As mentioned in my previous blog post, this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. At the conclusion of that war—at the time referred to as The Great War—the prevailing opinion was that we’d never see another one like it and Earth would finally be at peace. A mere 20 years later, however, Adolf Hitler’s army marched into Poland and thus began what was to become World War II. Six years later, after 60 million (roughly 2.5 percent of the planet’s population at the time) had been killed, it finally concluded. Once again, everyone thought we would finally have world peace.
As history tells us, that was certainly not true. War after conflict has followed in a bloody trail since—and as I said in my previous blog it seems evident we have not learned much in the last 100 years. But today we could be saved by technology which, unfortunately, was not available to our forefathers.
While leaders are still busy posturing and threatening “justified” aggressive military action even today, there are millions, perhaps even billions, of people in the world who are simply getting on with commerce, doing their best to bypass the borders so diligently put in place by national powers, borders which slice up this factually tiny planet into even tinier pieces. These are the entrepreneurs, the businesspeople.
Carl Menger, the founding father of the Austrian School of Economics, some 150 years ago pointed out that trade can only occur between nations who are not at war. Trade, therefore, has an important peacekeeping aspect to it. And these entrepreneurs who are today engaged in international trade have an incredible technological advantage that most certainly wasn’t available 100 years ago: the internet.
Despite the best efforts of some political powers, the internet connects us all. It provides a real-time freedom of information, communication and global commerce that is inherently a one-world view. Those of us who have realized that we all occupy the same small planet, the same space and are factually one species have at the same time realized the mutual benefit only available through the conduct of commerce. For our future, it certainly has far more potential than the primitive age-old use of deadly force simply for the gaining of territory, for control of land. The borders created through this barbaric tradition are, because of the internet, meaning less and less.
Leaders, Please Wake Up
While a mounting global population is interconnected through the internet and doing their best to engage in peaceful commerce and communication, national leaders operate much as they did 100 years ago: in plush offices within palaces or official residences, seemingly isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. For some reason they cannot visualize the fact that they’re engaging in “friendly fire” on their own people—whether that aggression is in the actual form of weaponry or of policy.
If these leaders are smart (and some of them definitely are) they will wake up to the fact that their constituencies are connected to others in the world—and don’t necessarily consider themselves separate from them. This internet is not going anywhere, and this global understanding and cooperation is only going to increase.
So there is hope for a peaceful world! And it is, quite literally, right at our fingertips.