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Does Globalization Profit the Small Arms Bazaar?

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Sceptics of globalization attribute the proliferation of light weapons to economic openness. Increasing globalization apparently weakens public authority, leading to social disarray, anomic violence, and general conditions that make handgun ownership and use more likely. Pro-globalists might argue contrarily that trade openness can raise the premium on peace as violence is bad for business. Moreover, greater interdependence allows the diffusion of anti-proliferation norms and facilitates cooperative behavior among trading partners for stemming the demand for and proliferation of small arms. Using a unique dataset on small arms imports, we find that greater openness to trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) lowers small arms imports per capita. A policy measure of economic freedom is associated with higher small arms imports, but this association seems to be explained entirely by the association between economic freedom and strong bureaucracies. States that are de facto more open to the global trading system are less likely to be inundated with these weapons, but richer, better-governed countries import more small arms. Global policy should pay closer attention to the seepage of these weapons from the relatively wealthy, who manufacture and buy them in larger quantities, to the poor, among whom the 'problems' associated with small arms are often manifested. Curbing those factors that encourage globalization, however, would be counterproductive to reducing the trade in small arms and light weapons.

Keywords: Foreign Direct Investment; economic freedom; globalization; small arms imports; trade openness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway,Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW), International Peace Research Institute (PRIO), Oslo, Norway 2: International Relations, University College, London, United Kingdom 3: Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway,International Peace Research Institute (PRIO), Oslo, Norway

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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