As much as it can frustrate and tire me at times, being on Twitter is often a very interesting experience. A subject that has come up recently is the idea of war being an economically beneficial concept. Is that the case?
Wars are rarely fought strictly over ideological differences. At the root of most wars is wealth. As George Cooper so astutely pointed out in his recent book, Money, Blood and Revolution, humans for the most part are Darwinian competitors. Many of (dare I say, most) of our conflicts have been fought for the right to claim resources.
The concept of wealth can be perceived in many ways but, when you think about it, the term “wealth” at its most basic level means “resources.” Initially, a human wants to claim as many resources as s/he needs to survive; once that happens, his/her resource claiming will align itself further up the ladder of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Claiming the resources necessary for survival is the basic premise of wealth accumulation.
That survival imperative starts with the individual, but extends out to society itself. Humans, for the most part, understand that our own preservation is pointless if society itself devolves into a lawless, chaotic anarchy. Creating and preserving “the social contract” with others in the form of advanced societies with just rules of law is a necessary survival dynamic that ensures our short-term survival as well as the long-term survival of our children. That’s why laws ultimately exist… to preserve the social contract. It’s our way of stating to each other, “Hey, I won’t kill you if you won’t kill me. I won’t steal from you if you don’t steal from me, et cetera.” People will devote much of their excess resources, in the forms of charity and philanthropy, to balance the inequities of a society, which is a rational survival response. (As an aside, the corruption and hypocrisy of most legal systems is a severe problem, but that’s a post for another day.)
War ultimately is a competition between two or more models of society. On a small scale, it is generally non-beneficial as its main outcome is disruption and instability. However, could its effect on a large-to-massive-scale be considered beneficial?
If you look at the earth as a fixed resource, then you have to understand that unfettered population growths means less wealth for everyone. As the population grows, the proportion of resources for each person drops and that doesn’t even take into account the distortions in wealth created by the Capitalist system. War has been a natural response to the competitive pressures created by a growing population. To put it crudely, knocking off a billion or two people would make everyone much richer from a resources standpoint.
Also, consider this… if innovation is “creative destruction,” then war is really creative destruction. What do you call a shattered society with bombed-out infrastructure and millions of dead or injured? Most Capitalists would call it “a business opportunity.” When you bomb a country pretty much back into the Stone Age, it has nowhere to go but up. Devastated countries have excellent potential for economic growth not to mention profit for those enterprising enough to get in on the ground floor.
When it comes to Capitalism, war is pretty good provided the destruction is just massive enough to create great business opportunities, but not so bad that humanity itself is threatened. In some ways, it could be said that the proliferation of nuclear weapons has interfered with a very natural element of societal evolution as well as Capitalism. However, I think the preservation of human life is well worth the trade-off.
The innovation in The Currency Paradox introduces an economic system for a world in which war is obsolete. By unleashing the locked-in potential of the world’s billions of people, the creative destruction that, until now, has only been possible with massive world war, becomes a regular feature of our entire economy. What could the human race accomplished if manpower wasn’t a limitation? Waste reclamation and recycling of materials as industries would experience exponential growth. The creative and technological capacity of billions could be set upon the problems of the world. As new, sustainable technologies are introduced, the world’s population would decline, making everyone wealthier as a result.
I personally think it is a great thing that war is becoming obsolete. The problem is finding a way to recreate its capacity for renewal and growth. Capitalism is proving to not be enough. It’s time to embrace a better system.