Study suggests a rise in number of trading partners leads to fewer wars between nations

December 15, 2015 by Bob Yirka, report

Credit: Tim Emerich/public domain
(—A pair of researchers with Stanford University has found via crunching economic and war data, that the more trading partners a country has, the less likely it will be to engage in a war. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the pair describes how they first attacked the problem from the reverse perspective, looking at data that showed an inclination to go to war in the absence of trade partnerships and how they were unable to find any correlations.

It is a well known in political circles that countries tend to not go to with other countries that are their trading partners—doing so generally makes no logical sense. Also well known is the fact that the modern age has led (despite incessant headlines) to unprecedented low levels of warfare between countries. What is not really understood, however, is how much trading with partners actually impacts the numbers of wars waged. As the researchers note, prior studies have found that a large amount of trade with other countries is not necessarily a sign of a lesser likelihood of a country going to war—the period leading up to WWII, for example saw massive international trade.

To better understand correlations between international trade, military alliances and international wars, the researchers built a data network that used mathematical models to study the impact of and wars to see if they could find any patterns—they report that in the absence of , alliances tended to shift frequently and easily leading just as easily to wars. When they switched the question to whether the number of trading partners had an impact on wars, they found quite the opposite. Most countries tended to not go to war with trading partners, and the more partners a country had, in general, the fewer wars they had. As an example, they note that back in 1870, the world's countries had an average of just three trading partners, today that number has climbed to between 17 and 34, depending on the exact definition of a trading partner.

The researchers believe their findings could be useful in avoiding wars in the future—if in the west, such as those in the U.S. and Europe, for example, built more trading relationships with places in the Middle East, then it might lead to fewer conflicts between the two regions.

Explore further: Researchers find a way to identify key nodes in illegal wildlife trade network

More information: Matthew O. Jackson et al. Networks of military alliances, wars, and international trade, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1520970112

We investigate the role of networks of alliances in preventing (multilateral) interstate wars. We first show that, in the absence of international trade, no network of alliances is peaceful and stable. We then show that international trade induces peaceful and stable networks: Trade increases the density of alliances so that countries are less vulnerable to attack and also reduces countries' incentives to attack an ally. We present historical data on wars and trade showing that the dramatic drop in interstate wars since 1950 is paralleled by a densification and stabilization of trading relationships and alliances. Based on the model we also examine some specific relationships, finding that countries with high levels of trade with their allies are less likely to be involved in wars with any other countries (including allies and nonallies), and that an increase in trade between two countries correlates with a lower chance that they will go to war with each other.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Semimetals are high conductors

March 18, 2019

Researchers in China and at UC Davis have measured high conductivity in very thin layers of niobium arsenide, a type of material called a Weyl semimetal. The material has about three times the conductivity of copper at room ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2015
Anybody who didn't know that before this study was conducted is seriously lacking in common sense. What a waste of time.
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2015
True, unless the trade consist of selling weapons to countries who have radical religious beliefs such as Islamism. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are excellent examples of how selling weapons to the enemy can become counterproductive. Politicians and weapons manufacturers make big bucks on those deals. Ironically, the average person seems to be oblivious to such deals being made under the table with the aforementioned players. Maybe our Constitution should be changed so no arms are sold to any country who teach hate in organized religious texts. Hate leads to wars and if ISIS (IS, ISIL, Daesh) is not a big enough hint, then everyone is going to be in for a really big fight if people continue to be ignorant.
1 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2015
This is article is comedy gold.

Also well known is the fact that the modern age has led (despite incessant headlines) to unprecedented low levels of warfare between countries.

Right above...
Explore further: Wars steadily increase for over a century, fed by more borders and cheaper conflict

War is obviously still a racket, right Smedley?
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2015
Right. And of course the urge to control a trade--monopolize it--is exactly what history is about. Carthage must die!!
3 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2015
True, unless the trade consist of selling weapons to countries who have radical religious beliefs such as Islamism. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are excellent examples of how selling weapons to the enemy can become counterproductive.

You apparently don't understand "less likely" and "lower chance". The study does not claim that trading leads to no wars.
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2015

No, you do not understand. The more trading partners Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and UAE having selling them weapons, the more wars there will be. See the next message.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2015

13 Doctrines of Islam Found Inside the Quran (Koran):

1: You can rape, marry and divorce pre-pubescent girls; (Qur'an 65:4).
2: You can enslave for sex and work (Qur'an 4:3, 4:24, 33:50, see also 70:29-30).
3: You can beat women. (Qur'an 4:34).
4: You will need 4 Muslim male witnesses to prove a rape (Qur'an 24:4).
5: Kill Jews and Christians if they do not convert or pay Jizya tax (Qur'an 9:29).
6: Crucify and amputate non-Muslims (Qur'an 8:12, 47:4).
7: You will kill non-Muslims to receive 72 virgins in heaven (Qur'an 9:111).
8: You will kill anyone who leaves Islam (Qur'an 2:217, 4:89).
9: You will behead non-Muslims (Qur'an 8:12, 47:4).
10: You will kill and be killed for Allah (verse of the sword - Qur'an 9:5).
11: You will terrorize non-Muslims (Qur'an 8:12, 8:60).
12: Steal from non-Muslims; (Qur'an chapter 8 - booty/spoils of war).
13: Lie to strengthen Islam (Taqiyya deception - Qur'an 3:54, 9:3, 16:106, 40:28, see also 2:225).
not rated yet Dec 17, 2015
I should have predicted that you'd pull my fully linkable comment, essentially a synopsis on the real state of historical trade practices, concerning this.. http://docuwiki.n...Collide7

..because you would by nature be anglocentric, being based in Isle of Mann as you are - forgivable ;-), or was it that you can't use the capital "F" when instantiating an initialism in one of these comments.?


not rated yet Dec 17, 2015
My last post was wholly inappropriate and I confess to jumbling up my mental tabs so that they occasionally overlap. Found here... that post was actually intended for that page but my thoughts were still on this one.

Don't ask me what I'm smoking..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.