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Mutual fear and civil war

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We propose a theory of con ict in which actors balance the opportunity costs of ghting with the fear of being attacked. By mobilizing, an agent foregoes returns to her peacetime economic activity, but she can seize resources and protect herself from an attack. Opportunity costs change with the economic situation, which determines the risk of attack in equilibrium. This theory makes two contributions. First, it predicts that con ict occurs after bad economic shocks. This is supported by the empirical literature on civil war and it is dicult to accommodate using existing models. Second, the theory generates con ict out of mutual fears. This is closely related to the literature on the security dilemma. The model allows for a systematic exploration of the theory in Jervis (1978) in a rational choice framework and it shows that aggressive and security seeking agents can be jointly understood as depending on transient economic circumstances.

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