April 22, 2012
McDonald's is a Symptom of Peace, Not a Cause
I want to comment on the Golden Arches theory covered by Joey and Sarah. I find it interesting that someone like Thomas Friedman, who clearly spent so much time and effort investigating the correlation between McDonald’s restaurants and war, could be so bad at identifying causal relationships. Don’t get me wrong - the correlation-implies-causation fallacy is very common, and we’re all bound to fall for it from time to time. Furthermore, it’s easy to see the flaws in a theory in hindsight, and laugh at how silly our predecessors were. So maybe I should cut Friedman some slack.
Nevertheless, I truly believe that if I were doing the same research as Friedman, I would never have made the same mistake. One thing that my classes at Michigan have drilled into me over and over is the fact that you ALWAYS have to consider alternative explanations for your observations. That’s critical (and very basic) even when you’re just doing a project or paper for a college class; the stakes are a great deal higher when your work is going to be published. I simply can’t believe that not once - in the entire years-long process of researching, writing, and publishing his book - did Friedman stop and think, “Hey, maybe I’ve got this relationship backwards.” And I can’t believe no one he encountered during the process challenged the concept. It actually makes me question the integrity of the project.
Needless to say, I don’t put much stock in the McDonald’s Peace. I believe, as Joey and Sarah explained, that McDonald’s franchises instead serve as a marker for countries that are unlikely to go to war in the first place. I find the Democratic Peace to be a more compelling argument. Basically, I don’t think a developed country with a serious motive for war would back down just because of global market connections. I think that the transparency of democratic states is more important; you can read a democracy’s intentions and abilities a bit more easily due to free public debate and relatively visible political processes. This makes bargaining between democracies easier. Furthermore, Friedman’s comments about people in developed countries not wanting to fight wars is simply false. As we discussed in class, democratic states don’t fight less than others - they just choose weaker and less democratic targets.
Overall, I believe globalization does raise the cost of war and serve as a safeguard against interstate conflict, to a modest extent. But international relations are international relations - states have many interests besides economic stability, and we can expect them to risk their position in the global market under the right circumstances.
Posted by smythecm at April 22, 2012 12:46 PM
While I completely agree with the assertion that the McDonald's peace, (and later the Dell peace) are inherently false, I don't believer that Friedman's intentions were to create a law like the mean voter theorem. What he was positing was a slightly tongue-and-cheek way of describing that it is unlikely that very rich and developed countries will go to war with each other, something that is also inherent in the democratic peace. Although McDonalds and Dell have sadly located themselves into the many warzones of the world, I believe that the assertion that wars are unlikely to occur in the places where large amounts of FDI, and large middle-class markets exist. And the Dell model, that countries will not attempt to enter armed conflict when they are part of a global supply chain, holds some water. In order to attract foreign investments and foreign industries, countries must prove that they are not too risky of an investment, and lack of war is certainly able to do that. There will always be exceptions, but I believe that we will not see the kind of conflict that might exist between less developed countries.
Posted by: gojulius at April 22, 2012 03:41 PM
When I first started to read about this topic for the showcase I was definitely surprised that Friedman had made such a rash statement and wasn't surprised to see the media quickly point out his flaws. However I agree that Friedman should be given some credit for taking a broader stance on globalization and global peace. While both theories will probably continue to be proved wrong in the future, there is definitely something to be said about wanting to maintain a stable environment in order to attract investment. While I stand by our presentation's point that Friedman got the causality wrong, I believe that developing countries will increasingly avoid war in the hope of protecting their economies.
Posted by: spizer at April 22, 2012 09:40 PM
I think that rather than Friedman completely getting the cause-effect relationship completely wrong, he was merely trying to give an explanation for war and peace that is relatable to almost everyone. Clearly, a scholar such as Friedman knows better than to declare the presence of McDonald's as a hard-and-fast deterrent to war. Rather, he offers up McDonald's as an easy to understand example of economic development preventing war.
Posted by: jiherman at April 23, 2012 02:57 PMLogin to leave a comment. Create a new account.