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The Political Economy of Warfare

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  • Edward L. Glaeser

Abstract

Warfare is enormously destructive, and yet countries regularly initiate armed conflict against one another. Even more surprisingly, wars are often quite popular with citizens who stand to gain little materially and may lose much more. This paper presents a model of warfare as the result of domestic political calculations. When incumbents have an edge in fighting wars, they may start wars even if those wars run counter to their country's interests. Challengers are particularly likely to urge aggression when they are unlikely to come into power and when the gains from coming to power are large. Leaders who start wars will naturally try to create hatred by emphasizing the threat and despicable character of the rival country. Wars will be more common in dictatorships than in democracies both because dictators have stronger incentives to stay in power and because they have greater control over the media.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12738.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Publication status: published as Hess, Gregory D. (ed.) Guns and Butter: The Economic Causes and Consequences of Conflict. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12738

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  1. Hess, Gregory D & Orphanides, Athanasios, 1995. "War Politics: An Economic, Rational-Voter Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 828-46, September.
  2. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Media Bias and Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(2), pages 280-316, April.
  3. Gilat Levy & Ronny Razin, 2004. "It takes two : an explanation of the democratic peace," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 539, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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Cited by:
  1. Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2007. "War and Endogenous Democracy," Working Papers 0715, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Department of Economics, Society & Politics - Scientific Committee - L. Stefanini & G. Travaglini, revised 2007.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Benno Torgler, 2008. "Politicians: Be Killed or Survive," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-25, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).

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