We often connect the economic status of a country to various factors such as policy, culture, political leadership, and history. Truly, these factors are accountable for economic success and the development of a certain country. And yet, one of the main factors for the economic development (and military strength) of a nation is its geographic location and climate.
Geography and climate have major effects on economic growth and are an integral part of the economic policy a country chooses to take. For example, the United States has an advantage over most other economies due to its fortunate geographic structure, in terms of economic benefits and military strategy. Due to its geographic location, the United States has adopted the ‘good cop’ policy as its location allows them to enjoy a protective military strategy. Nowadays, there’s no country in the world (besides Canada and Mexico) that can attack the United States due to its unique geographic location.
Why geographic location is important for a country’s economic success?
Geography also seems to affect economic policy choices. Many geographic regions have high population densities and are experiencing rapid increases in population due to the area size, productive climate and agriculture.
Here are some of the main factors where geography and climate can impact a country’s economic development:
- Location – The location of a country has large impact on every element of economic growth and wealth fare. Some of the significant features worth considering include access to Water, mountains, deserts, coasts (seaports). The location can also impact a country’s political stability, culture, communication, and trade.
- Climate – There is no doubt that climate is one of the most important factors of economic development. Usually, the poorest countries are located in the tropics areas, where it is hot, the land is less fertile, water is more scarce, and where diseases spread, while, Europe and North America are located in areas with very fertile land, a temperate climate, and good rainfall.
- Resources – Every area in the world has different natural resources. Water, oil, gas, gold, silver, diamonds, copper, coal, iron, uranium, etc. Some countries like Saudi Arabia were lucky to get a rich land while other countries suffer from a lack of natural resources. Every country has to maintain infrastructures to utilize its natural resources, which in some way can dictate a country’s economic policy and the knowledge of its citizens.
- Political/Weather Stability – Weather instability can be a major danger for a country although it is not a necessity for sustainable economic growth. The United States, Japan, and China are more prone to weather disasters and yet, these countries have managed to maintain a productive economy. The geography of a country also affects its economic/social policy – Countries in the Middle East, and in Africa usually led by totalitarian governments whereas, in Europe, countries adopt democracy and the free-market economy.
How does the size of a country affect its economy?
The size of a country is not necessarily a major factor for success in the status of its economy. Some small countries with no natural resources were able to efficiently grow and maintain a healthy economy. Nevertheless, the size of a country can be a major advantage for economic development – An increase of population, new housing projects, the capacity to grow enough food to feed the population, agriculture, and even solar energy farms in the future.
Let’s take two countries with a similar GDP and population, and a different area size and geographic location, Sweden and Israel. Sweden is 22.5X the size of Israel and is located in a peaceful region that provides the country agricultural productivity, better transportation routes, and the ability to trade goods and services without barriers. Though Sweden has a much more social-economic system, the two countries operate a similar capitalistic-liberal economy. If we analyze the housing prices in the two countries, the average price of a house in Sweden is around $311,000 while the average price of a house in Israel is $413,500. The main reason is the size of the country – A house in Sweden’s countryside can cost as low as 100K-200K SEK (10K-20K USD), while a house in Isreal suburbs costs around 213,000 USD.
That could be simply explained by the fact that Israel’s domicile geographic structure is centered into one economic hub (Tel-Aviv) which causes an economic status of extremely high prices, in particular in housing prices. Sweden, however, can enjoy a number of economic hubs (Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo) and a high number of small economic centers, which prevents an increase in housing prices and essential products.
The impact of geography on military strategy
Similarly to economic development, geography plays an important role in a country’s military strategy. First, war mostly occurs between neighboring countries, thus, any isolated country has the benefit of avoiding unnecessary war conflicts and interfere as the third party in a war conflict (the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, etc). The Distances between two rivalry countries dictate types of transportation, weapons, and military operational strategy. Obviously, countries with mountains, deserts, and sea coasts have an advantage over countries that lack these resources, and on some occasions, a war sparks over the control of important geographical areas.
Climate and terrain have also been major factors of war strategy. Germany has lost two important battles, in WW1 (The Battle of Passchendaele) and WW2 (The Battle of Moscow), due to muddy quagmires. These factors affect the operation of equipment, visibility, communication, intelligence, and mobility. The United States and China flirt with a war for decades, however, both sides are aware of the high cost and the complexity of the mechanism of operation of this kind.
Geography also impacts the type of weapon an army requires. The Iron Dome, which was developed by Israel to get protection against short-range missiles, is not a demanded product over the world as other countries are not facing a similar military situation.
We tend to associate any economic policy and military operation to politicians, economists, and military generals. Indeed, some countries failed due to an unfavorable political system though their geographical location and climate can serve as a powerful means to create an economic strength. One great example is Argentina, which has all the necessary resources and geographic location to operate a sustainable economic growth, however, due to political instability, the country suffers from a century of decline.
Yet, geography, climate, and cultural differences have a huge impact on economic development and war strategy. Countries grow based on their own underlying economic strength, which comes as a result of geography, climate, and natural resources.
Some countries heavily rely on their natural resources (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brazil), while other countries like Japan, which lack any natural resources, had to develop innovative businesses in order to maintain economic strength.