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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since they each got its McDonald's.

In Thomas L. Friedman’s 1999 book The ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree’ the following observation was presented: “No two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s”. As if it’s the secret sauce. It lessens testosterone levels. After a Big Mac, large fry and a Diet Coke. Nobody wants to fight it seems, they just want to go to sleep.

While that statement was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, his point was that due to globalization, countries that have made strong economic ties with one another have too much to lose to ever go to war with one another. The global expansion of McDonald’s restaurants is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Indian perspective when we put this into the context of the history of warfare, and, with a few notable exceptions. India also proceeded into relatively a stable market after the economic slowdown and considering as one of the most prospective and emerging market which the entire world is eyeing on. I was going through an article where some of the people fearing that, by 2012 China might spread the threat of war against India. If this theory is true, then guys you can well understand that, we’ve no fear of war sooner or later, because both Indians and Chinese have became now brothers and sisters by the virtue of having Big Mc Mama’s and enjoying BigMac as the milk of Mc Donald’s big fraternity family.

The 2008 South Ossetia war between Russia and Georgia is a counter example to the theory though, both countries having McDonalds at that time (started in 1990 and 1999, respectively). Other conflicts that provide possible counterexamples, depending upon what one considers “a war”, including the 1989 United States invasion of Panama, the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the recent Kargil War along with ongoing skirmishes between factions of India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region. Russia and Georgia, for example have McDonald’s. It seems that hostilities break out, skirmishes are conducted, and more, but only on a somewhat limited scale, without the formal declaration of war.

India and Pakistan both have McDonald’s. So do Greece and Turkey. Israel and several middle eastern countries that don’t get along have McDonald’s. China, Taiwan, Korea, and other Asian countries have McDonald’s. Several Central and South American countries have McDonald’s. The appearance of McDonald’s does not end an existing state of war: the states of Lebanon and Israel have been under a state of war since 1973, with South Lebanon occupied until May 2000 and a significant flare-up in 2006, which did not hinder the establishment of McDonald’s franchises in Israel and Lebanon in 1993 and 1998, respectively. The two countries engaged in a brief state of warfare in the summer of 2006.

Still, are McDonald’s investments a sign that countries are headed for freedom and peace? What do you think about Friedman’s views on globalization?

I personally feel that, McDonalds usually only exist in the areas with liberalized economies, which usually only exist in nations with liberalized governments and off course with liberalized society. States with liberalized governments usually do not go to war with each other because of United Nations and different Trade treaty to become the franchisees of the global supply chain. McDonald’s is a kind of sign that countries are becoming more interested in economic liberalization. Everyone understands that if people income level is good and happy, they won’t rebel. Sometimes this economic change is also associated with democracy and political freedom, but not always (see China). I think that if there is a relationship, it goes the other way around—first stability in a country, then McDonald’s. The same thing happened also in India.

As an indicator of relative stability, McDonald’s could be weakly correlated. As you point out, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine and others are counter examples. I think that perhaps we should increase our economic ties more. This has historically been a way of protecting oneself against bankruptcy. US owe China lots of money at this point of time, so they can’t afford to let United States go bankrupt. As we’ve seen recently, in the US, the government can’t afford to let certain monopolistic firms go under. Other way round, India is gaining confidence infront of the United States being emerging market with stable Government and skilled population. So, the entire supply chain of global economy is knitted well and firmly stable.

It’s not quite the same when we loan them money through the World Bank, and the IMF, but it does build ties, and it makes it more difficult for them to engage in wars. Plus US loans overseas go primarily to US companies who are building large infrastructure projects. Those ties are somewhat tenuous, but they are something. I’m sure McDonald’s follows soon after all those deals.

Mostly, though, I think that McDonald’s is a kind of stamp of approval rendered because a nation has attained a certain level of stability. Introduction of McDonald’s could indicate a willingness to adopt a more culturally homogeneous approach, which could be more encouraging of peace between previously differing nations too.

“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”“ Frederic Bastiat.

Further Reading:

(Like my word isn't good enough for you.)


Anonymous said...

Great read!

N Nandakumar Kartha said...

I read it. I want to read once again. Then I shall come back to you.

Cor Gabriels said...


Your blog put a smile on my face, as it is a novel (and tasty) angle on analyzing the root causes for countries to declare war on each other (or not).

Although having McDonalds (or not), tells in a very modest way on how the economies 2 countries have opened up to non-local companies, I'm sure I'm not telling you something new that that would be an oversimplified root cause for ('official') war to happen or not.

You mentioned Russia and Georgia. I think that it's more their mutual history they have in common that provided the 'layout' of this conflict, than whether or not you could get a Big Mac just around the corner.

And McDonalds does not exist only in freed up economies as you put it, I believe they opened up their first site in Moscow way before Glasnost and Perestrojka really took off.

Your conclusion that a firm stability is needed for McDonalds to invest in outlets in a certain country is true though, but that has not in the first place to do anything with warfare, only with making a sound business decision (a country can have a very stable economy, but still be proned for war with other countries).

But . . . certainly amusing approach on this topic.

Daniel Jatovsky said...

If only it were true. However, Israel got its first McDonald's in 1993. Lebanon got its first in 1998. The two countries fought a war in 2006.

I doubt this is the only example.

Martin Thomas said...

Were there no Macdonalds in Iraq? or Pakistan?

Globalisation certainly makes war tougher to instigte but I would guess it makes it more critical to trash the opponent big time in the event of going there. Having taken a major step to damage your market you now need to annihilate the opposition or they will need to share a diminished capacity with you...

War is changing, perhaps already has. But it isn't going away anytime soon. Possibly global powers won't risk all out battles against each other f2f - India and China aren't going to drop nukes on each other. But expect the border disputes to continue and expect foregn supported terrorism to flourish indefinitely.

Alex Fogel said...

I submit that the Falkland Islands War (between Great Britain & Argentina) counters virtually ever point made by Thomas Friedman.

Not only were there McDonald's in both countries, there were also several other trade and cultural exchange programs existing, encompassing agricultural, manufactured goods, and services.

Some would say that the war was the result of globalization of trade between the two countries... and the ego of politicians.

Clare Cronin said...

That's probably because all their soldiers are feeling too ill and bloated to fight after all that disgusting, fatty food packed with salt (see the film Supersize Me).

Lily Somerville said...

A McDonalds Big Mac must surely have all the essential nutrients for the average soldier?!

I mean, you've got meat for protein; two of your five-a-day with lettuce and tomato; cheese for calcium... Mmm, healthy.

Barrie Collins said...

Have you ever seen Kofi Annan and Ronald McDonald in the same room?

V Gera said...

If thats TRUE finally we have an answer to the complex problem of world peace.. must take this initiative to make it more visible :)

Vincent "Hefiz" Graux said...

it's only because in 1999 the Israeli McDo representant said he would never open a branch iin the Palestine's occupied territories...

For Argentina, your assumption is true, by short, only 4 years (Argentina/UK). 1986 against 1982 to be precise...

Russell Klosk said...

This is up there with no two democracies have ever fought a war either, but as the most powerful global driver shifts from politics to corporations it may just be a when question.

Further while the economic ties that globalization brings make it extremely costly for countries heavily invested in each other to go to war don't think for a minute that part of Chinas (just as one example) in buying US Government Debt is entirely about economic benefit. The government of China could throw the US economy, and in deed most of the developed world, into complete and utter economic caos just by dumping it's Dollar holdings. That is a tool of war!

Further, and again I'll single out China, while the economic interests between Tiawan, China, the US and the EU probably preclude an actual shooting war over Chinas claims on Tiawan, oil is another issue, and just one, that could cause such a war (after all wasn't part of Japans justification for WWII about the Southern Resources Area and oil reserves in Indo-China?). The Spartley Islands (as one example) have untapped oil reserves. The islands are disputed between Japan, China & Vietnam.

Currently an uneasy truce exists with a number of countries in essence drilling sideways wells to get to these reserves, but if a shot was fired between Japan & China how does the US and likely the EU not get sucked into such a shooting war? Don't all those countries "have McDonalds"?

Countries (and corporations) will always act in their own percieved best interersts, and when those interests conflict tensions rise, and at some point in the calculation they override simple economics.

Heidi Titchenal said...

Well, instead of duking it out from now on we should eat a supersize meal and take a nap when we have a dispute.

Leonid Lastovkin said...

I get it - there are 3 rich Jews running this world. Whatever countries they have invested in - those do not fight. To hide the fact that they are in fact Jewish, they bough the non-kosher McD.

David Pearson said...

How do you say "Supersize me" in Farsi?

Plamen Toshkov said...

While the main pitch line doesn’t really hold much water it has some common sense appeal though.

McDonald's and any other F500 company has a way more at stake for their countries to keep the tomahawk buried as opposed to slimming down their own markets abroad by hitting the warpath.

Cedric Sagne said...

I'll get the Colonel's chicken now. Not sure what they put in their sauce after reading this.

It is a funny angle but there is some truth in it. In today's world, and with just the exception of the US, Israel, and the UK with Argentina in the 80s, most countries at war/civil war/significant unrest are not democracies I reckon.

And with democracy ... large fries

Andrew Collinson said...

I think internet penetration would have a bigger impact,wars happen when you demonize the enemy,but when people actually talk to each other,you see they are human too.It is the leaders hiding in their bunkers that start wars,but only if they have a military to fight it.No military,no war.

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