Cheap food reduces war

This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.

As has been noted about Hitler’s Lebensraum. If German agricultural productivity had risen from 1920 to 1940 by the amount it did between 1950 and 1970 there would have been no point – no economic point at least – in invading eastwards, would there?

So, Greenies, arguing that we should all eat more expensive and land hungry organic food. Why is it that you want to invade Poland?

28 comments on “Cheap food reduces war

  1. Just more proof of the quote that’s often attributed to Bastiat:

    “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will”.

    which Tim used to trot out regularly.

  2. ‘We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE.’

    I can translate: “We tortured the data til it told us what we wanted it to.”

    ‘You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.’

    Or I may not.

  3. Yes spuds helped a lot. Vitamin bombs that they are. You could live quite happily on tatties, with some greens and milk although I think your digestion might complain after a bit.

    An improvement in the weather is what drove agricultural improvement. It took until 1750-ish before the GB population recovered from the Black Death and then with better food supplies, sanitation, factories etc the population really took off. It is all standard stuff that the Malthusians seem to be unable to comprehend.

    I heard a while back on the wireless that the Mick Spud Famine was actually a Europe-wide event, caused by a monoculture of potatoes and the widespread use of guano from South America which contained a specific bacteria that knackered all the crops.

  4. the period between 1400 and 1900 CE.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any man in possession of the historically dubious politically correct term “CE”, must be a twat.

  5. “Perhaps population control?”

    Careful, you’ll get Ecks and SMFS all hot and bothered.

    ” I would not put it past the watermelons.”

    Ahahaha!

  6. BiG – the greenies have been pretty open about their population reduction dreams since the Club of Rome’s 1972 Malthusian opus, no?

  7. Not that all greenies want to kill off the surplus population. Some of them just want to make your life nasty, brutish and short.

    Here’s George Monbiot claiming it’s rising living standards that are the real problem, noting the low carbon emissions of homeless Africans and people who make a living scavenging from rubbish tips:

    http://www.monbiot.com/2009/09/29/the-population-myth/

  8. Yes, it’s just the image of those two as watermelons that is funny.

    Thing about the extreme left and extreme right is that they are basically the same.

  9. Warfare tends to depress agricultural production too. Forced requisitions by soldiers, destruction of farms, labourers conscripted. Napoleon’s armies were deliberately set up to live off the land and have no baggage train to slow them down. The effect on western Germany of their frequent campaigns there was devastating.

  10. WKPD: “Phytophthora infestans is an [amoeba protozoa] microorganism, specifically an oomycete, which causes the serious potato and tomato disease known as late blight or potato blight.”

    It was introduced to Europe by a cargo of seed potatoes from the US. That, at least, is the conventional wisdom; the guano yarn is a new one to me. Why would bird shit bacteria have anything to do with a fungus-like condition? I’d love to know what the evidence is (assuming that Potato Studies is evidence-based, unlike Climate Science).

  11. “Napoleon’s armies were deliberately set up to live off the land”: one of Wellington’s advantages in the Peninsula was that his British Army paid for its food. Hence the famous business of getting adequate supplies of gold coin to it.

  12. If the Germans invaded Russia for its food-producing potential why were we, and other anti -Communists, the slightest bit bothered?

  13. Dearime

    Could well have been a micro-orgasm living n the guanio that they mentioned, my memory is not what it was.

    My memory is not what it was.

  14. “Thing about the extreme left and extreme right is that they are basically the same.”

    Proof that there is no such thing as “extreme right.”

  15. @ DBC Reed
    We had already been fighting Germany for nearly two years.
    I wasn’t around in 1941 so I cannot be sure that “we” were bothered – in fact I gather that “we” were quite relieved as the Communists stopped indulging in sabotage.

  16. “DBC Reed
    If the Germans invaded Russia for its food-producing potential why were we, and other anti -Communists, the slightest bit bothered?”

    Are you saying they didn’t?

    And as John says, the UK wasn’t all that bothered. Quite handy really, what with the UK and Germany bombing each other’s cities and whatnot, it was probably quite nice for the UK to have another country fighting the Germans.

    As Churchill said, “if Hitler invaded hell, I would at least give a favourable reference to the devil in the house of commons” (or something)

  17. Surely the Micks grew something other than potatoes, for heaven’s sake. I understood that they also grew wheat, which was a cash crop, and giving a free dole of wheat in Ireland would have either meant they re-exported it for money, or it destroyed the market. Anyway, the UK government (Parliament, incidentally, had a huge number of Irish MPs) bought vast quantities of maize which the Micks turned their noses up at, which makes me laugh when I’m in Dublin and see (a) popcorn, (b) certain cereals, (c) corn on the cob, (d) polenta, (e) Doritos. Plus, the IRA blew up monuments erected thanking their (English) neighbours for support in that trying time.

    Now, there’s a stereotype for the Irish. I can’t for the life of me remember what it is.

  18. Different people owned and ate the different crops. The wheat wasn’t being grown and exported by those doing the dying therefore.

  19. Even now you cannot get a hot pie in an Irish high street like you can in Wigan – Waterfields pasties, Gregg’s steak and vegetable bakes, those sort of things.
    The reason is connected to the potato blight but I can’t recall the sequence of connections.

  20. @Bloke no Longer in Austria, December 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Yes spuds helped a lot. Vitamin bombs that they are. You could live quite happily on tatties, with some greens and milk although I think your digestion might complain after a bit.

    Agree. I was surprised to learn that a year or so ago when they were on some food BBC/C4 Docu – spuds with a knob of butter provides almost all required and on can live eating only that.

  21. Bongo, my guess is that the pastry reminds them of the hulls of the ships that transported the survivors to the New World.

    The fillings remind them of how they were packed in.

    The gravy represents the blood of the Fenians cruelly executed by the British.

  22. Yes spuds helped a lot. Vitamin bombs that they are.

    As essential for the Industrial Revolution as coal and iron.

  23. See above: I was addressing TW’s main point about Hitler’s plans for lebensraum to the East to boost German food production .British appeasers ( supported by the bulk of the population) didn’t think this was worth fighting a World War over and in 1932 Chamberlainites had helped set up an Empire Free Trade zone at the Ottawa Conference which insulated the UK and Commonwealth from economic disruption in Europe.So why the panic over German lebensraum?

  24. @ DBC Reed
    I don’t think you quite understand “lebensraum” – Hitler did not just to boost food production for his hungry Germans, he wanted to drive out or kill the inhabitants.

  25. ” there would have been no point – no economic point at least – in invading eastwards” – he wasn’t thinking about agricultural labour productivity – really, he wasn’t.

  26. “he wasn’t thinking about agricultural labour productivity – really, he wasn’t.”

    True. The plan was to extend the Aryan race to the East, displacing/enslaving/killing the Untermensch Slavs.

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