Imagine a parallel Earth that diverges from our own at some point in history close to our current days. The divergence being that, due to interference from a higher power, the nations of the world can no longer wage war against one another.

I love when he does that

Let's also suppose that said interference works just perfectly, and now that parallel Earth won't be seeing any wars for the foreseeable future.

Making the song Imagine come true may seem like paradise at first, but this is going to spell doom for many companies that make tanks, fighter jets, destroyer ships and so on.

How would the world economy develop from that point on, if direct, violent conflicts are no longer lucrative?

To make the question narrower, I am interested only on the economical effects. Any social effects, or any other effects of such a cease fire, for this question, are just accessory.


4 Answers 4


What you want to research is the Military-Industrial Complex. US President Dwight Eisenhower popularized the term Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 in his farewell address. The term is also called Military–Industrial–Congressional complex due to political approval for military spending, lobbying for contracts, and oversight of the industry.

In the last half-century, we have been aware of the following difficulties of de-militarization:

  • "Men who during the war have tasted the powers of coercive control and will find it difficult to reconcile themselves with the humbler roles they will then have to play in peaceful times." (Friedrich Hayek)
    • So, be careful with potentially dangerous men and women whose power you are threatening.
  • "Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military–industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy." (George F. Kennan)
    • So, you must provide an "enemy" for your military, or risk them finding an inappropriate one themselves
  • Firing the army is be very, very threatening to stability. Now you have trained, possibly armed men with no job opportunity, some who have trauma, flooding back into the country. Moreover, you destabilize their families due to significant loss of income.
    • So, you must provide work for them.
    • There are several examples of this in human history, but I couldn't recall any off the top of my head.


  • There must be a new "enemy" to focus the military on.
  • You must provide work for any fired workers.
  • You must provide adequate financial support for the families of the workers in their transitive period
  • You must provide adequate healthcare for all the vets returning
  • You must be prepared to offer many more jobs to prevent displacing people from the workforce (as jobs are suddenly disappearing and competition is increasing)

Some strategies for effectively transitioning your military:

  • Transition relevant employees into space agency, environmental agency, healthcare field, etc.
  • Carefully set-up healthcare and financial aid for displaced or returning workers
  • Disperse the military very, very slowly as to not shock the economy, and therefore destabilize your country. You could make it a mission to dissemble all bases, slowing down disperse-time.

We would see lots more "police actions" to keep the military busy.

In all seriousness, the single greatest challenge of a decree like this is defining warfare. The instant it is defined, every nation will immediately begin an arms race to develop ways to right up to the bleeding edge of warfare. For ideas, consider the actions of China in the South Sea. What they are doing is not considered an act of war, but it's definitely testing the patience of nearby nations. On the other hand, North Korea and South Korea have been at war for decades. Nearly all actions we have seen between the Koreas have been saber rattling, but technically they are at war.

If the cease fire was imposed by an individual such as Superman, rather than written definition, a large number of people would begin trying to second guess what Superman would think war is, and stay just below the radar.

Economically, there would be little change. Most nation's economies are far larger than just their military spending. Even in the case of a major military spender like the US, you'd just see lots of money thrown towards new technologies that sit below this "war" line.

  • $\begingroup$ Contrary to popular belief, US military spending is not solely about creating weapons of war. More than half of federal R&D funds go through the DoD. DARPA helped create the Internet, for example. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 24, 2016 at 12:24

Both war and preparation for war are an enormous drain on resources. A tank or a stealth fighter are good for no peaceful use that could not be done at a fraction of the cost by a tractor or a business jet. Young men (mostly) are yanked out of their education to learn how to shoot. The only thing more expensive than war is not being prepared for war when the neighbor is aggessive. So assuming that this outside context power can make war impossible, and that everybody is convinced that the ban will hold, what could be done?

  • As a first approximation, imagine that taxes were cut by the amount that is spent on defense. 16% of the US Federal budget, 6% of the UK budget, 10% of the German Federal budget.
  • Doing that suddenly would leave plenty of specialists unemployed. But one could find ways how the military-industrial complex can provide the benefits they give now (funding R&D, disaster relief, ...) more cheaply without the big guns. The extra funds and expertise could make life better for everybody. Imagine someone told the NSA that their new priority are pishing and ransomware.

So on the short run the established bureaucracies would try to justify their continued existence. "We need the soldiers in case of floods. You can't send them all home." On the long run the budgets of those organizations would be reduced.

  • $\begingroup$ Your numbers are very far off. The CIA World Facebook, for example, only puts the UK's military spending at 2.49% of the GDP, and most NATO nations fail to even make their pledged 2% of the GDP commitment. The United States takes up the slack and spends a staggering 4.35% of their GDP on military expenditures. So tax savings will be very small for Western nations. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Aug 24, 2016 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ I've explicitly talked about government budgets, not GDP. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Aug 25, 2016 at 4:43

You might know that there are real life mechs. Perhaps the manufacturing companies would move on to making mechs, using the basic skills and resources they have, to sell to rich people who like sci-fi, and to fight for glory and profit in big competitions (making money through ads). This could make a cool plot point too. (This isn't a greatly fleshed out answer, but it might help someone developing a better answer or something)


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