Some people resort to violence to get what they want and could care less if they hurt or kill—either themselves or others or both—in so doing. This phenomenon is old, and scholars who have studied such behavior have suggested using economics as a tool to reduce violence.
One such thinker was a Swiss born Frenchman, Henri-Benjamin Constant, who was active in French politics between 1815 and 1830. He believed “war is impulse, commerce, calculation,” and commerce was better than war in achieving the same result. He argued that a violent man would never understand the “idea of commerce” until his experience taught him that his physical strength would run into “obstacles and defeats,” and that commerce could get him what he wanted safely and with no need to fight. He also emphasized that if terror was not reined in, it could usher in a tyrant like Napoleon.
Violent Groups In India
Violence is on the rise. Can commerce help her dampen such terrorism? Maoists (aka Naxalites) in six central states have been killing the innocent public and para-military forces and sabotaging railroad tracks –all at an alarming rate. Violent groups such as ULFA, ATTF, NLFT, MPLF and PLAM in five northeastern states are seeking autonomy or independence. The
hostile people in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir are demonstrating against India. Additionally, Muslim factions such as LeT, SIMI, and JeM are targeting locations full of people. All of these militants have been creating violence to achieve what they want, resulting in instability in India.
Commerce and Violence
Yes, commerce can deter violence, but it must generate a precipitous rise in per capita income and create a job for everyone who wants to work; otherwise, it may not help.
Sadly, this has not happened in India. In 50 years, from 1960 to 2010, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita grew roughly from US$100 to $1,000—hardly a sign of a rapid rise in affluence!
This can be attributed to two prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who cemented socialism in India for 32 years. Their governments nationalized businesses, expanded regulations, lengthened red tape, fueled corruption, and caused the economy and standard of living to grow very sluggishly.
Furthermore, subsequent prime ministers have done very little to unglue socialism.
Commerce flourishes best under capitalism, which India has never adopted, and until she does, it is hard to conclude that Constant was wrong or that commerce is ineffective in subsiding violence.
Political Objectives and Violence
Is it conceivable that commerce has nothing to do with terror? Yes, in at least two situations.
The first situation occurs when extremists conduct a Clausewitzian war, a war in which foreign nations try to achieve political objectives in an enemy nation. This is done without actually going to war, through the use of the enemy’s home-grown and foreign-born terrorists.
For example, Pakistan is interested in taking Kashmir away from India, and China is interested in grabbing the northeastern states of India. Both nations are arming, financing, and helping radicals both inside and outside the country to destroy India.
The second example of terrorism as an act independent of commerce is when terrorists go overseas to kill people of other nations.
Saudi Arabia is a rich nation; yet she gave a birth to 15 educated hijackers who, with 4 other non-Saudi hijackers, willingly killed themselves in order to kill others on 9/11 in the United States. They came, they learned, and they killed.
In the above two examples, while commerce has nothing to do with violence, Constant’s warning applies: sleeping-inactive citizens must wake up and take on fanatics for they could destroy a nation.
India must elect a thinker and leader such as Constant who will perform the most essential functions of a government in order to reduce violence. This includes overseeing the economy that maximizes commerce; providing maximum protection to people and property from external as well as internal enemies; sealing porous borders to prevent arms, money, illegal aliens, and drugs coming into the country; enforcing law and order; and maintaining the value of currency.