Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention

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The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention was proposed by economist Thomas Friedman as a way of explaining how globalization affects foreign policy and conflict. Essentially, the Theory points out that no two countries that both have McDonalds franchises have ever gone to war. The reasoning behind this correlation, Friedman says, is that once economies become sufficiently integrated, both the cost of going to war and the amount of contact between two countries will increase. Both these factors lead to more effective conflict resolution, as states will attempt to pursue the more economically beneficial option. Friedman’s argument echoes the main suppositions of the democratic peace theory, which states that democracies never go to war. Friedman’s analysis simply takes this argument further in his economic emphasis, although he places a similar amount of emphasis on the role of domestic society in influencing a government’s willingness to go to war.

Problems with the Golden Arches Theory

The Golden Arches Theory has not held true in all cases, and explanations to explain these inconsistencies vary. In some cases, the increased contact between two countries due to integration may actually exacerbate points of contention between the two states, leading to more opportunities for conflict. Or, the difference may lie in the type of government in power: a democratic government may follow the Golden Arches Theory, but the Theory may break down when confronted with cases of nondemocratic or authoritarian regimes. The Golden Arches Theory assumes that governments respond to the desires of their constituents for economic stability and that the government knows it will be held accountable in the case that it does not provide for the economic well-being of its citizens. In the case of an authoritarian or nondemocratic state, leaders may not experience these dilemmas, causing them not to act in accordance with the Golden Arches Theory. [1]
  1. Grieco, Joseph M., and G. John Ikenberry. State Power and World Markets: The International Political Economy. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003.