Throughout history people have engaged in wars and mass killings.

I'm sure similar stories exist in all parts of the globe, throughout the world.

So what is the story? If the world revolves around economics, then how does economics profit from mass destruction and killings? If we are to stop this, we must first understand this.

Sorry to ask, but is it that the money made from jobs involved in setting up concentration camps, producing equipment of mass destruction, and all of that, more profitable than what the bastards can earn from the people designated to be killed? Is this why we have all these killings throughout history?

Or are you going to tell me that all the mass killings that happened in history were motivated by something other thanan economical reward optimization problem?

Let us find a solution (or a set of solutions, together) so that this does not happen (again!). So many people spend their time wondering about so many things not realizing their own lives are in danger. TikiI think this is a priority we should be focusing on.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Are terrorists rational? $\endgroup$ – BCLC Jul 9 '16 at 2:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That post considers an individual considering his options and choosing the most rewarding alternative from their constructed imagination, which can be anything. But my question is about models of per-person-profit contingent on some of these people's death, considering the role of monetary profit in making rational decisions. And this is not one person deciding, it is voting for politicians influenced by their own rationality in making decisions. Hence group dynamics involved. $\endgroup$ – Jack Maddington Jul 9 '16 at 2:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Though the question in italics is very scary I am still going to tell you that a lot (probably not all) of mass killings that happened in history were motivated by things other than economics. That is unless you consider evolution an economic phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 9 '16 at 8:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I also have several issues with your question. Economics does not really profit in the sense that it gets money, it is a science. I don't think the world revolves around economics (maybe for professional economists). As this is the premise of your question problems arise. The question "why are there wars and mass killings" seems to be more on topic at Politics. (Even there it might be too broad.) $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 9 '16 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ I have reworded my question to address your issue. As an aside, everyone tries to optimize their "utility" function, but some people die in the process as though their own life and health were not part of it. $\endgroup$ – Jack Maddington Jul 9 '16 at 9:16

I'm not really sure why this is tagged [social-welfare] or [welfare economics]. It seems to me that more appropriate tags would be [history] and/or [international economics] (since the question involves international relations), and/or [game theory] (since the question involves putatively rational behavior in a multi-agent context).

Having said that, here is my (uninformed) response. In a case where a much stronger group murders, enslaves and expropriates a much weaker group, there can be a net economic advantage (for the stronger group). The European conquest and colonization of the Americas and their abduction and enslavement of millions of Africans are probably the most obvious examples. Of course, genocide, slavery and mass expropriation do not guarantee long-term economic growth, as can be seen by comparing the economic histories of North America and South America. Furthermore, the influx of easy resources following an easy conquest can create something analogous to a "resource curse" or "Dutch disease". For example, the massive influx of silver from Spain's American conquests initially made Spain "rich", but eventually it led to inflation. It also caused the Spanish economy to stagnate relative to the dynamic economies of northern Europe (Corden, 1984).

However, in a military contest between actors who are roughly evenly matched, I believe the historical record shows that it is always a negative-sum game. Even if there is a clear winner, the wealth which the victor gains from plundering and/or enslaving the vanquished state almost never justifies the amount of blood and treasure that was needed to obtain the victory. So the upshot is that these military conquests cannot be explained in terms of the economic self-interest of the warring states.

But it might be a mistake to treat states as monolithic rational actors. Every state has a governing class, and it may be the case that the war was economically beneficial for the governing class, even if it is economically detrimental for the country as a whole. For example, it may be that the Iraq war was a huge net economic loss for the United States, as argued in the book The Three Trillion Dollar War, by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes. But at the same time, it may be that certain individuals and firms associated with people in the Bush Administration (e.g. Haliburton) reaped a large economic benefit. So from the perspective of those people, the war was "economically rational". (Note that I say "it may be....", because I don't have enough information to back up this speculation.)

It is also likely that some wars and mass-murders just have non-economic motives. For example, Hitler was motivated by race-hatred at least as much as by economics. Stalin's purges, massacres, and genocides were motivated by a desire to consolidate his political power, at least as much as by economics. And the Crusades and the Thirty Years War were motivated (at least initially) by religion, not economics. (Certainly, they were a net economic loss for almost everyone involved.)

Afterthought. (added later) Here is another data point. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the economies of Western Europe were closely integrated in a big trading block. Many people thought that a major war between Western European powers was impossible, because it was so obviously against their economic interests. We saw how that turned out....

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. So it depend on the game being played, the actors involved, and the goals may or may not be economically motivated (plus each actor's goal may or may not be economically motivated). Good analysis. $\endgroup$ – Jack Maddington Jul 9 '16 at 9:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.