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Politics and the Suboptimal Provision of Counterterror

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  • Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan
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    Abstract

    I present a model of interactions between voters, a government, and a terrorist organization. The model focuses on a previously unexplored conceptualization of counterterrorism as divided into tactic-specific observable and general unobservable tactics. When there is divergence between voters and government preferences, strategic substitution among different modes of attack by terrorists and agency problems between the voters and government create a situation in which the politically optimal counterterrorism strategy pursued by the government in response to electoral and institutional incentives is quite different from the security maximizing counterterrorism strategy. In particular, in response to electoral pressure, the government allocates resources to observable counterterror in excess of the social optimum. This problem is particularly severe when governments put great weight on rent-seeking or care less about counterterror than do voters and when terrorists have a large set of tactics from which to choose. Voters can decrease the magnitude of the agency problem by increasing the benefits of reelection by, for example, slackening requirements for nonsecurity related public goods.I have received valuable comments and advice from Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Randy Calvert, Martin Cripps, James Fearon, Amanda Friedenberg, Robert Powell, Matthew Stephenson, and Barbara Walter. I thank the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University for financial support.

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    File URL: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0020818307070087
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

    Volume (Year): 61 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 01 (January)
    Pages: 9-36

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:61:y:2007:i:01:p:9-36_07

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    Cited by:
    1. Tiberiu Dragu & Mattias Polborn, 2009. "Terrorism Prevention and Electoral Accountability," CESifo Working Paper Series 2864, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Roland Hodler & Dominic Rohner, 2012. "Electoral terms and terrorism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(1), pages 181-193, January.
    3. Thomas Jensen, 2012. "National Responses to Transnational Terrorism: Intelligence and Counterterrorism Provision," Discussion Papers 12-22, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    4. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjostrom, 2012. "The Strategy of Manipulating Conflict," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2897-2922, October.
    5. John Cadigan & Pamela Schmitt, 2010. "Strategic entry deterrence and terrorism: Theory and experimental evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 3-22, April.
    6. Meyer Sunniva F., 2011. "Preventing Mass Killings: Determining the Optimal Allocation of Security Resources between Crowded Targets," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 17(1), pages 1-37, September.

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