DP10073 Growth, Import Dependence and War

Author(s): Roberto Bonfatti, Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke
Publication Date: July 2014
Keyword(s): blockade, history, trade, war
JEL(s): F51, F52, N70
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10073

Existing theories of pre-emptive war typically predict that the leading country may choose to launch a war on a follower who is catching up, since the follower cannot credibly commit to not use their increased power in the future. But it was Japan who launched a war against the West in 1941, not the West that pre-emptively attacked Japan. Similarly, many have argued that trade makes war less likely, yet World War I erupted at a time of unprecedented globalization. This paper develops a theoretical model of the relationship between trade and war which can help to explain both these observations. Dependence on strategic imports can lead follower nations to launch pre-emptive wars when they are potentially subject to blockade.