An Economist’s Guide to War and Peace

NEW YORK – Stories of conflict fill today’s headlines: whether it is Syria’s civil war, street battles in Ukraine, terrorism in Nigeria, or police crackdowns in Brazil, the gruesome immediacy of violence is all too apparent. But, while commentators debate geostrategic considerations, deterrence, ethnic strife, and the plight of ordinary people caught in the middle, dispassionate discussion of another, vital aspect of conflict – its economic cost – is rare.

Violence comes with a hefty price tag. The global cost of containing violence or dealing with its consequences reached a staggering $9.5 trillion (11% of global GDP) in 2012. This is more than twice the size of the global agriculture sector and dwarfs total spending on foreign aid.