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Wed August 31, 2011
Dr. Mark Harrison, University of Warwick - The Frequency of War
Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Mark Harrison of the University of Warwick reveals that despite expectations to the contrary, conflicts across the globe are on the rise, and have been for over a century.
Mark Harrison is Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick and a research fellow of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. He has been widely published on the subjects of economics, public policy, and international affairs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford.
Dr. Mark Harrison - The Frequency of War
Has the world become more or less dangerous? The two world wars killed many tens of millions. The Cold War was full of risks, but ended peacefully. Then, small wars broke out in many parts of the world.
In fact, the global number of armed conflicts between pairs of states has risen steadily since 1870. The rate of increase is around two percent a year. The two world wars prove an anomaly, but after 1945 the frequency of conflicts returned to the same rising path as before 1913.
According to common beliefs, this increase should not have happened. Over the twentieth century, many countries became richer, more democratic, and more interlinked. Many scholars have argued that such improvements give leaders fewer reasons to choose war.
This is not wrong, but it is incomplete. The falling cost of warfare may be the missing factor in its rising frequency. Four reasons make war cheaper now than in the past.
First, when mass destruction comes in a suitcase, destructive power costs less than ever. Second, modern states have cheaper ways to finance conflict. Third, trade costs have fallen. War disrupts trade, but those countries that maintain external trade in wartime can fight more effectively. Finally, statehood has become cheaper. Empires have crumbled and multi-national states have broken up. More states mean more borders over which to fight.
As we move into the twenty-first century, we have more wars, not because we want to, but because we can.