Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model
AbstractCan rational choice modeling explain why Hamas, Taliban, Hezbollah and other radical religious rebels are so lethal? The literature rejects theological explanations. We propose a club framework, which emphasizes the function of voluntary religious organizations as efficient providers of local public goods in the absence of government provision. The sacrifices religious clubs require are economically efficient (Iannaccone (1992)), making them well suited for solving the extreme principal-agent problems faced by terrorist and insurgent organizations. Thus religious clubs can be potent terrorists. That explanation is supported by data on terrorist lethality in the Middle East. The same approach explains why religious clubs often choose suicide attacks. Using three data sources spanning a half century, and comparing suicide attackers to civil war insurgents, we show that suicide attacks are chosen when targets are "hard," i.e., difficult to destroy. Data from Israel/Palestine confirm that prediction. To explain why radical religious clubs specialize in suicide attacks we model the choice of tactics by rebels attacking hard targets, considering the human costs and tactical benefits of suicide attacks. We ask what a suicide attacker would have to believe to be rational. We then embed that attacker and other operatives in a club model. The model has testable implications for tactic choice and damage achieved by clubs and other rebels, which are supported by data on terrorist attacks in the Middle East: Radical religious clubs are more lethal and choose suicide terrorism more often, when they provide benign local public goods. Our results suggest benign tactics to counter terrorism by religious radicals.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13725.
Date of creation: Jan 2008
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Other versions of this item:
- Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.
- D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
- H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
- H68 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Forecasts of Budgets, Deficits, and Debt
- J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
- J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
- O17 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
- O24 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Trade Policy; Factor Movement; Foreign Exchange Policy
- Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2008-01-12 (All new papers)
- NEP-DCM-2008-01-12 (Discrete Choice Models)
- NEP-PBE-2008-01-12 (Public Economics)
- NEP-POL-2008-01-12 (Positive Political Economics)
- NEP-SOC-2008-01-12 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
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