The Lone Wolf Terrorist: Sudden Sprees of Violence
Peter J. Phillips
University of Southern Queensland - Faculty of Business
December 22, 2011
The purpose of this paper is to apply economic science to the analysis of the opportunities and choices of single individual ‘lone wolf’ terrorists whose attacks are characterised by ‘sprees’ of violence that last only for a relatively short period of time. Unlike ‘serial’ lone wolves who engage in violent terrorism over a prolonged period of time and unlike those lone wolves who engage in a single crudely planned terrorist attack and are apprehended without inflicting significant injuries or fatalities, the attacks of spree lone wolves are concentrated in a very short period of time, perhaps no longer than several days and sometimes as little as a few hours, and may generate significant levels of human tragedy. The spree lone wolf also emerges suddenly. Having previously allocated no resources to violent terrorism, he suddenly and all at once allocates 100 percent of his resources, including time, to violent terrorism. The first step to providing guidance to governments and their security and law enforcement agencies is to encompass some important elements of the spree lone wolf’s opportunities and choices within an economic analytical framework. The first steps towards this encompassment are undertaken in this paper by exploring the opportunities and choices of the spree lone wolf from a risk-reward perspective and a treatment of the spree lone wolf as an individual who, while attempting to maximise his expected utility, shuns the risk-reduction benefits of ‘time diversification’ and suddenly plunges all of his resources into violent terrorism within a single time period.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: lone wolf, terrorism, violent terrorism, expected utility, spree, serial, plunge
JEL Classification: H56working papers series
Date posted: December 24, 2011 ; Last revised: February 27, 2012
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