SIS-696-019/ECON-696-002: Economics of Violence and Peace

Prof. Martha Starr

American University

Thursdays, 5:30-8:00 pm

Spring 2008


Telephone:        (202) 885-3747

Office:              Roper Hall, Room 201

Office hours:      Tuesdays 2:30-5:30, Fridays 11:00-2:00

Class website:    AU Blackboard



This course examines economic dimensions of violence and peace. The study of economics concerns material aspects of human livelihoods, including the production and consumption of goods and services, employment, incomes, wealth, government spending and revenues, international trade and capital flows, poverty, and inequality. The course covers: arms production and trade; the economics of terrorism; economic causes of civil wars, including economic grievances, resources, environmental problems, and poverty; economic consequences of war, and economic dimensions of conflict prevention and resolution, as well as post-conflict reconstruction. The course emphasizes the interaction between economic and non-economic factors, including identity, religion and culture, in explaining causes of violence and their resolution.


Required readings


This course is reading-intensive, although readings can be done selectively (i.e. identify the paper’s key argument, the way in which it is elaborated, and key steps of its theoretical or econometric development). The following book is available for purchase at the AU bookstore: Paul Collier et al., Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy.[1] Other readings are available electronically in the “Course documents” section of the class Blackboard site.


Graded work



Share of final grade (percent)

Due date

 Reading-based short essays



 Case presentation


March 20 or 27 (to be assigned)

 Research paper (~20 pages)  


1-page abstract due by Feb. 21;

paper due April 17

 Brief presentation of research paper


April 17 or April 24

(to be assigned)

 Final essays


Distributed April 24; due by May 1, 8:00 pm

 Class participation




NOTE: NO CLASS THURSDAY MARCH 6th –- work on case presentations.


Reading-based short essays

These are short writing assignment intended to help you organize your thoughts about assigned readings, given in the interest of (a) promoting reading with a critical eye, (b) encouraging the development of your own ideas about the issues being discussed, and (c) promoting fruitful and stimulating class discussion. They will be handed out one week before we discuss the readings in question and will be due at that time. Your answers need not be long (2-3 pages generally) and need not be highly polished -– but they ought to show clear thinking, reasonable grasp of the key ideas of the readings, and good expression of ideas.


Research paper

Detailed instructions will be handed out in a few weeks. The paper is intended to be an in-depth exploration of the role of economic factors in a given conflict or a given issue related to conflict, paying particular attention to the scope for changing conflict-promoting dimensions to peace-promoting ones. The specific topic is of your choice; a 1-page abstract explaining what you’d like to work on is due by Feb. 21. Students’ papers will also be presented in the last two weeks of class.




·          Attendance is important to realize the full benefits of this class.

·          When emailing me, please put “sis/econ-696 Violence and Peace” in the subject line.

·          Please make every effort to submit work on time. Late work is accepted but will be marked down.

·          American University’s Academic Integrity code is in effect at all times. Make sure to avoid plagiarism of any type; violations will be prosecuted.


Note: Blackboard contains notes about which pages to emphasize.

1. Overview: Economic dimensions of war and peace (1/17)

Human Security Report 2005, Chapter 2.

Appendix of: Lotta Harbom and Peter Wallensteen, “Armed Conflict, 1989-2006,” Journal of Peace Research 2007 44: 623-634.

2. Capitalism and conflict -- Production and sales of the means of deadly force (1/24)

Hunt Tooley, “Merchants of Death Revisited: Armaments, Bankers, and the First World War,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Winter 2005.

Walter Adams and William James Adams, “The Military-Industrial Complex: A Market-Structure Analysis,” American Economic Review, 1972.

Jonathan Karpoff, Scott Lee, Valaria Vendrzyk, “Defense Procurement Fraud, Penalties, and Contractor Influence,” Journal of Political Economy, 1999.

David King and John Driessnack. “Analysis of competition in the defense industrial base: An F-22 case study,” Contemporary Economic Policy, Jan 2007.


3. Guns and money (1/31-2/7)


    Guns and gun control within the U.S.

Edward Glaeser and Spencer Glendon, “Who owns guns? Criminals, victims, and the culture of violence,” American Economic Review, May 1998

Mark Duggan, “More guns, more crime”, Journal of Political Economy, Oct. 2001.

Kristen Gross, Disarmed, Chapter 1.

International arms trade:

William Keller and Janne Nolan. “The arms trade: Business as usual?” Foreign Policy, Winter 1997/1998.

Oxfam, Amnesty International, “The arms bazaar” (Chap. 4 of Shattered Lives)

Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun, “The Merchant of Death” (on Viktor Bout)

4. The economics of terrorism (2/7 – 2/14)

Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova, “Education, Poverty and Terrorism: Is There a Causal Connection?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 17, no. 4 (Fall 2003), pp. 119-144.

Alberto Abadie, “Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism”, American Economic Review

David Gold, “The economics of terrorism”

Bruno Frey, Simon Luechinger, and Alois Stutzer, “Calculating tragedy: Assessing the costs of terrorism”

5.      Economics and civil war: Causes and consequences (2/21-2/28)

Paul Collier et al., Breaking the Conflict Trap

Macartan Humphreys, “Economics and Violent Conflict” (2003)

Mirjam Sřrli, Nils Petter Gleditsch, and Hĺvard Strand. “Why Is There So Much Conflict in the Middle East?” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2005.

Martha Starr, “Growth and Conflict in the Developing World: Neo-liberal Narratives and Social-Economy Alternatives,” Review of Social Economy, Vol. 64, No. 2 (June), pp. 205-224

Optional: Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy Weinstein, “What the Fighters Say: A Survey of Ex-Combatants in Sierra Leone”


6.      Economics and peace-making, -keeping, and –building (4/3)

Economic sanctions:

Cooper Drury, “Revisiting Economic Sanctions Reconsidered,” Journal of Peace Research, July, 1998.

Daniel Drezner, “How Smart are Smart Sanctions? Review of Smart Sanctions: Targeting Economic Statecraft,” International Studies Review (2003)

Cutting off conflict financing:

David Gold, “The attempt to regulate conflict diamonds,” EPS Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2006). pp. 49-52.

John Tepper Marlin, “The ‘No Dirty Gold’ Campaign: What economists can learn from and contribute to corporate campaigns,” EPS Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2006), pp. 58-64.

{hardcopy readings on corporate social responsibility}

Post-conflict issues:

Starr redux

Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy Weinstein, “Demobilization and Reintegration,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 2007.

Bob French, “The business of land-mine clearing,” EPS Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2006), pp. 54-56.


7.      Economics and the war in Iraq (4/10-4/17)

Duane Chapman and Neha Khanna, “The Persian Gulf, Global Oil Resources, and International Security,” Contemporary Economic Policy, Oct 2006.

Doug Stokes, “Blood for oil? Global capital, counter-insurgency and the dual logic of American energy security”

Greg Muttitt, “Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth” Global Policy Forum

Bassam Yousif, “Economic aspects of peacekeeping in Iraq: what went wrong?” EPS Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2006), pp. 24-30.

Christopher Foote, William Block, Keith Crane, Simon Gray. “Economic Policy and Prospects in Iraq,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2004.

Singer, Peter. “Outsourcing War,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2005.

Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, “The economic costs of the Iraq War: An appraisal three years after the beginning of the conflict”.

Scott Wallsten and Katrina Kosec, “The economic costs of the war in Iraq” (2005).

[1] Note: This book is also available electronically (free) from the World Bank’s website =>