Free Markets and Civil Peace: Some Theory and Empirical Evidence
In James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, and Joshua Hall, Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report (Fraser Institute): USA
20 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2017
Scholars of armed conflict generally focus on motive and opportunity as analytical categories for narrowing down causes, much the same way as investigators of crime narrow down a list of suspects (Poe, 2004; Gartzke, 2005; Collier, 2000; Most and Starr, 1989; de Soysa, 2002). Social and individual grievances of various sorts, such as the lack of political rights, may provide motive for organizing violence against a state, but opportunity must also exist, whatever the nature and level of grievance, which is a hard concept to measure objectively (Theuerkauf, 2010). Such a perspective has also been salient for understanding revolution, where means and opportunity play a leading role (Tilly, 1978). Recent research on conflict has focused on the capture of natural resources as motive but, more importantly, also as opportunity because expensive conflict can be financed (means) by looting resources. This article takes a broader perspective on both opportunity and means to argue that economic repression and economic mismanagement supply the “means, motive, and opportunity” for groups to challenge states because economic distortions spawn underground economies that form the “organizational bases” of insurgency that allow groups to succeed and be sustainable in the face of superior state forces. In other words, grievance alone cannot explain successful insurgency. Anti-government individuals in the United States have enough grievances to bomb a federal government building in Oklahoma City, but whether they have the means to sustain a fight against the US government’s law enforcement agencies is another matter. This article will first briefly argue why economic governance in a broader sense matters more than simple arguments about feasibility and demonstrate empirically the pacifying effects of economic freedom, or free markets.
Keywords: Free markets, conflict, Economic Freedom
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation