Eli Berman


On his book Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism

Cover Interview of December 14, 2009


This book is freakonomics about terrorism and insurgency, an attempt to apply an economist’s toolkit to these urgent threats.  What’s in that toolkit?  Behavioral models that assume rational individuals generate testable propositions, which are then exposed to data.  We then keep the models that are not refuted (and quietly suppress the rest).

Amazingly enough, this works.  We can explain much of the surprising behavior of religious radicals (benign and violent) with economic reasoning.  Moreover, that reasoning has testable implications that survive exposure to data.  Most importantly, this same logic suggests that religious radicals respond to incentives, so that we can contain the threat posed by violent religious radicals through methods that complement coercive force with constructive, incentive-based methods. Those constructive methods range from rewards for defection to targeted programs to improve governance.

© 2009 Eli Berman