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Preference modification vs. incentive manipulation as tools of terrorist recruitment: The role of culture

  • Michael Munger

    ()

Terrorism is a tactic much more likely to be used when combatants have asymmetric numerical strength and weaponry. Only if one side is comparatively very weak will it use terror tactics. This weakness requires a means of controlling strong incentives for free-riding or defection from the weaker side. There are two (nonexclusive) answers: (1) Atttract or inculcate recruits with an innate preference for cooperation, even if it results in the recruit's own death (2) Create a set of incentives that reward loyalty, by giving access to excludable near-public (“club”) goods. Culture is the key to achieving either of these solutions. Culture is defined here as the set of “inherited” beliefs, attitudes, and moral strictures that a people use to distinguish outsiders, to understand themselves and to communicate with each other. The primary question is whether culture creates a preference for cooperation as a primitive, or accommodates incentives such as excludable club goods that can only be obtained by cooperation. The difference between the two accounts matters greatly for determining the correct strategy to fight terrorism. If terrorists are selected for having unusual (cooperative, from the perspective of the terror group) preferences, then recruitment must be disrupted somehow. If, on the other hand, terrorists allow themselves to be recruited to gain access to club goods, then the intervention strategy must be the disruption of social networks that credibly guarantee access to those club goods. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-006-9048-6
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Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 128 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (July)
Pages: 131-146

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:128:y:2006:i:1:p:131-146
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  1. Charles K. Rowley, 2004. "Conservatism and Economics: A Sweet Turkish Delight," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 119(1_2), pages 1-12, 04.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  3. 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.
  4. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-91, April.
  5. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
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  7. Michael Munger, 2000. "Five Questions: An Integrated Research Agenda for Public Choice," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(1), pages 1-12, April.
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