Thursday, 14 October 2010

If real wars were like trade wars ....

At Cafe Hayek Don Boudreaux discusses what would happen if real wars were fought in the same manner as trade wars are fought. He gives a transcript of the communiqu├ęs between the leaders of two warring nations:
Leader of Absurditoptia (A): I say, leader of Stupidia – we demand that you stop occupying that contested strip of land. If you refuse, we’ll have no choice but to shoot our own citizens.

Leader of Stupidia (S): You don’t scare us! That land is ours. And if you do kill some of your own people, make no mistake that we will immediately – and just as cruelly – commence to killing our own people. Courage is our national motto!

(A): Ha! You’re bluffing. But I’m not. I’ve just courageously ordered my troops to mow down in cold blood ten percent of my fellow countrymen. Take that!

(S): How dare you attack you like that! You leave us no choice but to attack us. I am ordering the Stupidian army to slaughter 15 percent of innocent Stupidians here in Stupidia. How do you like them apples?!

(A): You are cruel and inhuman to damage us by killing your people. I hereby instruct all of my fellow Absurditopians to commit suicide! Only then will you nasty Stupidians get your proper comeuppance and we Absurditopians the justice that we are due!

(S): You can’t beat us, you Absurditopian you! Listen up. I’m ordering all of my fellow citizens – Stupidians all! – to commit suicide. We’ll see who emerges victorious!
....

Then a long, long silence.
Well said that man! The British economist Joan Robinson famously put the idea as, "if your trading partner has rocks in his harbour, that is no reason to throw rocks into your own".