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The Newcombes: a profile

Anonymous — May 1983

Instead of canned tomatoes and old skis, hundreds of hoses of file cards line the basement walls in Hanna and Alan Newcombe’s home in Dundas, Ontario. Twenty years ago they chose to give up their previous work as chemists (both hold Ph.D. degrees in that science) and devote their lives to peace research. It was not a decision that could be made lightly; they had three young children at the time, and the career change would decrease their income to $3,000 that first year.

Hanna, who was born in Czechoslovakia, came to Canada with her parents in 1939, and married Hamilton-born Alan in 1946. Both have taught part-time at York University (Hanna still does). Hanna is also currently serving as President of the World Federalists of Canada, a position Alan has also held.

When first making their career shift, they joined forces with Norman and Pat Alcock, who were establishing the Canadian Peace Research Institute sod publishing the journal, Peace Research. It was a fruitful partnership. The Alcocks carried out research. while the Newcombes devoted their attention to producing abstracts and publishing reviews, a joint activity they still pursue. However, since 1976 the Newcombes have operated independently as the Peace Research Institute — Dundas.

The Peace Research Institute regularly publishes Peace Research Abstracts: Key to the peace/war literature of the world. These abstracts, summaries of papers and books about peace, are available in moat university libraries.

The Newcombes also publish the Peace Research Reviews which are bound monographs, six to a volume, run off on their own offset press from typescript. These books are truly scholarly works. yet they address the ordinary, matter-of-fact questions that average citizens need to consider when thinking about disarmament and international tensions.

Each Peace Research Review usually covers a particular topic. Among them is “Economic Consequences of Disarmament” which summarises the findings of 403 economists, who are virtually unanimous in concluding that disarmament would not produce an economic depression, as people commonly assume.

Hanna’s research in recent years has focused mainly on the voting patterns within the United Nations. She uses statistical analyses to determine which blocs and alliances are particularly cohesive in international affairs.

Alan’s research has lately concerned a statistic that he has developed and named the ‘tensiometer’ He explains that there is a definite and obvious relationship between the wealth of a nation and the amount that it can afford to spend on military preparedness. However, not all rich nations spend the same amount. He calls the ones that spend more than average for their income level “supra-critical,” and those that spend less than average “sub-critical.” What is surprising to military strategists is that, based on historical evidence, the likelihood of war it very markedly predictable on the basis of this classification system. That is, contrary to the theory of deterrence, the nations that are over-armed (“supra-critical”) are thirty times more likely to enter an international war within five years than the nations that are less ‘prepared’ militarily. The maxim of ancient Rome, “If you would have peace, prepare for war,” is exactly wrong. “If you would have peace, prepare for peace,” says Alan Newcombe. Those who prepare for war get war. This is a research finding that the world desperately needs to learn.