VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 3 CATEGORY: Business & Economics POSTED ON: 6/25/2010
Each year, the U.S. State Department publishes Country Reports on Terrorism, which highlights current strategies, outcomes and casualties from U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The 2008 report highlights the growing trend in terrorist attacks abroad, including the September attack against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen that killed 18 people. The continued incidence of terrorism prompts us to consider its root causes. It is popular to single out poverty or lack of education as major factors.1 Recent economic literature, however, points more toward civil liberties, political rights and the rule of law as far greater factors. Measuring the incidence and type of terrorism is controversial. A study by economists Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova considers the influence of poverty and education on terrorism. Surprisingly, they find no evidence that reducing poverty or improving education would "meaningfully reduce international terrorism." Because of the highly emotional and traumatizing impact of terrorism, it is important to take a measured and thoughtful look at counterterrorism policy. While still in its early stages, research suggests that economic status or lack of education may not be the most important factors spurring terrorism.
t e r r o r i s m Increasing Political Freedom May Be Key To Reducing Threats By Craig P. Aubuchon, Subhayu Bandyopadhyay and Javed Younas © Robin baRtholick /coRbis E ach year, the U.S. State Department publishes Country Reports on Terror- ism, which highlights current strategies, demonstrates that terrorists are using more lethal methods and weapons. of civil liberties and that economic condi- tions (as captured by GDP per capita) in these nations had no statistically significant outcomes and casualties from U.S. counter- Poverty and Terrorism relationship with terrorism.5 On the other terrorism efforts. The 2008 report high- A study by economists Alan Krueger hand, they find that nations with high GDP lights the growing trend in terrorist attacks and Jitka Maleckova considers the influ- per capita were more likely to be targets of abroad, including the September attack ence of poverty and education on terrorism. terrorism. A 2006 paper by Harvard econo- against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen that Surprisingly, they find no evidence that mist Alberto Abadie also found that the risk killed 18 people. The continued incidence reducing poverty or improving education of terrorism was not significantly higher for of terrorism prompts us to consider its root would “meaningfully reduce international poorer nations once one accounted for other causes. It is popular to single out poverty or terrorism.” 3 The authors reached their country-specific characteristics such as the lack of education as major factors.1 Recent conclusion based on evidence from three level of political freedom.6 economic literature, however, points more sources: Hezbollah militant activities in the The study by Bird and his co-authors toward civil liberties, political rights and the Gaza/West Bank region from 1998 to 2000, comes to a different conclusion. They found rule of law as far greater factors. individual profiles from members of Israeli that net exporters of terrorism were poorer Jewish extremists in the late 1970s and from nations, while terrorist targets (effectively, Measuring Terrorism: a cross-country analysis using data from the the importers of terrorism) were rich. What Counts and How Much? U.S. State Department. Interestingly, the Based on this observation, they suggest that Measuring the incidence and type of ter- authors found that within the context of the economic factors, among others, do have a rorism is controversial. First, it is important West Bank/Palestinian conflict, individu- role in explaining both the origin and the to distinguish between domestic and trans- als who engaged in terrorism were better location of terrorist acts. national terrorism. The latter is generally educated and economically more affluent than the average citizen. This apparently The Role of Political and Civil Rights considered any event that involves citizens or territories of more than one country, paradoxical result may be better understood The aforementioned study by Abadie while the former is a local act carried out by when one realizes that individuals’ incomes focuses on the role that political freedom citizens of the target country. (The attack may correlate with their abilities. To suc- plays in spurring terrorism.7 By studying in New York City on 9/11 is a prominent ceed in terrorist attacks in a heavily guarded different nations, he finds that the incidence example of transnational terrorism, where environment (like Israel), one needs a of terrorism is highest in nations with foreign citizens carried out the attack. The relatively high degree of skill and ability. intermediate levels of political freedom. bombing by Timothy McVeigh in Okla- Therefore, it is natural for leaders of the ter- Highly democratic and also highly auto- homa City in April 1995 is an example of rorist groups to choose more-able volunteers cratic regimes both tend to experience domestic terrorism.) It is also important to so that a planned attack is more likely to be less terrorism. consider whether the number of incidents successful. A recent working paper by St. Louis or the magnitude of events is more impor- Another study, by Krueger and economist Federal Reserve economist Subhayu Ban- tant. This is brought out very clearly in the David Laitin, analyzes the characteristics dyopadhyay and co-author Javed Younas accompanying graphs reproduced from the of nations from which terrorism originates explores the link between terrorism and work of economists Graham Bird, S. Brock and of target nations.4 They considered political and civil rights in developing Blomberg and Gregory Hess.2 While Figure 1 incidents of terrorism where the target and nations, using a sample of 125 countries. shows a drop-off in the number of terrorist source nations of terrorism were distinct. Disaggregating the data between domestic incidents, Figure 2 shows a rise in the num- They found that source nations of terror- and transnational terrorism, they found that ber of deaths per incident over time. This ism were more likely to suffer from a lack it was only domestic terrorism that was 10 The Regional Economist | October 2009 figure 1 endnotes 1 For example, Chapter 5.7 of the 2008 Country Transnational Terrorist Incidents, 1968-2003 Reports on Terrorism states the implicit 700 assumption that poverty can lead to terrorism: “High unemployment and underemployment, 600
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