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« Texting Is So Over | Main | Judging Institutions »


mike shupp

There's some hard-earned tradition in Europe separating the behavior of armies from ordinary life -- it might be a consequence of the 30 Years War. You might recall how very surprised the Germans were by "civilian" partisans during the Franco-Prussian War. Earlier, I gather, though Napoleon Bonaparte decreed an embargo on imports from Britain after 1805, some amount of trade continued whenever the customsmen could be persuaded to look in the wrong direction. And scientists continued to travel from London to Paris and back as if there were no war at all.

So one could say:This is civilized behavior.

Alternately, one might argue that the war was expected to be a short one when these exchanges took place. The exchange of binoculars and rubber obviously wasn't going to change the course of the war.... Should we note with happiness that by 1917 the much more rationale British, French, and their Americican allies had gotten quite good at keeping ships with foodstuffs away from German harbors?

Dave Tufte

Always nice to hear from you Mike.

I was not aware of the partisan issue in 1870-1.

I was aware of the general porousness during the Napoleonic Wars (Napoleon would have crashed and burned sooner if his continental system had worked as designed). FWIW: There's a great Masterpiece Theatre series from the late 1970's about this; it's called Poldark, and you can now get it on Netflix.

I still find the World War I case exceptional though ... but that's just me.

The one thing it reminded me of is how civilized Syria, Israel and Jordan have been about water right to the Jordan River.

mike shupp

Well, the notion of "trading with the enemy" certainly raises hackles for most of us, though WWI might be distant enough now that we can read about an instance of it with a smile.

Possibly what's anomalous is _US_ -- we can raise enough troops to guard an empire, feed them from our own croplands, clothe them with our own textiles, equip them with the products of our own factories, fuel their vehicles with our petroleum, etc. We have autarky, more or less, because of our size and our economic development, and the Powers with which we might contend in a world-wide war -- Russia, or China -- are equally as self-sufficient as they can be.

Britain and Germany didn't have that degree of isolation in 1914, and as long as their wars had been infrequent, short, small, and generally with less advanced foes, there probably hadn't been much pressure to build up for war production, or even thoughto of it. Think of all those later accounts of what a genius Kitchener was for anticipating additional troops would be needed in 1915 aand 1916! Or the chaos in shell production that brought Lloyd George into prominence. And indeed, it was an argument before WWI that future wars in Europe were unimaginable, A "Grand Illusion", precisely because of such things as the interwoven economies of European states.

And maybe there's room for a thought here about Europe being at peace at last with its nations and industries happily intermingled beneath a common currency and how well it's all worked out .... but there's already enough irony in this post.

Have a good and prosperous New Year!

Dave Tufte

Two more thoughts ...

1) I spend some time talking in my macroeconomics class about how it's difficult to envision today the extent to which Europe was integrated through trade prior to the war, and how badly they screwed that up in the postwar period. This will make a great additional example: they were so integrated they still traded for things they couldn't get otherwise.

2) Perhaps the reason we think differently about this is that in World War I we couldn't (directly) strike at those parts of the foreign economy. So, in some sense, they were at arm's length from the war. That, of course, changed with widespread long-range bombing of civilian targets.

Dave Tufte

Mike Shupp posted a comment, that I seem to have deleted by accident. Here's a copy of it:

Hmmm. Production-possibility-curves, comparative advantages.... A thought for your first year students: the gains from trade are very large; so, despite the embarassment, states at war may choose to continue trading with each other, rather than measurably diminish their economies by trying to be self-reliant. But let's admit it was a short-lived phenomenon; within a year, reaction to battle losses had pushed both sides away from peaceful trade to attrition, and that's been military policy ever since, just about the world over.


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