NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Eli Berman

NBER Working Paper No. 10004
Issued in September 2003
NBER Program(s):   LS   PR

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10004

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