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Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias

  • Eli Berman

Can rational choice modeling explain destructive behavior among the Taliban, Hama and other radical religious militias? This paper proposes a club good framework which emphasizes the function of voluntary religious organizations as efficient providers of local public goods in the absence of government provision. The sacrifices which these groups demand are economically efficient (as in Iannaccone (1992)) and make them well suited for solving the extreme principal-agent problems present in militia production. Thus the analysis can explain why religious radicals create such effective militias. Seemingly gratuitous acts of violence by group members destroy their outside options, increasing the incentive compatibility of loyalty. The analysis has clear implications for economic policy to contain militias.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10004.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10004
Note: LS PR
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  1. 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.
  2. Alan B. Krueger & Jitka Maleckova, 2002. "Education, Poverty, Political Violence and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?," Working Papers 203, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  3. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  4. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
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