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Extremism, suicide terror, and authoritarianism

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  • Ronald Wintrobe

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Abstract

This paper studies extremist behaviour, and its connection to authoritarianism. I divide extremists into two groups, leaders, who demand extremist acts such as assassinations, suicide terror or other forms of political violence from followers, who supply them. I assume that both the leaders of extremist groups and their followers are rational. The paper looks at three examples: Communism, Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism. I show that leaders with extreme ideologies also tend to adopt violent methods when there is an indivisibility between the intermediate goal of the group and its ultimate goal. Turning to followers, the most important innovation of the paper is a simple model which explains how it is possible for a person to rationally commit suicide to further the goals of a group. The most important policy implications of the paper are, firstly, that one should look at the goals of extremist group in order to understand their actions. If one can un-bundle the goal or make the indivisible divisible, then there may be ways to provide these goals in a way which satisfies some of the potential supporters of the group and thus dries up support for the grander ambitions of the leaders of extremist groups. Secondly, the provision of programs which foster social cohesion tends to dry up an important motive for extremist activity: the desire for solidarity. Thirdly, policy towards terrorists should combine the use of “carrot” and “stick”. Finally, I argue that authoritarian regimes rather than democracies or totalitarian regimes are the most likely sources of suicide terror. So democracy is indeed part of the solution to the problem of suicide terrorism. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-006-9059-3
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 128 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 169-195

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:128:y:2006:i:1:p:169-195

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100332

Related research

Keywords: Terrorism; Extremist ideologies; Extremist groups; Authoritarian regimes; Suicide terrorists;

References

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  1. Muhammed N. Islam & Stanley L. Winer, 2004. "Tinpots, Totalitarians (and Democrats): An Empirical Investigation of the Effects of Economic Growth on Civil Liberties and Political Rights," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 118(3_4), pages 289-323, 03.
  2. Wintrobe,Ronald, 2000. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521794497, October.
  3. Ronald Wintrobe, 1999. "Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9917, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  4. Eli Berman, 2003. "Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias," NBER Working Papers 10004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Criminal Deterrence in the Reduced Form: A New Perspective on Ehrlich's Seminal Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 476-83, July.
  6. Wintrobe,Ronald, 2006. "Rational Extremism," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521859646, October.
  7. Sandler, Todd & Lapan, Harvey E., 1988. "The Calculus of Dissent: An Analysis of Terrorists' Choice of Targets," Staff General Research Papers 10818, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Krisztina Kis-Katos & Helge Liebert & Guenther G. Schulze, 2012. "On the Heterogeneity of Terror," Discussion Paper Series 19, Department of International Economic Policy, University of Freiburg, revised May 2012.
  2. Jean-Paul Azam & Véronique Thelen, 2008. "The roles of foreign aid and education in the war on terror," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 375-397, June.
  3. Jean-Paul Azam, 2012. "Why suicide-terrorists get educated, and what to do about it," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(3), pages 357-373, December.
  4. Elie Appelbaum, 2004. "Union militancy and the probability of strikes," Working Papers 2004_4, York University, Department of Economics.
  5. Elie Appelbaum, 2006. "Strategic extremism," Working Papers 2006_12, York University, Department of Economics.
  6. Hirofumi Shimizu, 2011. "Social cohesion and self-sacrificing behavior," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(3), pages 427-440, December.

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