The balance sheet between the value of war and of tourism

I read Tolstoy’s famous novel, War and Peace, many years ago.  It was in a box of books that a fellow student at Gettysburg College gave me when he went home to Delaware for Christmas vacation.  I was living in Gettysburg with my husband, who taught at the college.  There were probably 15 books in the box, and although we spent Christmas with our families in Jamestown, N.Y. I managed to read them all.

I am not quite sure why that memory has come back to me, but it was triggered when I was thinking about all of the people who wanted to, but could not travel this Christmas, either because of the terrible weather conditions or because of the wars being carried on in those parts of the world that are popular tourist spots during this particular holiday season, especially in the Middle East where the three major religions originated.  My heart goes out to them.

Here in Costa Rica, the sun has been shining on most of the celebrants and the weather is mild, minus serious interruptions like earthquakes or volcano eruptions from Mother Nature, and although it is not a country void of violence, generally speaking it is pretty peaceful.  And this is the beginning of Costa Rica’s high season for tourism.

That got me to thinking that both the weather and war can obstruct and prevent travel or tourism, a form of travel that is now considered among the top sources of income for many countries.

But in this day and age and especially at this time of the year when everything is measured in profit and loss, buying and selling, market value and bottom line, I asked myself the perhaps Libertarian question, “What is more profitable, tourism or war?”

If the question were “What is more pleasurable?”  It could easily be answered (with a few exceptions of the trip-from-Hell stories) “Tourism!”

My friend Fitz wrote to me about his recent trip on the Queen Mary 2 to Europe and his stay in Paris, complete with pictures and his wonderful anecdotes about the people he met.  Reading his tales took me back to times I only dreamed of or read about, although I did get to visit Paris.  It was a time when there were such things as “The Grand Tour” that usually meant Europe.  Today people are being warned to not visit Europe this winter because of the nose biting cold or on the contrary, to only visit Europe in the winter because it is cheaper.

That does not answer the question I have asked myself about the monetary worth of war vs. tourism.  The problem for a Libertarian would be that governments are involved in both war and tourism, whether it is issuing visas and passports or contracts to make munitions, and government people to train to handle both.

Do pilgrims visiting their revered holy places or music lovers traveling to hear their favorite orchestras or performers, art lovers who want to visit their favorite paintings in galleries, or gourmets eager to try new cuisines or whatever moves people to travel and visit far off places — do they, finally, bring in more money to people and corporations and governments than the accoutrements of war do?

I suppose if you figure in pleasure and pain, hospitality and hostility, learning something new or destroying something old, freedom and control, and on goes the list, then the balance would be different.  If you measure who benefits and who loses, that also may skew the comparison.  But we are talking money, profit and loss, power and control, not human emotions.

Traveling, unlike tripping — taking drugs to experience a different reality, rather than actually going some place – does not facilitate wars.  Tripping does, and is profitable for both drug dealers and the army of fighters against drugs. The only one who loses is the lonely tripper.  It is more than the lonely traveler who loses when there is a war, but others gain.

Travel cannot prevent wars, but wars have the power to stop or limit travel, so in the long run, it looks like war is going to be with us for a very long time.

Let’s hope I am wrong and more tourists and fewer refugees are in the news this coming year.

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