Thursday, March 16, 2006

Trade is a prerequisite for lasting peace

International trade is a prerequisite for lasting peace in the world. Our soldiers and police are doing everything they can to protect us from the immediate threat of terrorism. They may be our peace-keepers but it is our international corporations and the people working in them that are our peace-creators. International business, like local business, is all about building long-term and mutually beneficial relations. It is therefore crucial that we develop the skills necessary to develop and maintain relationships with people all over the world in vastly different cultures.

The greater the economic interdependencies become between nations or regions in the world the less likely we are to find ourselves in violent conflicts. Simply stated, if I am dependent on my neighbour for my own survival I am not nearly as likely to pick a fight with him!

When large groups of people are excluded from the global economy, their poverty leads them right into the hands of men like bin Laden, Hitler or Stalin. These men all offer or offered poor oppressed people a chance to fight back against a world that had not set a place for them at the banquet of international economic development. Dire poverty created the inertia for the growth of communism. Following the First World War, a beaten and disillusioned Germany could not regain its footing to a high extent as the result of the isolationist spirit of the times. Foreign investment following that war was at all time lows and it was virtually impossible to rebuild industry. This created the opportunity for an insane man who promised a return to greatness for the German people. Today, terrorist like bin Laden gain support from people who truly have nothing to lose. Hunger is indeed a powerful motivator! The riots in India following the demolition of a mosque used religion as a front for economically impoverished communities to claim land and property for their own.

Terrorism is about economics not religion! It is a classic case of the haves and the have nots. If we want to solve the problem of terrorism it is not enough to protect ourselves. We must become much more active in developing the global economy! We must demonstrate for the next generations of potential terrorists that there are real alternatives by involving them in our prosperity. This is by no means a call for charity! It is instead a call for common sense and self interest! There are enormous amounts of people longing to buy our products and services and to sell us theirs. We will not only decrease the violence in the world, we will increase the prosperity for everyone!

1 comment:

Mary Baum said...

A couple of points:

Exclusion from the global economy -- given that most of the 9/11 hijackers, for instance, were relatively well-off and well educated, I'd suggest that the poverty that radicalized them was not economic. Rather, it was exactly the Maslowian poverties you mention elsewhere: humiliation at being part of a society that cannot succeed in the global economy and rage at being denied a seat at the global table of ideas.

And you're right -- this is absolutely not a call for charity. Charity has failed miserably across the globe and particularly in the middle east, where it has backfired spectacularly.

I believe the roots of the current problem lie with the founding of the Western-led resource-extraction companies. For what were at the time logical reasons, those companies kept the knowledge work -- the fun part -- for themselves and their cronies, leaving the locals to play only two roles: exploited slave labor and corrupt, easily bribed government official.

Imagine if those companies had chosen to fill the lower- and middle-management jobs with locals, who could then have had a chance to develop a broader middle class, with cosmopolitan, middle-class values. I doubt if their best and brightest would have concluded that the best thing they could do with their lives was blow up buildings halfway across the world.

Now, of course, we know that just clearing away oppressive regimes will not bring empowerment to the people. So what will?