Just as peace tends to feed upon itself, so does war. If violent conflict became more of a global norm, potential theaters of war could include Eastern Europe, the South China Sea, and the Middle East, as indeed we are already seeing in today’s headlines. If those regions remain enmeshed in violent conflict or even diplomatic ambiguity, as is the case with China and its neighbors, current global norms in favor of peace could crumble much further. Today’s world, in geopolitical terms, is the scariest we have seen for decades, and we are learning to our dismay that progress toward greater peace is not always the dominant trend.
It is possible that we are still living inside the biggest bubble of them all and that is called “the peace bubble.” I’ve also heard this described as the bubble of “Pax Americana,” although that is a more partisan take on the role of America in global peace. You might think the chance of this being a “peace bubble” is say only five or ten percent. Maybe so, but still in expected value terms that is still the most important issue to worry about. The breaking of that peace bubble on a larger scale could endanger all of the progress and accumulated well-being of the human race, including the United States….
I’m not going to try to solve these conundrums in an essay of this length. I’ll simply put it this way: the single most important thing we can do to boost long-run American growth is to get foreign policy right. Very literally our lives, and the lives of many others, depend on it. And that means the economists aren’t nearly as important as they like to think they are.