A Dynamic Theory of Resource Wars

Daron Acemoglu, Mikhail Golosov, Aleh Tsyvinski, Pierre Yared

NBER Working Paper No. 16682
Issued in January 2011
NBER Program(s):   EFG   POL

We develop a dynamic theory of resource wars and study the conditions under which such wars can be prevented. The interaction between the scarcity of resources and the incentives for war in the presence of limited commitment is at the center of our theory. We show that a key parameter determining the incentives for war is the elasticity of demand. Our first result identifies a novel externality that can precipitate war: price-taking firms fail to internalize the impact of their extraction on military action. In the case of inelastic resource demand, war incentives increase over time and war may become inevitable. Our second result shows that in some situations, regulation of prices and quantities by the resource-rich country can prevent war, and when this is the case, there will also be intertemporal distortions. In particular, resource extraction will tend to be slower than that prescribed by the Hotelling rule, which is the rate of extraction in the competitive environment. Our third result is that, due to limited commitment, such regulation can also precipitate war in some circumstances in which war is avoided in the competitive environment.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16682

Published: Daron Acemoglu & Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Pierre Yared, 2012. "A Dynamic Theory of Resource Wars," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 283-331. citation courtesy of

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