The Market As An Alternative to War

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Just over a century ago, William James suggested the need to discover a “moral equivalent to war.”  A reader, Chris, sent me an e-mail that stated: “In Afghanistan, there are TWO days a week that little to no fighting takes place: Market Day and Prayer Day. On Market Day, it not uncommon to see soldiers from opposing armies buying and selling goods right next to each other. Most do not even speak a common language, beyond the great unifying language of money, and the free market.”

As I read Chris’ e-mail, my mind recalled that wonderful film Joyeaux Noel.  It dramatizes the real-world occurrence of a Christmas-eve cease-fire during World War I, with opposing soldiers coming out of their respective trenches to talk with one another; share food, drink and family pictures; and even play a game of soccer.  The state war-machine was so troubled by this that it re-assigned the men whose battalions were involved to other battlefields.  The fomentors and conductors of war were struck with the kind of terror so well expressed by Bertolt Brecht: “Don’t tell me peace has broken out!”

12:17 pm on February 7, 2013
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