Financial Caution on the Road to War
In Appeasing Bankers, Jonathan Kirshner shows that bankers dread war--an aversion rooted in pragmatism, not idealism. "Sound money, not war" is hardly a pacifist rallying cry. The financial world values economic stability above all else, and crises and war threaten that stability. States that pursue appeasement when assertiveness--or even conflict--is warranted, Kirshner demonstrates, are often appeasing their own bankers. And these realities are increasingly shaping state strategy in a world of global financial markets. Yet the role of these financial preferences in world politics has been widely misunderstood and underappreciated. Liberal scholars have tended to lump finance together with other commercial groups; theorists of imperialism (including, most famously, Lenin) have misunderstood the preferences of finance; and realist scholars have failed to appreciate how the national interest, and proposals to advance it, are debated and contested by actors within societies. Finance's interest in peace is both pronounced and predictable, regardless of time or place. Bankers, Kirshner shows, have even opposed assertive foreign policies when caution seems to go against their nation's interest (as in interwar France) or their own long-term political interest (as during the Falklands crisis, when British bankers failed to support their ally Margaret Thatcher). Examining these and other cases, including the Spanish-American War, interwar Japan, and the United States during the Cold War, Appeasing Bankers shows that, when faced with the prospect of war or international political crisis, national financial communities favor caution and demonstrate a marked aversion to war.
Jonathan Kirshner is professor of government at Cornell University.