weekly Your View, we asked you to suggest a solution. The responses we have received are quite diverse. While diplomacy was the most popular response with 32% of our 21 poll takers suggesting it, the other responses included stronger economic ties (16%) and disarmament (5%). Interestingly, 26% of our poll takers suggested free trade as a means to deter war which is not a commonly accepted solution to the problem of military aggression.

In the past, the world has tried and tested many solutions to maintaining peace such as disarmament, shared institutions and leadership as well as diplomatic international relations. But the fear of war still looms. There is one solution though, that more and more countries today are exploring as suggested by a quarter of our respondents – free trade.

The role of global trade in ensuring peace and stability in the world has been most visible in recent times, when economic interdependence has intertwined economies around the globe. It binds the fortunes of people in the world together. Free trade is based on the principle that all human relations should be voluntary and based on mutual consent. Closing your doors to trade would be seen as aggression from those that are dependent on your economy. Moreover, when a nation follows protectionist policies in trade, it usually enforces trade sanctions and embargoes that are equivalent to waging war on its own people. How? When a country closes itself to trade, it prevents imports which not only improve the standard of living of citizens but also often become raw materials for a countries own industries. This would lead to a demand-supply mismatch which makes war most expensive for citizens. Such a scenario is least preferred, thus ensuring that trade disincentivizes war. Further, even third world countries grow rapidly with free trade, with goods flowing into and out of stronger economies, reducing the possibility of internal strife and violence.

One who has read history might be inclined to believe that war is a result of inherent evil in human beings and that it is inevitable. But nothing could be further from the truth as has been demonstrated by the less number of wars between countries that trade a lot.Trade makes people get along as it brings with it a constant exchange of ideas, traditions and cultures that increases our tolerance for diversity and allows the world to come closer together. It creates a mutual interdependence and fosters healthy competition that only allows every nation to develop its economy and society.

This is a policy that the world needs to acknowledge and accept fast. The world is not free from war and the recent Global Peace Index 2014 reveals that peace around the world has deteriorated for seven of the past eight years, breaking the trend in the decades after World War II. Considering the growing number of nuclear weapons being created and possessed by different countries, governments should prioritize the deregulation of trade to effectively prevent the most deadly war the world would have ever seen.

-Aishwarya Visweswaran
Research Assistant – Education @ India Institute


The poll referred to in the second paragraph is our Weekly Your View 32 that was posted on our social media on 19th June 2014.