The Paradox of Power Revisited: Internal and External Conflict

56 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016

Date Written: October 11, 2016


This paper develops a model of internal and external conflict in which the paradox of power holds for internal conflict, but not for external conflict. In the model, internal conflict is imbedded in a situation of external conflict. Agents in a group fight over the distribution of resources within the group, but they cooperate to fight against other groups. Agents with low economic productivity have an advantage in the internal conflict game because they face a lower opportunity cost for investments in weapons. However, it is easier for more productive groups to mobilize resources for external conflict, and as a result they have an advantage over less productive groups. The model helps to explain why economically unproductive kings enjoyed high living standards relative to their more productive subjects, but more developed kingdoms defeated and conquered less developed ones. The model can be extended to study the effects of trade on the intensity of the paradox of power and income distribution within and across groups. Extension of the model also shows that groups with more unequal distribution of productivity might have an advantage in external conflict.

Keywords: conflict, paradox of power, trade

JEL Classification: D74, F10, F50

Suggested Citation

Lopez Cruz, Ivan and Torrens, Gustavo, The Paradox of Power Revisited: Internal and External Conflict (October 11, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Ivan Lopez Cruz

Sabanci University ( email )

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Istanbul, 34956
216 483 9337 (Phone)

Gustavo Torrens (Contact Author)

Indiana university ( email )

Wylie Hall, 100 S Woodland Ave
Bloomington, IN 47405-7104
United States
8128568131 (Phone)
47405-7104 (Fax)

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