Warfare and Economic Growth in the Preindustrial World

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Mark Koyama believes the economic costs of warfare are usually dismissed, for a variety of reasons:

1. Arguments like: the Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 BC yet by, say, 0 AD Carthage had recovered and was a major economic metropolis.

2. Arguments from analogy: Japan and Germany were devastated by WW2 yet they recovered rapidly and exceeded previous levels of living standards within a decade and a half.

3. Keynesian-style arguments: warfare was necessary to stimulate aggregate demand.

4. A binding technological ceiling on growth in preindustrial economies. Hence in the absence of warfare, growth was limited.

Again, if you’re in a Malthusian Trap, war might bring a drop in total GDP, but a rise in GDP per capita — until the disruption is great enough to bring down a complex economy.


  1. Lucklucky says:

    Human capital lost.

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