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Fifty-four Forty or Fight!

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  • Herschel I. Grossman

Abstract

This paper develops an explanation for historical differences in the ways in which territorial disputes between sovereign states have been resolved. The main innovation in the analysis is to allow for three possible equilibria: ú an unfortified border; ú a fortified but peaceful border; and ú armed conflict. The analysis shows that the possibility of a credible agreement to divide a contested territory and to leave the resulting border unfortified depends on the effectiveness of spending on arms by one state relative to another and on the importance that states attach to the potential costs of future armed conflicts. The analysis also shows that, if all relevant parameters are common knowledge, then, even if an agreement to have an unfortified border would not be credible, states can resolve a territorial dispute peacefully by dividing the contested territory and fortifying the border. Finally, the paper points out that unverifiable innovations, especially innovations in military technology, can cause a peaceful settlement to break down, resulting in an armed conflict that in turn can provide the basis for a new peaceful settlement.

Suggested Citation

  • Herschel I. Grossman, 2003. "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!," NBER Working Papers 9635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9635
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9635.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alberto Alesina & Enrico Spolaore, 1997. "On the Number and Size of Nations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1027-1056.
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    3. Dimitriy Gershenson & Herschel I. Grossman, 1999. "Civil Conflict: Ended Or Never Ending?," Working Papers 99-31, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    4. Skaperdas, Stergios & Syropoulos, Constantinos, 1996. "Can the shadow of the future harm cooperation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 355-372, May.
    5. Dmitriy Gershenson & Herschel I. Grossman, 2000. "Civil Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 44(6), pages 808-822, December.
    6. Grossman, Herschel I, 1999. "Kleptocracy and Revolutions," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 267-283, April.
    7. Grossman, Herschel I & Kim, Minseong, 1995. "Swords or Plowshares? A Theory of the Security of Claims to Property," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1275-1288, December.
    8. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 155-178, February.
    9. Garfinkel, Michelle R, 1994. "Domestic Politics and International Conflict," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1294-1309, December.
    10. Michelle R. Garfinkel & Stergios Skaperdas, 2000. "Conflict without Misperceptions or Incomplete Information," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 44(6), pages 793-807, December.
    11. Garfinkel, M.R. & Skaperdas, S., 2000. "Conflict without Misperceptions or Incomplete Information: how the Future Matters," Papers 99-00-11, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
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    13. 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.
    14. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:01:p:115-132_09 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Hess, Gregory D & Orphanides, Athanasios, 1995. "War Politics: An Economic, Rational-Voter Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 828-846, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herschel I. Grossman, 2013. "Choosing Between Peace and War," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 765-783, November.
    2. Kjell Hausken, 2005. "Production and Conflict Models Versus Rent-Seeking Models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 59-93, April.
    3. Katharina Wick & Erwin Bulte, 2006. "Contesting resources – rent seeking, conflict and the natural resource curse," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 457-476, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions

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