On the possibility of unarmed peace

This project presents a new experimental test of a conflict model and conditions that are assumed to make peace more likely and is joint work with Sophia Seelos and Thomas Rittmannsberger.

Alexandra Baier

Over the last decades, the focus of peace research had one clear objective: disarmament. Following the end of the Cold War with its immense investments into nuclear weapons, international politics were striving to reduce military spending and nuclear arsenals with the objective to lessen the threat of war. These efforts resulted in various international agreements to decrease the usage of, and investment in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (for example the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968, or the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972). For some years, it seemed that mankind is finally approaching the end of history, where, instead of being determined by military power, international relations are strengthened through economic integration. The concerns for (dis)armament of major global powers consequently took a back seat in public debate. Recent events, however, re-awake the discussion on military buildup and show that global military spending has been increasing again since 2000, peaking in 2020 with global expenditures at 2.0000 billion USD.

Arguably, this exorbitant amount could have been redirected to other, more productive, purposes. Referring to the latest peace report published by leading German peace research institutes, part of these global military expenditures was taken from economic stimulus programs to mitigate the COVID-19-pandemic. In that spirit, economists have investigated which conditions allow for a reduction in military expenditures while conflicts are avoided or resolved at the same time. We aim to contribute to this literature by experimentally investing conditions which support the emergence of unarmed peace. We use a relatively new setting introduced by Garfinkel & Syropoulos (2021) that investigates these conditions theoretically and extends a standard conflict model (guns vs. butter) by allowing to separate arming and conflict initiation decisions. Building on this theory, we conduct various treatments to examine whether the destructiveness of conflict, inequality, or communication between conflicting parties influence arming and conflict-initiation decisions. We further investigate whether decisions differ between groups and individuals. The main objective of this study is to experimentally test conditions under which peace can be sustained and welfare losses be reduced. Our results will provide important insights to researchers and policy makers into conditions that must be met in order to avoid conflicts and attain peace.



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