Saturday, April 23, 2005
I am pretty firmly on the free trade side of this & in fact believe that the last 200 years have shown that economic success & growth is actually easier for the richest countries & that when China grows faster than us it is because they are trying much harder (when Ireland only put a relatively small effort into growth they did nearly as well as China). On the other hand this not the common view which is that when we grow slower it is because the foreigners are inevitably catching up on us - a doctrine particularly popular among leaders of failing rich countries.
This is my contribution primarily about the effects of military power. This may be one of the more optimistic developments since, if war is no longer a paying proposition there is likely to be less of it. Jerry's reply about the value of exterminating/expelling a nationality is unfortunately true (this is what we did in Krajina & what Israel sort of did within their own borders & didn't do in the West Bank. Unfortunately war, as a means not of benefiting yourself but merely of weakening other growing powers remains a powerful option (I would argue that this was Hitler's aim in invading Russia & was certainly the aim of a suggested Soviet attack on China in the 70s).
"Gold cannot get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold."
I do not believe this is still true. I have on occasion used a variant of this: "Gold cannot get you good science, but good science will always get you gold" which I believe is now true.
Since the industrial revolution the most effective way for a country to grow has been by growing its economy. A couple of years at 6% growth is worth more than Alsace Lorraine. This option was not open in Machiavelli's time. Nowadays Porto Rico, Kosovo, Armagh, Chechnya & Iraq are a net loss.
Having "the world's best military machine" (Albright) still leaves you with the advantage of doing more harm to the other side than you do to yourself, which makes it useful for blackmail, but it isn't a paying proposition. In fact China, by not matching US military expenditure & investing the money instead is doing more to make China a Great Power.
The US could default & the Chinese couldn't send the bailiffs in but then Zaire has done this already & it doesn't make you richer.
I make no doubt that if we put out minds to it we can find ways to make conquest pay. If there aren't any inhabitants of an area there won't be anyone to interfere with extracting oil, will there? Think neutron bombs. As co-author of The Strategy of Technology I am not likely to disagree that part of having good soldiers involves having appropriate military technology, and that the Technological War is decisive: but there is more to technological war than science. Having knowledge isn't the same as having decisive weapons; and having decisive weapons isn't the same as decisively using them. As we may or may not be learning.