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Rent seekers in rentier states: When greed brings peace

  • K. Bjorvatn
  • A. Naghavi

Are natural resources a source of conflict or stability? Empirical studies demonstrate that rents from natural resources, and in particular oil, are an important source of civil war. Allegedly, resource rents attract rent seekers, which destabilize society. However, there is a large literature on how so-called rentier states manage to pacify opposition groups by handing out special favors. The present paper attempts to bridge the gap between the rent-seeking view of resource rents as a source of conflict and the rentier state view which emphasizes the role of resource rents in promoting peace and stability, and show how one may lead to the other. The mechanism that we highlight relies on the notion that higher rents may activate more interest groups in a power struggle. We demonstrate that the associated increased cost of conflict may in fact promote social stability. The peaceful solution is upheld by a self reinforcing transfer program, in the form of patronage employment. The chance of conflict and rent dissipation in our model is highest for intermediate levels of resource rents, where the government cannot make credible commitments to the opposition groups.

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Paper provided by Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna in its series Working Papers with number 690.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:690
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  1. Robinson, James A. & Torvik, Ragnar & Verdier, Thierry, 2006. "Political foundations of the resource curse," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 447-468, April.
  2. Hodler, Roland, 2006. "The curse of natural resources in fractionalized countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 1367-1386, August.
  3. Silje Aslaksen & Ragnar Torvik, 2005. "A theory of civil conflict and democracy in rentier states," Working Paper Series 5805, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  4. Philippe Le Billon, 2003. "Buying peace or fuelling war: the role of corruption in armed conflicts," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(4), pages 413-426.
  5. Sachs, Jeffrey D. & Warner, Andrew M., 2001. "The curse of natural resources," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 827-838, May.
  6. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 2000. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2355, The World Bank.
  7. Garfinkel, Michelle R, 1990. "Arming as a Strategic Investment in a Cooperative Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 50-68, March.
  8. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler & Dominic Rohner, 2006. "Beyond Greed and Grievance: Feasibility and Civil War," CSAE Working Paper Series 2006-10, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  9. Powell, Robert, 2006. "War as a Commitment Problem," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 169-203, January.
  10. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
  11. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 1998. "On Economic Causes of Civil War," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 563-73, October.
  12. Azam, Jean-Paul, 1995. " How to Pay for the Peace? A Theoretical Framework with References to African Countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 83(1-2), pages 173-84, April.
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