Thursday, November 4, 2010

Higher quality killers for Northern Ireland?

A team of American and Israeli researchers find that economic conditions do not influence the quantity of terrorism in a region, but may influence the quality of that terrorism:

High levels of unemployment enable terror organizations to recruit more educated, mature and experienced suicide terrorists who in turn attack more important Israeli targets....

Rational individuals become terrorists only if their utility of carrying a terror attack is higher than their utility of working in the market economy. When economic conditions are good, and unemployment is low, there are desirable opportunities for able individuals that choose to join the market economy. Therefore, only individuals with low ability, those unable to find a job even under good market conditions, are the ones who join terror organizations. When market conditions deteriorate, the economic opportunities of able individuals deteriorate as well. Worsening economic conditions should ease the recruiting of more able and better-educated individuals by terror organizations, even if the launching of a terror campaign and the quantity of terrorism are driven by strategic decisions taken by terror organizations irrespective of economic conditions.

In the light of rising activity by dissident republican paramilitary groups (extreme Irish nationalist groups that split away from the Provisional IRA when it decided to accept peace terms) and recent economic difficulties, this could be bad news for Northern Ireland's peace. It seems that terrorist organisations compete with ordinary employers for the most capable and intelligent men and women. The rise of unemployment may have shifted some potential recruits out of the workforce and into political violence.


  1. Shane, this is true for today's Pakistan as well. Young Pakistani men need some economic incentives to avoid falling prey to terrorist recruitment. That's where the aid money should be invested in - eductaion and employment.

  2. I'm sure, Tahera. We can focus on political inspirations of terrorism but I think the draw of violence for young men can sometimes have little to do with ideology and more to do with prestige. A disrespected young man can find respect, honour and adventure by embracing some violent movement. In regions with no political struggle that violence can be football hooliganism or organised crime.

    Unfortunately the conflict these create can worsen economic conditions and deepen the problem as a whole.


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