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War Signals: A Theory of Trade, Trust and Conflict

Listed author(s):
  • Rohner, D.
  • Thoenig, M.
  • Zilibotti, F.

We construct a dynamic theory of civil conflict hinging on inter-ethnic trust and trade. The model economy is inhabitated by two ethnic groups. Inter-ethnic trade requires imperfectly observed bilateral investments and one group has to form beliefs on the average propensity to trade of the other group. Since conflict disrupts trade, the onset of a conflict signals that the aggressor has a low propensity to trade. Agents observe the history of conflicts and update their beliefs over time, transmitting them to the next generation. The theory bears a set of testable predictions. First, war is a stochastic process whose frequency depends on the state of endogenous beliefs. Second, the probability of future conflicts increases after each conflict episode. Third, "accidental" conflicts that do not reflect economic fundamentals can lead to a permanent breakdown of trust, plunging a society into a vicious cycle of recurrent conflicts (a war trap). The incidence of conflict can be reduced by policies abating cultural barriers, fostering inter-ethnic trade and human capital, and shifting beliefs. Coercive peace policies such as peacekeeping forces or externally imposed regime changes have instead no persistent effects.

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File URL: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/research/repec/cam/pdf/cwpe1136.pdf
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Paper provided by Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge in its series Cambridge Working Papers in Economics with number 1136.

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Date of creation: 11 Apr 2011
Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:1136
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/index.htm

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2010. "Persistence of Civil Wars," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 664-676, 04-05.
  2. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjöström, 2004. "Arms Races and Negotiations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 351-369.
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  5. Rohner, Dominic, 2011. "Reputation, group structure and social tensions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 188-199, November.
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  7. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 1998. "On Economic Causes of Civil War," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 563-573, October.
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  10. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler & Dominic Rohner, 2009. "Beyond greed and grievance: feasibility and civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 1-27, January.
  11. Rauch, James E., 1999. "Networks versus markets in international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 7-35, June.
  12. Philippe Martin & Thierry Mayer & Mathias Thoenig, 2008. "Civil Wars and International Trade," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 541-550, 04-05.
  13. Jeffrey C. Ely & Juuso Välimäki, 2003. "Bad Reputation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 785-814.
  14. Felbermayr, Gabriel J. & Toubal, Farid, 2010. "Cultural proximity and trade," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 279-293, February.
  15. Paul Collier & Dominic Rohner, 2008. "Democracy, Development, and Conflict," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 531-540, 04-05.
  16. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2011. "The Logic of Political Violence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1411-1445.
  17. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 563-595, October.
  18. Dercon, Stefan & Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana, 2012. "Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 731-744.
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