War and Poverty

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Here’s a bleak statistic: Over the past twenty years, the median per capita growth of the poorest countries was zero. That’s from Branko Milanovic’s paper, “Why Did the Poorest Countries Fail to Catch Up?” His explanation—war. Conflict may be on the wane everywhere else in the world, but poor countries are much more likely to get involved in wars and civil strife. This alone accounts for an income loss of about 40 percent. If so, then all the debates about free trade and good governance and foreign aid, while important at the margins, miss the larger trend here. Conflict-prevention in the Third World would do more for global poverty than any other single measure.

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