The Roots of War

Chris Blattman in the Boston Review:

Nothing destroys progress like conflict. Fighting massacres soldiers, ravages civilians, starves cities, plunders stores, disrupts trade, demolishes industry, and bankrupts governments. It undermines economic growth in indirect ways too. Most people and business won’t do the basic activities that lead to development when they expect bombings, ethnic cleansing, or arbitrary justice; they won’t specialize in tasks, trade, invest their wealth, or develop new ideas. These costs of war incentivize rivals to steer clear from prolonged and intense violence.

Of course, it seldom feels like peace is our natural state. “The story of the human race is war,” said Winston Churchill, “except for brief and precarious interludes, there has never been peace in the world.” Certainly it often seems so, especially today as a major conflict rages in Ukraine and the number of civil wars in the world climbs to levels not seen since the 1990s.

But that sentiment is misleading and comes from ignoring the quieter moments of compromise.

More here.