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War is ancient—far older than capitalism. However, once capitalism emerged, the pursuit of profit, resources, markets, cheap labor—both slave and nominally free—resulted in far more death and destruction from war in the last few centuries than in all of the rest of history combined. Perhaps this should not be surprising, because capitalism is grounded in competition, which makes conflict likely.

In precapitalist societies, war for war’s sake was often seen as an intrinsic good, a way to achieve honor and glory and prove valor. Both Islam and pre-Christian Norse paganism promised slain warriors a special place in paradise. As Christian aristocrats and knights led armies of peasants, they certainly sought plunder and booty, but they saw victory in battle as proof they held a special essence ...

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